The U.S. women's national soccer team, who are the defending 2015 FIFA World Cup champions, will take on the defending European champion Netherlands women's national football team on Sunday, July 7 2019. The U.S. is looking to lift their 2nd consecutive, and 4th World Cup trophy overall. The Oranje, on the other hand, are playing in just their second World Cup, and they were eliminated at the Round of 16 in their only prior appearance in 2015. However, this is not nearly the David vs Goliath match-up that it appears at first glance. Not only are the Dutch the defending 2017 European champions, but they also rank 8th in the FIFA World Rankings, one place ahead of classic power Sweden national women's football team, whom they beat to advance to the Final.
These two team's do not have much of a history between them, and last played each other in a friendly on September 18, 2016. That was won by the United States 3-1, but it is hard to think the outcome of a match that didn't count three years ago will be much of an indicator of what we can expect on Sunday. It is worth noting that Shenice van de Sanden scored the loan goal for Netherlands in that friendly. The Olympique Lyonnaise star has yet to score in this World Cup, but she was one of their most active players offensively against Sweden, and is likely to have an impact on Sunday. Of the U.S. goals that were scored in that friendly, Carli Lloyd and Alexandra "Allie" Long are both on the squad, but have been primarily reserves during this World Cup. The other goal in the game was an own goal by Netherlands defender Mandy van den Berg, who captained their 2015 World Cup squad, but is not with the 2019 squad.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
The USWNT came into the tournament as favorites, and have looked every bit the part. Their games have been close, but they have never looked in serious danger of losing, and have not yet trailed in the tournament. If Netherlands scores first, it will be interesting to see how the U.S. will responds to that. They have also shown a susceptibility to early goals. Of the three times they have conceded in this World Cup, two of them came in the first 20 minute of the match (9th minute against Spain, and 19th minute against England). They had already scored themselves on both of those occasions, but not knowing how a team will respond to playing from behind is a precarious proposition. Especially against a Netherlands team has already proven they can shut down a talented offensive team against Sweden on Wednesday.
One of the biggest stories that hit this week has been that the U.S. has been bitten a bit by the injury bug. Most famously, Megan Rapinoe, who scored both goals for the U.S. against both Spain and France missed their semi-final against England. As good as she has been, it doesn't appear that the U.S. missed a beat with Christen Press as her replacement. While she may lack a bit of Rapinoe's flair offensively, Press is undoubtedly a more complete player on the defensive end. She also has no problem finding the back of the net either, her 10th minute goal against England was her 49th in 122 appearances for the senior national team. There would be nowhere sweeter for her to notch number 50 than at the final game of the World Cup. Ironically, if Rapinoe does end up playing and scoring, her next goal would be her 50th international goal as well. It has taken her 35 more appearances (157) to get to 49 than it has for Press, further proving that the club will not experience a drop in talent if Press is again pressed into duty.
When most people think of depth, they automatically think of the U.S. team, but Netherlands has shown that they have an impressively deep squad as well. The 11 goals that they have scored in the tournament so far, have been scored by 8 different players. Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema leads the way for the Oranje with 3 goals, and is the only Dutch player to have scored in two different games in this year's World Cup. Lieke Martens, who stars for FC Barcelona is their only other multiple goal scorer, but both of those came in the same match against Japan in the Round of 16. The winning goal by Jackie Groenen in the semi-finals was just her 3rd goal in 53 international appearances, but the midfielder who will be playing with Manchester United F.C. in the upcoming season looked perfectly comfortable striking the ball from well outside the box.
This could be the final World Cup match for United States legend Alex Morgan. The striker who currently plays with Orlando Pride, has an incredible 107 international goals in 168 appearances. She is tied with England's Ellen White for the lead in 2019 World Cup goals with 6, however that stat is a bit misleading. While she did score the winning goal against England on Wednesday, prior to that she had not scored since netting 5 times in a 13-0 route of Thailand to open the tournament. This is by no means a knock on her level of play, and I certainly expect her to be a factor on Sunday, but she also celebrated her 30th birthday this past Tuesday. International soccer runs in 4 year cycles, and we are at the end of one right now. The USWNT is a team filled with veteran players who have played in multiple World Cups. The downside of this is that it means at the start of the coming 4 year cycle, it will need to be the beginning of a youth movement for the team. Morgan will be on the doorstep of 34 when the 2023 World Cup starts, and it's unlikely that she is going to want to hang onto the end of the roster as a backup at that point in her career.
If you are hoping for a high scoring game on Sunday then you are very likely to be disappointed. Each team has played six games so far in the 2019 World Cup, and each has only conceded 3 goals. Considering that in a championship game things tend to tighten up even more, goals should be at a premium to say the least. Furthermore, neither club as scored more than 2 goals in a match since the Group Stage, and you have to expect that the Dutch will be playing a game plan to try to limit possession by the United States.
U.S.A. vs Netherlands Prediction
This could be an epic match-up for the ages in the ever growing game of women's association football. You have the tried and tested defending World Cup champions, against the upstart, defending European champions. These are two clubs that play a similar style, and both are equally capable of both scoring, and preventing your from scoring. Furthermore, as mentioned above, you can expect that neither team is going to be giving an inch, and every square foot of territory on the pitch will be its own miniature battlefield. Now, I know what everyone is thinking, writer is from the United States, of course he is going to pick the United States. Well, I am not.
That is not to say that I don't think the United States has the talent to win, or that I will be surprised if they win, but I am not going to pick them. After watching the Netherlands game plan and execution against Sweden on Wednesday I am thoroughly impressed, and to top it all off they seem to have team of destiny written all over them. It is going to be a lot harder for them to keep a clean sheet against the United States than it was against Sweden, but I believe they are capable of it. Another possibility is that if the U.S. has an early defensive lapse and the Dutch go ahead early, they could make it difficult on the U.S. to try to equalize. I see this playing out as one of those games that is 0-0 very late into the contest. Given their unfamiliarity with one another, expect the first 20 minutes of the game to move rather slowly with both teams getting a feel for what the other is trying to do. As noted above, the Oranje have had a knack for getting a goal when they need it, and having a different player step up each time. This game could easily go the direction of the Sweden game, and see the Netherlands pull off a late winner. However, I think this one is going the full distance and we will still be sitting 0-0 at the end of 120 minutes. Once things go to penalties, it usually seems to favor the underdog because their players are under less pressure. In this case, that would be the Dutch.
Prediction: Netherlands 0 (4) U.S.A. 0 (3)