The U.S. Women’s National Team avoided a rematch against Sweden, and it’s thanks to the hard work by the Netherlands midfielders and attackers.
Jackie Groenen’s 99th minute goal proved to be the difference as the Netherlands defeated Sweden, 1-0 after extra time in the semifinals, advancing to Sunday’s final against the USWNT. It had been a stalemate for most of the match, with Sweden soaking up pressure and the Netherlands struggling to break down the Swedish defensive and midfield blocks in front of them.
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It was a tight, cagey match from the start and neither team played up to their potentials. It seemed as if both teams tried their best to play the safe pass and not make the key mistake that would lead to a goal.
Despite the tension in the arena in Lyon, there was still plenty of action in both boxes. The Netherlands finished with 15 shots, four of them on target while Sweden had 11 shots and three on target.
Sweden had the better of the chances early on. Soaking up pressure from the Netherlands, Sweden unleashed Stina Blackstenius, but her strike from a tight angle was corralled in the 13th minute by Netherlands goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
Van Veenendaal made another save late on a close chance by Sweden’s Lina Hurtig, but there wasn’t much to separate the sides in the second half.
The Netherlands made a surprising halftime substitution, taking off star attacker Lieke Martens and bringing on super sub Jill Roord. Sweden would rue its luck in the 57th minute as Nilla Fischer picked up a loose ball in the box and unleashed a drive that pinged off the post.
The Netherlands soon after grew into the game and forced Hedvig Lindahl into a couple of fingertip saves, keeping Sweden alive.
Finally, in extra time, Groenen found a yard of space at the edge of the area and lashed home a strike into the far post to put the Netherlands on top, before holding on late to see the game through.
Its the Netherlands first World Cup final and follows a strong qualifying campaign as well as winning the 2017 European Championship.