The last four weeks have highlighted everything great about women’s football. It has been a monumental tournament with its fair share of tears, high-quality play and wonderful goals. But, we have finally got to the final of the World Cup and it will either be the holders or the European champions that will be celebrating in Lyon on Sunday evening.
There was a feeling in the early stages of the competition that the US would win the World Cup without breaking a sweat. The record 13-0 win over Thailand did little to change that presumption, but they have been made to work increasingly hard in each game on their way to the final.
Their main trait has been scoring early in games, and bizarrely it was Thailand that kept a clean sheet for the longest time against the Americans. In the group stages, the Americans swatted Chile and Sweden aside with 3-0 wins before two soft penalties against Spain ensured that they made it through to the quarterfinal stages. Megan Rapinoe grabbed all the headlines against the French as she scored twice; meaning she had scored four goals in two knockout games. In the semi-finals, they faced their sternest test yet against England. When Alex Morgan put the States 2-1 ahead before half time it seemed as though they would comfortably win. However, they were made to hang on as luck once again favoured the US. Ellen White had a goal disallowed after a VAR check on an offside decision; White was millimetres offside. Then the US conceded a penalty, and but for a poor effort from Steph Houghton; the game could have been heading for extra time. They do say that you can’t win a major competition without luck, and the US have showcased this throughout the tournament.
The Dutch entered the competition as the reigning European champions and after being in brilliant form over the past 12 months they were expected to be making a lot of headlines throughout the competition. However, they have quietly gone around their business without playing to the level that fans have become accustomed to.
The pressure was was on the Netherlands from the start as they were handed a tricky group including Canada, Cameroon and New Zealand. They worked hard throughout the opening fixtures and topped Group E with a 100% record. Japan in the next round was another tricky assignment, and but for a 90th-minute penalty from Lieke Martens the Dutch could have been out. Their best performance of the competition came in the quarterfinals as they dominated the Italians, before scoring two goals in the second half to cement a 2-0 win. The Dutch resilience was on full display in the semi-finals as they had to dig deep and stay composed to break down Sweden. An extra-time goal from Jackie Groenen was the difference between the sides, and set-up the blockbuster clash against the Americans.
The power and quality that the Americans have ensures that they enter the final as the 0.44 favourite with BetXChange. Despite both nations being powerhouses in the women’s game, this will be the first competitive fixture between the countries. Both previous friendly meetings between the sides have ended in 3-1 wins for the USA, and you would be hardpressed to bet against that same result in the final.