The second half of the Women’s World Cup semifinals is set for Wednesday, as the Netherlands takes on Sweden. The Dutch are slim favorites to move onto the final with a money line of +121 compared to Sweden at +213.
Sweden exorcised some serious demons by beating Germany in the quarterfinals. Even after going down 1-0 early, Sweden looked like the better team for most of the game and exposed Germany’s weaknesses to perfection in a dominating second-half performance. They are now one game away from playing in another final after reaching the final at the 2016 Olympics.
Of course, the Netherlands played in a final two years ago when they won the European championships. Thus far, the Dutch have proven that win was no fluke. In a steamy quarterfinal game, the Netherlands had their way with a strong Italian side, giving them five wins in five games at the World Cup and keeping them alive for a world championship.
Still Something to Prove
Despite five wins in five games, it’s hard to say that we’ve seen the best out of the Dutch just yet. They’ve yet to truly put forth their best effort for a full 90 minutes. They were a little fortunate to advance past Japan in the Round of 16 after being outplayed for much of the second half against a Japanese team that just couldn’t find the final product in the attacking end. The Dutch were also at risk of conceding a goal to Italy in the first half of the quarterfinals.
That being said, the Netherlands has survived because there is no denying their star power. The trio of Like Martens, Vivianne Miedema, and Shanice van de Sanden can be deadly if the three all play well at the same time. That hasn’t been the case yet this tournament, but the Dutch have gotten enough moments from all three, as well as contributions from their bench, to survive and advance this far. However, anything short of their best at this stage of the World Cup may not be enough.
No Need for Mirrors
Perhaps more than any other team in the World Cup, Sweden knows who they are. They have a firm identity for how they want to play and what they need to do to win. That identity involves staying strong on the defensive end and being opportunistic on the counterattack without leaving themselves exposed in the back. Despite giving up an early goal in the quarterfinals, the Swedes quickly bounced back with an equalizer and were able to stifle a strong German attack the rest of the game.
Look for Sweden to follow a similar game plan against the Netherlands. They will force the Dutch to be perfect with their passing and off-ball movement in order to break them down. The Swedes also have the size to challenge Holland’s aerial attack, an advantage they’ve been able to use in past games but won’t be quite as obvious against Sweden.
How Swede It Is
The Dutch are good, but the Swedes are likely to frustrate them by defending in blocks and staying disciplined. The Netherlands has also given up a few too many scoring chances during this tournament because they’ve pushed up so high. Sweden is the perfect opponent to contain the Dutch attack and hit them on the counterattack when they open up. Bet on Sweden to beat the Netherlands in the semifinals.