Well, this one is for all the marbles. On Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National Team will go for their second straight championship at the Women’s World Cup when they face the Netherlands. The Americans are heavy favorites at -250, with the Dutch listed at +595 to pull the upset.
It hasn’t always been perfect, but the Netherlands is technically perfect in this tournament, winning all six of its games. During the group stage, the Dutch found ways to beat New Zealand, Cameroon, and Canada. They followed up with wins over Japan, Italy, and Sweden during the knockout stage despite being outplayed at times.
The Americans, meanwhile, took the tournament by storm, beating Thailand in their opener 13-0. They went on to beat Chile and Sweden to close out the group stage before taking down Spain, France, and England to make it to the finals for the third consecutive World Cup.
Everything In Its Rightful Place
Everything is pointing to the Americans taking home the title on Sunday. Even with star forward Megan Rapinoe missing the semifinals due to injury, the U.S. didn’t miss a beat. Her replacement, Christen Press, stepped up with a goal, and Alex Morgan got back on the scoresheet for the first time since the opener against Thailand. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher also silenced her critics with a massive penalty kick save in the closing moments to seal the win.
Of course, everything seemed to be falling into place heading into the 2011 final as well. But the Americans blew two leads against Japan and ended up losing the title in penalties. Despite Naeher making some big saves, the U.S. backline has looked shaky at times during this tournament and easily could have conceded two or three goals in the semifinals against England. The Netherlands is nearly as dangerous going forward and will be willing to push numbers forward and challenge the U.S. defense, so the Americans better be ready for a fight.
The Great Equalizer
Set pieces can be the great equalizer in a game like this. They also happen to be a strength for the Dutch, who have scored over half of their 11 goals during the World Cup from set pieces. To be fair, the Netherlands won’t have as much of a height advantage against the U.S. as they’ve had against other teams. But they are still a threat on set pieces, especially with eight different players contributing goals during the tournament.
On the flip side, the Americans can also be a threat on set pieces. Rapinoe is a world-class player at playing crosses into the box. The U.S. is also one of the best in the world at executing designed plays off of corner kicks. Look no further than the 2015 final against Japan for proof of that, so the Dutch defense can’t allow their strength to turn into a weakness.
The Only Result
The Netherlands is a bonafide threat to the U.S. The Dutch won the Euros two years ago, so they’ve played in the final of a major tournament before. They should also have plenty of fan support. But the U.S. is the best team in the tournament, and they’ve shown no signs of complacency or a letdown. Bet on the Americans to win a world championship on Sunday.