At this exact stage of the 2015 World Cup, Japan beat the Netherlands 2-1 and went on to reach their second consecutive final. Asako Takakura’s side are under no pressure to repeat the feats of their predecessors; after all, the two teams have followed vastly divergent trajectories since then.
The Dutch had qualified for that knockout round as one of the four best third-placed teams; they set up this 2019 re-match – a clear case of past vs present in the sport – by topping their group through an emphatic win. The former world champions are building a team for the future, while the reigning European champions are looking to graduate from their status as dark horses at the biggest stage, hoping to transition from pretenders to the throne to genuine contenders.
Knocking out Japan this early would be considered quite an accomplishment, considering the fact that the Netherlands are yet to prove themselves at this level at the World Cup. It should be kept in mind that this is only their second appearance at the finals, but expectations and aspirations have changed considerably since their debut four years ago. It does help that they have useful experience in a knockout environment: they won every knockout fixture by multiple goals at the 2017 European Championship on the way to lifting the trophy. Read More