USA vs Netherlands Preview

USA vs Netherlands Preview: Can The Oranje Stop The US?

Four years ago, the United States made it to the World Cup final. In 2015, they faced a Japan side that never really gave the Americans much of a game at all, and the US won 5-2. The Netherlands will be hoping to give the US a much tougher test this time. Can they do it?

In order to get here, it’s fair to say the Dutch didn’t exactly thrill us as they defeated Sweden 1-0 in extra time. This was the kind of resolute performance that you tend to see late in tournaments, with the Netherlands looking as though tiredness might be something of a factor. Nonetheless, they toiled away and a Jackie Groenen strike from outside the box was good enough to win on the night.

The US, meanwhile, contested a much more entertaining game against England in which Christen Press and Alex Morgan goals in the first half were enough to see off the Lionesses, though there were questions of game management as England came close to equalising a few times in the second half. Both finalists were just winners in the semis, but that doesn’t mean either put in flawless performances. Read More

England vs Sweden Preview

England vs Sweden Preview: The Bronze Medal Is Up For Grabs

There may not be a world title to fight for, but with England vs Sweden, the third and fourth place playoff, there’s a lot of pride and a sought-after bronze medal at stake.

Although the honour of calling themselves a World Cup finalist or world champion may have eluded England and Sweden this time, their campaigns, which have proven to be better than 20 other teams in the tournament, are still something to be proud of.

The English always knew the odds were slightly against them when they were drawn against defending champions the United States, but it didn’t stop them from believing in their ability to cause an upset and book their place in their first final.

Unfortunately for them, the dream wouldn’t be realised this year as the Americans showed why they’re the best team in the world and have lifted the trophy three times since 1991. Despite a strong display, that saw them finishing with a better possession percentage, it ended 2-1 in favour of the North Americans in what was a rollercoaster encounter. Read More

Netherlands vs Sweden

Netherlands vs Sweden Preview: A Tale of Two Tens

If we had been told before the tournament that Netherlands vs Sweden would be one of the semi-finals at the Women’s World Cup, we might not have been too surprised. But if we were told that they would have knocked out Japan, Germany and Canada between them on the way to the semi-final, we might have started to wonder what had happened in the competition.

Of course, the Netherlands are current European Champions and Sweden did make it through to the final of the World Cup in 2003 so these two teams are not without their pedigree. But neither side was entirely impressive in the run-up to this year’s tournament.

The Netherlands relied on playoff games against Denmark and Switzerland to cement their place and, although they qualified comfortably, Sweden also slumped to disappointing defeats to both Italy and Portugal – both teams they should have beaten comfortably – within the last year.

The comparisons do not end here. Both Sweden and the Netherlands play similar iterations of a 4-3-3 which can sometimes looks much closer to a 4-2-3-1. This ambiguity is determined by the way the number 10 functions within the system. Read More

England vs USA Preview

England vs USA Preview: Lionesses To Halt Lightning American Start?

The evidence of England’s incremental growth under Phil Neville was on full display during their win against Norway in the quarterfinal. The attack shone, producing a display of clinical finishing, while the defence remained solid, and the Lionesses showed maturity and played with freedom and elegance. It was a statement; for the first time this summer, they truly lived up to their billing of title contenders.

For the second World Cup in a row, England will face the defending champions in the semifinal. By virtue of being the current holders, the USA would be considered favourites for this tie. They have not lost a match at the World Cup since 2011, and they rarely looked like losing in Paris.

Scoring an early goal always has a significant impact. Jill Scott’s strike against Norway set the tone for England’s performance, which was arguably their best one at this tournament so far. The Lionesses will undoubtedly want to get the first goal again on Tuesday, while preventing the USA from doing the same.

The only problem is that their semifinal opponents have mastered this art: not only have the USA scored first in all their games so far, they have also scored them quickly. The opening strikes have come in the 12th, 11th, third, seventh and fifth minutes. Read More

Germany vs Sweden Preview

Germany vs Sweden Preview: The World Cup’s Meanest Defence Will Win

The business end of this gruelling Women’s World Cup 2019 is upon us, with the quarter-finals up next. Germany vs Sweden sees two European heavyweights meet at Roazhon Park on Saturday to decide who will face Italy or Netherlands in the semi-final.

While both teams have looked good in possession and scored a lot of goals, it’s the Germans who look unbeatable at the back, having yet to concede a goal in this tournament. The Swedes have been good, but have shipped three thus far.

Hence this tie could boil down to how Sweden’s attackers break down a resilient German defence. If they fail in that, then Germany would have a very good chance as they haven’t failed to score in a single game yet. Read More

Italy vs Netherlands Preview

Italy vs Netherlands Preview: The Battle Of The Shot-Shy

Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final between Italy and the Netherlands marks an incredible accomplishment for both sides. The Azzurre have only once reached this stage before – back in 1991 – while their orange-clad opponents have never before got past the round of 16, meaning the two teams are already making a major impact this summer.

“We really believe this side has allowed the women’s game to break new ground back home,” said Italy head coach Milena Bertolini after her side eliminated China in their last outing. “We can see that from the viewing figures, what we see in the press and from the messages we receive from back home. I know cultural changes take a lot of time, but this team are able to break down some of those prejudices and they are enacting change and that’s their mission.”

Indeed it is, but Bertolini will also have her players fully focused on the task at hand, proving in the aforementioned victory over China that they are one of the tournaments most tactically aware teams. Earlier matches had seen Italy use a 4-3-1-2 formation, but the coach switched that in the last 16, dropping Aurora Galli in favour of Valentina Bergamaschi and opting for a 4-2-3-1 framework from the outset. Read More

France vs USA Preview

France vs USA Preview: Heavyweight Against Heavyweight

It’s the game we’ve all been waiting for at this World Cup. The betting markets generally have an implied probability of greater than 50% that one of these two will win the tournament. And here they are, facing off in a straight knockout tie.

The United States have been stunningly dominant until the round of 16 match against Spain, where they were merely good enough to get through. France, meanwhile, haven’t put up quite the same scorelines, but have nonetheless deservedly won all their games so far.

For the French, the side looks largely settled in the first two thirds of the pitch but there are still some questions in attack. Gaëtane Thiney and Delphine Cascarino have been rotated in and out of the side but both started on the bench against Brazil. Neither have really set this tournament alight so far, but could well return to the starting eleven, possibly in place of Kadidiatou Diani or Viviane Asseyi. It feels like France still haven’t quite found the right attacking balance. Read More

Norway vs England Preview

Norway vs England Preview: Lionesses should win open game

Amid all of the controversy in the aftermath of the Cameroon clash, it should be remembered how impressive England were at times in that victory. Phil Neville’s Lionesses have reached the quarter finals of their fourth-straight World Cup after winning 3-0, and though their opponents quite clearly lost their heads, England deserve credit as they prepare to face Norway.

They started with real purpose, doing exactly what they have been for much of the tournament so far by overloading the flanks and creating space in the middle of midfield. Once again, that allowed Fran Kirby and Jill Scott the space to supply Ellen White up front, though it was a surprisingly quiet game for Nikita Parris and Toni Duggan, who started the day out wide.

But Neville will be aware of the consistent issue facing his side; their inability to keep intensity up as games go on. On this occasion, their early goal, a free-kick inside the box scored by captain Steph Houghton, probably made them too comfortable, and they will get caught out by better teams if they do not improve quickly.

Will Norway be that team? Only time will tell, but even though they don’t have the individual quality of England, France or the USA, their main strengths lie in an area of the pitch that will really open England up to danger. Read More

Netherlands vs Japan

Netherlands vs Japan Preview: A Clear Case Of Past Against Present

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

Italy vs China Preview

Italy vs China Preview: A Tense, Tight Affair To Test The Azzure

Italy will face China in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup, the clash on Tuesday evening at Montpellier’s Stade de la Mosson marking the first time the two nations have ever met at the game’s showpiece event.

Italy have won three of their last four matches at the tournament after winning just two of their first six games in the competition, while – since they reached the final back in 1999 – China have lost three of their last four knockout-stage games at the World Cup, never emerging further than the quarter-finals.

A place on that same stage is now at stake, with the eventual winners taking on either Netherlands or Japan, but first they will need to get through what should be an extremely difficult challenge for both sides. Read More