Media and fans: “The United States vs. France is the real Final of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.” England: “Nah, football’s coming home.” Off the right foot of American icon and “President ” Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. got through its toughest test, tournament hosts France, with relative ease considering a third goal was controversially removed from the scoreboard. The Three Lionesses will want to show they’re more than a mere stepping stone standing in the way of the Americans’ union with destiny.
Sweden scoring two goals in a single game while facing actual competition was a bet worth avoiding following the Round of 16. The fact the Blue and Yellow achieved such a feat against Germany, the tournament’s best team at the start of the quarterfinals, is downright astonishing, but that victory came with what could be a massive loss. That surprising match outcome only bolsters an opinion held by American optimists back on June 1:
This World Cup is the United States’ to lose.
Australia got jobbed
There’s a sad irony in Norway surrendering three goals to England on June 27 considering a trio of decisions aided The Grasshoppers past Australia in the Round of 16. No disrespect meant to the side missing protesting Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, but Norway was nearly run off the pitch before halftime of its quarterfinal showdown with England, and neutrals were left wishing Sam Kerr and the Matildas were, instead, serving as the opposition. England likely would’ve toppled Australia and maybe scored four or five facing that lackluster back line. Unless you’re a Norway supporter, you’re lying to yourself if you believe the right team advanced to the Round of Eight to lose to the Three Lionesses.
Best in the world?
“Lucy Bronze is the best player in the world, without a shadow of a doubt,” England boss Phil Neville said in the post-match interview following his side’s victory over Norway, as noted by the BBC. Neville isn’t alone in sharing that opinion. The 27-year-old, two-time PFA Women’s Player of the Year winner produced a masterclass performance in the quarterfinals, delivering one of the tournament’s top hammer-strikes and ensuring she will receive an opportunity to shut down Megan Rapinoe on the biggest stage of them all. Bronze vs. Rapinoe could be worth the price of admission on its own.
One’s immediate reaction to the Netherlands pitching a shutout in its 2-0 win over Italy on Saturday may be to point out the Azzurre aren’t necessarily known for their attacking flair and also that oppressive heat which caused multiple stoppages for hydration breaks limited both sides. That’s fair, but Holland’s first clean sheet of the World Cup came against a side that put two past Australia, scored five times against Jamaica and turned a knockout game vs. China into a makeshift exhibition for the final half-hour of that contest. Italy had no answer for forward Lineth Beerensteyn once she came on 11 minutes after the break. She won multiple free kicks and reminded the remaining three teams she may be the best substitute option left in the tournament.
Perhaps we’re all being harsh on the Dutch in criticizing the fact they’ve hardly played like European champions since June 11. Each of the remaining three nations have, however, enjoyed standout games. The United States beat Thailand 13-0 and bested France at the Parc des Princes. England made light work of Norway. The Swedes are the new upset darlings of the tournament. Italy hardly troubled the Oranje, but a Holland attack advertised as one of the world’s elite continues to underwhelm. A pair of set piece goals against Italy doesn’t inspire too much confidence. Then again, if it’s true Holland’s best is to come, that team is probably winning this World Cup.
By: Zac Wassink