The Netherlands is through to its first Women’s World Cup final after defeating Sweden 1-0 in extra time on Wednesday.
The semifinal was decided by a Jackie Groenen strike in the first half of extra time of an evenly contested – if not always exciting – match.
Second Half Produces Close Calls, But No Goals
After a disappointing first 45 minutes in which both sides failed to create chances, each team had a tantalizingly close call in the second half of regulation.
About ten minutes into the second half, Sweden nearly opened the scoring off a corner. Magdalena Eriksson was initially denied by Dutch keeper Sari van Veenendaal, who punched the ball out to the edge of the box. But the weak clearance was corralled by Nilla Fischer, who played the ball towards the far post. Van Veenendaal managed to get just enough of the ball with her outstretched hand, pushing it into the post.
The tables were nearly turned just a few minutes later. In the 63rd minute, the Netherlands finally received its first corner kick of the game, and nearly took advantage. Dominique Bloodworth sent in a ball that connected with the head of Vivianne Miedema and appeared headed for net. But Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl got her fingertips to the ball, which was just enough to send it off the crossbar.
Groenen Sends Dutch to World Cup Final
Ultimately, the game would go to extra time, where the Netherlands outplayed Sweden for the most part. Nine minutes into the first extra period, Groenen rocketed a ball from outside the box past Lindahl and into the far corner to give the Dutch a 1-0 lead.
Sweden then piled on the pressure, but couldn’t seem to find the final pass or first touch to truly threaten van Veenendaal. In fact, it was the Netherlands who had a chance to put the game away late in the second half of extra time, as substitute Shanice van de Sanden had a golden opportunity to beat Lindahl one-on-one, only to push the ball well wide of the target.
The final moments of the game were delayed after Sweden’s Kosovare Asllani had to be carted off the field with an injury. When play resumed, the Swedes furiously attacked in the final minute, even playing one last cross into the box in a last-second attempt to force penalties. But van Veenendaal cradled the ball, after which the final whistle blew to end the match.
The Netherlands will now move on to play the United States in Sunday’s final. The Americans are coming off of a 2-1 victory over England on Tuesday.
The United States was set to be a heavy favorite in the final no matter who they played, but the difference in quality between the two games – with both the USA and England showing more in the first semifinal than either the Netherlands or Sweden – has only exasperated those odds.
At FanDuel Sportsbook, the USA has opened as a -500 favorite to win its fourth Women’s World Cup over the defending European champions, with the Netherlands listed at +380 to lift the trophy on Sunday.