Women’s World Cup 2019: Holders USA prepare to face Netherlands in final

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The USA will aim to lift the Women’s World Cup for a fourth time when they face the Netherlands in Sunday’s showdown in Lyon.

The defending champions face the reigning European champions in the final, and will attempt to become only the second nation to win back-to-back Women’s World Cup titles.

Germany are the only nation to have done so previously – in 2003 and 2007 – and the USA, who clinched the title in Canada four years ago, are favourites to match that feat.

In 2015, the United States went 4-0 up against Japan within 16 minutes before eventually winning a thrilling final 5-2. That was the most-watched football match in US television history.

This year in France, the three-time champions, who are Fifa’s top-ranked nation, have scored in the opening 12 minutes of every match so far, last doing so in their 2-1 victory over England in the semi-finals.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, reached their first final in only their second World Cup after Manchester United midfielder Jackie Groenen scored in extra-time to settle their cagey last-four tie with Sweden.

They are ranked eighth in the world by Fifa and this tournament comes two years after they triumphed at Euro 2017 on home soil. Sunday’s final at Lyon’s 59,000-capacity Groupama Stadium is a sell-out, according to Fifa.

USA hit the headlines

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The United States, who are in their record fifth Women’s World Cup final, have dominated the pre-match headlines for their actions both on and off the pitch.

Following Tuesday’s victory over England, top-scorer Alex Morgan was criticised for her tea-drinking celebration and she later said there were “double standards” for females in sport.

The Americans have also been described as “arrogant” in the press, but Netherlands head coach Sarina Wiegman was quick to reject that notion.

“I just think they have a lot of confidence, I think that is OK,” said Wiegman. “They have won a lot and are at the top level all the time and it is a little bit part of the culture. That is just the way it is.”

USA captain Megan Rapinoe said there was a “certain lightness” about their approach which some misinterpret as “aloofness”.

Rapinoe, who has been outspoken about the fact she would refuse an invitation from Donald Trump to attend the White House, added that she did not think women’s football got enough respect from Fifa.

The final in Lyon takes place on the same day as the Copa America and Gold Cup finals – the latter featuring the USA’s men – and Rapinoe said it was a “terrible idea to put everything on the same day”.

“This is the World Cup final. This is like, cancel everything day,” said Rapinoe. “The World Cup final is set so far in advance it is actually unbelievable.

“So no, I don’t think that we feel the same level of respect, certainly that Fifa has for the men and just in general.”

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Martens a doubt for the Netherlands

Barcelona winger Lieke Martens, who picked up the Golden Ball award when the Netherlands won Euro 2017, is a doubt for the Dutch for the final.

Martens was taken off at half-time during their semi-final win over Sweden, suffering from continued pain in a toe injury, and has missed training this week.

She picked up the injury during a goal celebration in the last-16 win over Japan.

“She is preparing for the game. We are not sure if she can start, but we are working on it,” said Wiegman. “We don’t know the outcome yet so we will decide on Sunday morning.”

Rapinoe is expected to be fit for the USA despite missing the victory over England with a hamstring problem.

Two-way battle for Golden Boot

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USA striker Alex Morgan netted her sixth goal of the tournament against England on Tuesday, putting her joint-top of the tournament’s scoring chart with the Lionesses’ Ellen White.

Morgan, who is on course to win the Golden Boot because of her three assists, now faces competition from team-mate Rapinoe, who has a tally of five.

Should Morgan score in Sunday’s final, she will become just the third player to net seven goals in a single Women’s World Cup (after Brazil’s Marta and USA’s Michelle Akers).

Five of Morgan’s goals came in the 13-0 thrashing of Thailand in the group stage, while Rapinoe scored twice in their quarter-final win over France.

The best of the stats

  • The USA have reached the Women’s World Cup final for the fifth time, two more final appearances than any other nation (Germany, three).
  • Netherlands are the eighth different team to play in a Women’s World Cup final – the only European nations to win the trophy are Germany (2003 & 2007) and Norway (1995).
  • The USA are unbeaten in 16 Women’s World Cup matches (W13, D3), winning the last 11 in a row. No side in World Cup history – male or female – has embarked on a longer winning run (level with Brazil’s men between 2002 & 2006).
  • The Netherlands have gone 10 games unbeaten in all competitions (W9, D1), conceding just four goals in the process. The Dutch have won their last nine games in a row.
  • In all competitions, the USA have lost just one of their last 44 matches (W38, D5, L1) – the loss being a 3-1 defeat to France in January 2019.
  • Morgan has scored six goals at the World Cup from just eight shots on target – the last USA player to score more in a single tournament was Michelle Akers with 10 goals in 1991.
  • Netherlands’ striker Vivianne Miedema has had a hand in the most shots at the tournament (32), attempting 24 shots herself (three goals) and creating eight goalscoring chances.

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