The United States of America and the Netherlands will meet on Thursday (08:00 AM) to win the group stage of the World Cup-2023, looking for success in their mission, four years after the Americans triumphed in the final. Triple.
Away from the splendor of Lyon, the scene of the coronation of Megan Rapinoe’s (2-0) teammates, Wellington’s regional stadium will, at best, celebrate qualification for the eighth member of the victorious squad.
The pressure has eased on the Americans and the Dutch, who have a joker to win when they enter the race against Vietnam (3-0) and Portugal (1-0) respectively.
Thus, in the event of a loss, during the final day, they would have a new opportunity to qualify against a lower ranked opponent.
But the posterity goes beyond the mathematical stakes between the two rival nations in search of a performance matching their ambitions that can lift them above the battle of the contenders.
Since kick-off, the competition has affected the positioning of the strongest teams on paper, thanks in part to a denser XXL field (32 teams, a record) than anticipated.
Although the two-time defending champions and favorites to score an unprecedented hat-trick, the Americans are not immune to disappointment.
Coach Vlatko Andonovski, who succeeded Jill Ellis on the bench during her 2015 and 2019 coronations, is resting a base of novices in the competition.
Six of them started against Vietnam, including Portland Thorns striker Sophia Smith (22), who scored twice.
“We will do whatever is necessary” for the win, which is potentially synonymous with first place in Group E, and perhaps a more affordable eighth-placed opponent, the manager assured.
Striker Alex Morgan insisted, “It will be a big game (…) It’s important for the togetherness of our team, we know we have to play at our best.”
At 34, the former Lyonnais oversees a new generation in the process of running at the highest international level. Other veteran players in attendance, Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle, scorers in the 2019 final, entered during the match last Saturday.
– “Really cool game” –
Lavelle said, “We have 14 new players who have never played in the World Cup (before the start of the competition, editor’s note). They are very strong, so I am confident.”
Morgan commented, “We saw the Netherlands play and they have a lot of players who were there four years ago.”
Seven to be exact, including Stefanie van der Graagt who scored the winning goal against Portugal.
But the bet on continuity comes under two questions: with symbolic coach Sarina Wigman leaving her post to join England in 2021, and star striker Vivian Miedema having to step down.
A victim of a cruciate ligament rupture in the Champions League against Lyon last December, Arsenal’s player is the top scorer in the selection: 95 goals in 115 games.
“Are we getting closer to the United States? I think so,” assured coach Andries Jonker.
“Both the teams need to win the game and finish top of the group, so it will be a really good game,” he added.
Since the Lyon final, the Americans have defeated the Dutch twice: in a friendly in Breda, Netherlands in November 2020 (2–0) and again in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics (2–2 ep, 4–2 tab) ), in July 2021.