The Netherlands haven’t exactly been the free-flowing, highlight-making, net-assaulting bunch at this World Cup that their talent and our expectations would’ve predicted, though I’m sure the Dutch and their endearingly rabid fans aren’t too bothered by that. Not after today, when the Oranje beat Sweden and won themselves a place in the tournament final.
Today’s match was a lot like many of the Dutch’s matches this summer. The ladies in orange looked assured with the ball and without it, limited their opponent’s forays into their penalty area, but while they often put together neat little passing moves, they only rarely crafted truly dangerous chances for themselves.
The Dutch have arguably the world’s second best forward line—behind only that of their next opponents, the U.S.—but you wouldn’t know it from their play in France. Set pieces have been their main source of goals this past month, and since the stubborn Swedes did a good job restricting their chances there, save one powerful header by Vivianne Miedema that keeper Hedvig Lindahl managed to nudge onto the crossbar, it was no surprise when neither team could find the breakthrough in regulation.
The Netherlands finally did work themselves into a good position from open play at the start of extra time, however, when midfielder Jackie Groenen found herself in lots of space just in front of the Swedish penalty box in the 99th minute. Groenen saw acres of open field ahead of her, chose not to run into it, and instead just whacked the ball right from where she stood, finding the bottom corner of the goal with her hard, low blast:
Sweden pushed for an equalizer but didn’t trouble the Dutch defense much. The very end of the match was marred by a nasty head injury, when a ball hit Swedish star Kosovare Asllani flush on the chin and knocked her to the ground:
The match was delayed for a few minutes as Asllani laid there on the pitch. Eventually she had to be carried off on a stretcher.
Moments later, the final whistle blew and the Netherlands were victorious. In just their second World Cup ever, the Dutch have made it all the way to the final. On Sunday, the reigning champions of Europe will meet the reigning champions of the world. Should be fun!