This has been the summer of soccer and this coming Sunday is no exception. Both of my national teams are playing the final game of their respective tournaments. The USWNT face off against Holland in the World Cup final in the morning and then, just ten hours later, the USMNT play against Mexico for the Gold Cup final. While I’m thrilled that the men made their final, I’m more worried about the women. Going in to the World Cup, I figured that France would be the hardest game we would face. I was wrong. As it turns out, France was probably the easiest opponent we faced during the knock out rounds. Spain and England proved to be far more formidable opponents than I was anticipating.
Sunday’s final is our game to lose. We are the stronger team, but the opposition will be hungry. While they are the current champions of Europe, this is only the second time that Holland has made it into the Women’s World Cup and their first time reaching the final (they lost to Japan in the first round of the knock out phase in 2015). We are the reigning World Cup champions on our way to our fourth title. They will be coming into the final with less rest, a 120-minute game, travel, and with the possibility of not having their most important player — Lieke Martens (FC Barcelona women) — due to injury. The US will be coming off of several days of rest, no extra-time games, no travel, and they are anticipating both Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC) and Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit) to be ready for Sunday’s game (Lavelle has probably my favorite moment of the cup with her meg of Bright). Regardless, we cannot underestimate them.
As nervous as I was about our goalkeeper situation going into the tournament, Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars) silenced any doubts with her performance against England. She has spent a lot of time in the shadow of Hope Solo and there was a lot of talk about how she hadn’t really been tested. England set out to exploit that and, for the most part, they were stopped. I’m not sure which save I liked better, the penalty kick or the fully laid out, off the fingertips save in the first half. If you haven’t seen the game against England, definitely find a replay and watch. It was intense with an amazing performance by both sides. As the announcers said, it had everything.
Holland is hungry and so are we. I can’t wait for Sunday. #LFG.