An extra-time goal by midfielder Jackie Groenen against Sweden was enough to put the Netherlands through to their first ever Women’s World Cup Final last July 3. Their victory came after 90 uneventful minutes that The Guardian described as “perhaps the dullest of the tournament.”
Both teams struggled to mount an offense during the first two halves of the game. Instead, the two sides’ goalkeepers, Hedvig Lindahl for Sweden and Sari Van Veenendal for the Netherlands, carried their teams into extra time with impressive defensive displays.
The semifinalists looked to be playing it safe against each other. It took a brilliant 99th minute goal by Groenen to secure the Netherland’s place in the final against the USWNT.
After an impressive passing display from the Dutch, Groenen made a run from midfield into the edge of the box. She took the ball in stride and delivered an unstoppable drive into Lindahl’s net. The Swedes had already tired at this point from defending and were unable to mount a comeback before the final whistle.
After the game, Sweden manager Peter Gerhardsson told The Guardian, ““Everyone who has experienced it knows it. You’re not angry, you’re not sad, you’re not disappointed. Empty, that’s what I feel like right now.”
The Netherlands’ road to the World Cup Final
The Netherlands finished top of Group E, considered by some to be one of the weaker groups in the field. They won all three games, scoring 6 goals and allowing only 2. Including the semifinal, they’ve tallied 11 goals in the tournament, good for 4th in the overall standings.
Before defeating Sweden in the semifinal, Netherlands cruised past Italy in the quarterfinal behind goals from Vivianne Miedema and Stefanie Van Der Gragt.
In the round of 16, the orange-clad team almost went to extra time against Japan. Instead, they benefited from a controversial penalty awarded to them in the 88th minute after a handball. Japan had put up an excellent fight and looked the better team after halftime, but Miedema smashed the penalty and sent them packing.
The side doesn’t have a player in the top 10 goalscorers for the tournament. Instead, the goals have come from all over the team.
Their top scorer is Miedema, a forward for the English Women’s Super League team Arsenal Ladies. At only 22 years of age, she is the Netherlands’ top international goalscorer, across both the men’s and women’s team.
Interestingly, Miedema is openly gay and is currently in a relationship with her Arsenal teammate and Scottish international player Lisa Evans.
It’s quite wonderful that a player of Miedema’s caliber has chosen to be open about her partner, especially since the men’s side of football has been criticized for being homophobic.
Lisa Evans will surely be one of the Netherlands’ biggest fans as they compete against the favorites USA for the World Cup trophy.