37th minute: A defensive battle
Much of the so far has been a battle of attrition. The sides have combined for five shots, three corners and 32 defensive clearances. Both teams, especially the Netherlands, are playing it safe knowing a trip to the World Cup championship match is perhaps only one goal away.
13th minute: Sweden draws the first chance
And it was a very Swedish opportunity. After a Dutch turnover in the midfield, Sofia Jakobsson was able to turn, push the tempo upfield and thread a ball to Stina Blackstenius. Dutch keeper Sari Van Veenendaal smothered the shot and was able to pounce on the rebound to end the scoring opportunity.
And we’re off!
The Netherlands is playing in its first Women’s World Cup semifinal. For Sweden, this is its fourth appearance in the semifinal round. The winner will face the United States on Sunday at 11 a.m., in Lyon.
Setting the stage
Behold: A match that seems to be predictably unpredictable. How’s that to decide the final spot in the Women’s World Cup final?
Sweden for five matches has played a prototypically Swedish brand of soccer. It drops 10 players behind the ball and dares opponents to try to score. Passes that could slice up less fastidious defenses become turnovers. Crosses into the box are swept away with ease. Shots on target get pawed down by the tournament’s top keeper, Hedvig Lindahl.
Then, what’s this? Stina Blackstenius or Sofia Jakobsson somehow behind the opposing back four? A good Swedish clearance by any other name is a precise and practical through ball, the kind that undid Germany and Canada, too, and gave the United States plenty of trouble in group-stage play.
The Netherlands will counter with its own free-flowing style: fast-paced, tons of passing, acrobatic play in the air, and watch out for those set pieces. Vivianne Miedema has three goals and may be the best there is attacking with her head. Lieke Martens has enough oomph in her shot to threaten from long range. Sherida Spitse has four assists, the most in the tournament.
They’ll all have room to operate as Sweden allows the Dutch to control possession, but will they have enough meaningful chances to make an impact? That’s hard to predict.
Sweden is in the World Cup semifinals for the fourth time; only the United States and Germany have reached this stage more often. The Netherlands is in the semifinals for the first time. The winner will face the U.S. in Sunday’s final. The loser will face England in Saturday’s third-place match.
What you need to know
When: Wednesday, 3 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France.
TV: FS1, NBC Sports Network, Telemundo.
Streaming: Fox Sports.
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