Sweden shocked Germany to progress to a World Cup semi-final against Netherlands. But Tim Stillman thinks the final will be an orange affair.
"Netherlands finish games very strongly with six goals in the last 20 minutes of matches already at this tournament- two of which were last minute winners."
Netherlands v Sweden
Wednesday 3rd July, 20:00
Sweden are well set up to counter-attack
Sweden are often regarded as a defensive side. They certainly have excellent defensive players, with centre-half Nilla Fischer, ably supported by expert defensive midfielders Caroline Seger and Elin Rubensson in front of her and former Chelsea 'keeper Hedvig Lindahl behind her. They are difficult to break down.
Yet, against Germany they leaned into their attacking strengths, continually hitting the ball into space to take advantage of Germany's high defensive line. With Sofia Jakobsson, Kosavore Asllani and Fridolina Rolfö all capable of exploding into space in support of Stina Blackstenius. Sweden's 4-2-3-1 system is perfectly designed for the counter-attack.
However, Sweden are without the suspended Rolfö for this game, which represents a significant blow. Into her place will come the talented Madelen Janogy, but Janogy's strength is more as an impact sub at this stage. It remains to be seen whether she can perform for 90 minutes against opposition of this calibre.
Netherlands still reliant on individual moments
Netherlands also deploy a high defensive line and Peter Gerhardsson's team can use much the same tactics to expose the Dutch, who operate without a defensive midfielder. There remains the suspicion that Netherlands are more a collection of elite individuals rather than a team under the guidance of Sarina Weigman.
Individual feats from the likes of Lieke Martens and Vivianne Miedema have seen the Dutch progress this far and they required two set-piece goals to see off Italy. Wiegman famously rarely changes her line-ups, but the poor form of Shanice van de Sanden must be giving the coach food for thought. Van de Sanden has been substituted before the 60th minute in both of Netherlands' knockout games so far and her replacement Lineth Beerensteyn must be in line for a start.
Beerensteyn contributed to Netherlands' second half upturn against Italy in the quarter-finals. If Oranje can take that improved second-half display into this semi-final, they ought to have too much for Sweden. The Swedes defensive unit is one of the best in the tournament, but with quality like Danielle van de Donk, Martens and Miedema, the Netherlands are stacked with individual stars, even if they don't always knit together as a team.
Dutch have developed winning mentality
Having won Euro 2017, the Dutch have developed that hard-edged winning mentality. They were thoroughly outclassed against Japan in the Round of 16 but got over the line because they took their chances. While I worry about Netherlands' defence against Sweden's counter, they do have recovery pace in defence with Dominique Bloodworth and Stephanie van der Gragt. Netherlands finish games very strongly with six goals in the last 20 minutes of matches already at this tournament- two of which were last minute winners.
Sweden to lead at half-time but Netherlands to win inside the 90 minutes is 22/1 and I like the look of that. Netherlands to come from behind to win is rated at 11/1. You can also get 4/1 for them to score two or more second half goals. All of these are attractive markets. The Dutch have the players to really pen a team in when they need to, as they showed against Italy.
That said, Sweden are not a huge underdog here, as demonstrated by their 23/20 odds to qualify. They are the current Olympic silver medallists; they are not short of big match experience either. I think this game has a 2-1 score-line written all over it, either way. It's 10/1 for the Swedes to prosper by that margin in 90 minutes, or 9/2 after extra-time. Ultimately, I think one of either Miedema or Martens will produce a match winning moment and Lyon will turn oranje on Sunday.