USA v Netherlands: Reigning champions to defend their crown

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe could overwhelm the Dutch defence

The defending world champions take on the current European champions in Sunday's World Cup Final in Lyon. Tim Stillman can't see beyond another USA title...

"USA’s second eleven would get to the quarter or semi-finals at least. They have won their last 11 World Cup matches, Netherlands have won their last nine fixtures- something will have to give in Lyon."

USA v Netherlands
Sunday, 7th July 16:00
BBC One

USA will be firm favourites

The Women's World Cup turned into football's answer to the Ryder Cup at the quarter-final stage, with seven European thorns placed alongside the American rose. It's perhaps fitting that the final has come down to the reigning world champions and the current European champions in Lyon on Sunday.

Jill Ellis' side are 1/3 favourites and with good reason. This is their third consecutive final and their fifth overall, the US are looking to become the second team to retain the trophy after Germany achieved that feat in 2003 and 2007. This is only Netherlands' second World Cup, but as they showed at Euro 2017, they have quickly emerged as a force in the world game.

There remains a suspicion that the Dutch are a collection of super talented individuals rather than a team. With players like Lieke Martens, Vivianne Miedema, Danielle van de Donk and Sari van Veenendaal in their side, they are the most talented side in Europe. However, the US matches and outdoes the Dutch for individual quality with world stars like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath.

USA's second XI would get to the quarter or semi-finals at least. They have won their last 11 World Cup matches, Netherlands have won their last nine fixtures- something will have to give in Lyon. The Dutch side are said to be weak in defence and with USA's attack that could prove a significant issue. However, they have only conceded four times in their last 10 matches.

USA have the quality to replace Rapinoe if she isn't fit to play

Megan Rapinoe is an injury doubt for the US and despite her quality and experience; the States would be able to call upon Christen Press in her place, who scored against England in the semi-final. Press is 13/8 to score at any time, which is worth a look. Even if Rapinoe starts, it is unlikely she will be able to last the distance due to a troublesome hamstring injury.

Rose Lavelle is also a doubt in the US midfield and she is, for my money, the player of the tournament. However, if she were to miss out, Jill Ellis can call on Sam Mewes to come in. Their depth is scary. Netherlands meanwhile are sweating on the fitness of Lieke Martens, who was replaced at half-time by Jill Roord in the extra-time victory over Sweden.

I imagine Martens will be nursed back into contention. She too might not last the pace, which makes her likely replacement Jill Roord good value to score any time at 10/1. The Arsenal midfielder will certainly come off the bench at least and she usually improves Netherlands performances when she does.

USA will look to starve Netherlands forward of supply

Netherlands boss Sarina Wiegman must decide between the off-form Shanice van de Sanden and the inconsistent Lineth Beerensteyn for the right-wing spot. Martens and van de Sanden both play very high up as a pair of wide forwards to flank Vivianne Miedema. The USA play in a very similar manner with their wide forwards and I think the US' midfield is more equipped to take control of the game.

If that is the case, expect them to be able to feed Heath and Press / Rapinoe regularly. Martens and van de Sanden or Beerensteyn will be asked to track back more than usual, which risks isolating Miedema upfront. We haven't seen the Arsenal Vivianne Miedema for Netherlands in this tournament because her position is far more rigid in the Dutch team.

I expect the US to be able to starve her of the service she needs, with Julie Ertz likely to drop back between the centre halves to limit her space. This makes Danielle van de Donk a key player for the Netherlands- she mixes creativity with tenacity and I think it will be largely down to her to provide for and support Miedema, with Netherlands' wide forwards lacking fitness and form.

Van de Donk is 20/1 to open the scoring and I like those odds. She has yet to score in the tournament and, at the risk of being duped into gambler's fallacy, she is due! There is the added complication that the Dutch went to extra-time in their semi-final with Sweden and they played a day later than USA, who got the job done in 90 minutes against England.

USA have a habit of scoring early

I am expecting the US to have too much for Netherlands. I expect their attack to overpower the oranje defence and for the US midfield three of Lavelle or Mewes, Julie Ertz and Lindsey Horan to control the game. Ellis' side have had a habit of sitting back once they go ahead in games and Netherlands could exploit them in those periods of caution.

The US have scored in the first 15 minutes of all of their games in the tournament so far and you can get 10/3 for a goal to be scored between the first and 10th minute or 2/1 for the scoring to be opened in the first 15. I have to say I am expecting a regulation 2-0 USA victory, possibly with a goal scored in each half (4/6). My recommended bet is for the US to win by exactly two goals at 16/5.

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