The United States stand on the cusp of history as they look to win the Fifa women’s World Cup title for the fourth time on Sunday when they take on European champions Netherlands in the final in Lyon.
Led by the charismatic Megan Rapinoe, the USA are aiming to retain the women’s World Cup and start favourites against a Dutch side that are vying to pull off a major upset.
The USA have lived up to their status as favourites coming into the tournament by becoming the first team ever to reach three consecutive women’s World Cup finals.
They can win the trophy for the fourth time in eight editions, four years after Carli Lloyd’s hat-trick helped them to a 5-2 win over Japan in the final in Canada.
Despite beginning their defence of the trophy with a World Cup record 13-0 victory over Thailand, they have had to fight to get through the knockout rounds, edging out Spain, hosts France and then England on their way.
USA's road to final
|Thailand||Won by 13-0|
|Chile||Won by 3-0|
|Sweden||Won by 2-0|
|Spain||Won by 2-1|
|France||Won by 2-1|
|England||Won by 2-1|
The defending champions have won 12 consecutive matches and extended their unbeaten streak to 14 in all competitions. Jill Ellis is still undefeated as a coach at the World Cup.
Sarina Wiegman’s Netherlands, on the other hand, are hoping to cause a major upset and strike a blow for Europe at just their second World Cup, two years after being crowned European champions on home soil.
The Netherlands have won 12 consecutive matches at major tournaments under Wiegman, and Sunday’s final will be just the second at the women’s World Cup to bring together two female coaches, after the 2003 showpiece.
Similar to the USA, the Dutch are yet to be beaten so far. With a relatively young squad they are high on confidence beating Japan, Italy and Sweden in the knockout stages. Their strong defence has been their main strenght so far, having let in just three goals in the entire tournament and haven’t conceded yet in 227 minutes.
Netherland's road to final
|New Zealand||Won by 1-0|
|Cameroon||Won by 3-1|
|Canada||Won by 2-1|
|Japan||Won by 2-1|
|Italy||Won by 2-0|
|Sweden||Won by 1-0|
“I think we just need to approach the game as we approach every game,” said Dutch coach Wiegman.
“We know we are playing a top-level team so we need to perform even better and we will defend the way we always do, as a team.”
While Wiegman is hoping to claim a second major tournament triumph in as many attempts, the English-born Ellis can become the first coach to win back-to-back World Cups in the men’s or women’s game since Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.
(with AFP inputs)