LYON, France — This idea floating around that the United States women’s national team could underestimate the Netherlands in Sunday’s World Cup final? The Americans are having none of it.
After ripping through Spain, France and England on the tougher side of the knockout stage bracket to reach the title match [11 a.m. ET], some have suggested that the USWNT could regard the contest against the Dutch at Stade de Lyon as a mere formality.
On Friday, three-time World Cup veterans Alex Morgan and Kelley O’Hara scoffed at that narrative, as did youngsters Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle, insisting that it would most certainly not be the case.
“Seeing the games be pretty close and the score lines, I don’t know how we could possibly be overly confident,” Morgan told reporters at the team hotel here.
“I don’t think we underestimate anybody,” O’Hara said. “I think that we step on the field every time and we know we’re going to get the [opponent’s] best game and we have to play to our very best.”
“I don’t think we ever underestimate anything,” O’Hara added. “I think that’s what what people project onto us.”
The confidence level of FIFA’s No. 1-ranked team has been a talking point all tournament, ever since the U.S. humiliated Thailand 13-0 in its opener at France 2019 with the most lopsided scoreline, men’s or women’s, in World Cup history.
The Americans were branded as overconfident, cocky, even unsporting. They shouldn’t have celebrated, or over-celebrated, those last few goals against the Thais. And the criticism continued as the competition went on.
Before their win over England in the semifinal earlier this week, Lionesses coach Phil Neville was asked by a British reporter if it was “arrogant” for the U.S. support staff to scout out the hotel they would use for the final in advance, despite the fact that it’s standard practice. Neville basically agreed that it was.
There’s no question that the U.S. enters Sunday’s finale as the heavy favorite. Still, the Dutch women are no minnows. They’re the reigning European champions and a rising global power. They beat 2015 runner-up Japan in the round of 16 and dispatched Sweden — the team that eliminated the Americans from the 2016 Olympics — in the semis on Wednesday to reach the title game.
“We haven’t played the Dutch in quite a while but I’ve been watching them throughout this tournament,” Morgan said. “They are a quality team. We both made it through to the final via different routes ... it’s a team that is worthy of making it to the final.”
After losing to Japan in the 2011 final, Morgan and O’Hara know that nothing is guaranteed. The U.S. team’s next generation seems to have gotten the message.
“The Netherlands have been on their game this tournament,” said Lavelle, who like Horan is participating in her first World Cup. “We know that we’re going to have to go in and fight. I think it’s going to be a tooth-and-nail battle. I think it’s going to be really close.”
In any case, the USA’s approach doesn’t change no matter the foe. Jill Ellis’ side always comes out of the gates at full gallop. The longest it’s taken them to score in any match in France is 12 minutes, and that was in that tournament-opening rout.
They’re ruthless on both sides of the ball. They know they’re good — a well-earned swagger that comes from being the most successful program, by some distance, in women’s soccer history — but they always show up to play.
“We’re proud of what we’ve put out on the field,” Morgan said. “We feel confident as a team and individually in our roles.
“We’ve also gained momentum throughout this tournament,” she added. “So I think we’re in a really good spot, and we want to bring back the [World] Cup.”
That’s not the same as thinking it will be easy, though, or assuming that the repeat is in the bag before the whistle blows.
“They’re one of the best teams in the world and they’re playing in a World Cup final,” Horan said of the Dutch. “It’s going to be an incredible game.”
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