Women's World Cup: Prep for final between USA and Netherlands

courtesy of flickr.com

The finale of the 2019 World Cup happens on July 7, with the United States taking on Netherlands. A preview of this, plus a little bit about Alex Morgan's celebration.

One of the most iconic celebrations in the history of United States soccer -- both men and women alike -- is when Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt  after a penalty kick to help deliver the World Cup to the USA in 1999.

The moment was captured and lived on in magazines and newspapers, a moment of pure bliss and elation from converting on the biggest stage of them all.

Scoring a goal in soccer, especially in the World Cup, is always worth celebrating. Chastain's was certainly a response to the heightened moment, letting the energy flow. Creative juices are part of the goal-scoring experience, whether it's a planned team effort or simply showing off in the moment.

No matter the case, I would have never believed so much attention would be given to a simple gesture of drinking tea, as has been the case with Alex Morgan. Morgan scored in the semifinal victory over England and proceeded to deliver this celebration: 
Perhaps, as sometimes can be the case, the vocal criticism is in the minority and simply amplified thanks to the internet. But it's still out there and for no real reason.

There was no harm in the celebration. Morgan is correct when saying critics of the celebration don't give the same critiques when it comes to men "grabbing their sacks and or whatever it is".

Considering the sportsmanship issue debated in the Americans opening win of this tournament, a 13-0 rout of Thailand, plus a handful of other ongoing debates, the USWNT has certainly had a bullseye zeroed in on their actions. Every little action is picked apart with a fine-tooth comb, which partially comes along with being the defending champion and the best team in the world.

Want to see the confidence, the braggadocio, and the celebrations more restrained? The simple answer is start winning more games against them. I know for myself, when a rival struts around like that, I hope I (or my favorite team) uses that as fuel for the fire to take them down a peg or two. And that's what the goal is for soccer opponents of the USA around the world: dethrone the champs. It may not happen on Sunday, but the gap between the Americans and other countries is closing.

Meaning, in the end, better competition and more thrilling matches. And many more celebrations in which emotions will shine through and with them, perhaps a spot of tea.

USA vs Netherlands preview

The 8th edition of the Women's World Cup takes place on Sunday July 7, an event first won by the USWNT back in 1991. 

In fact, of the eight cups, this will be the fifth time the Americans are playing for the title. Only once has the USWNT lost, back in 2011 to Japan on penalty kicks.

The Americans redeemed themselves in 2015, routing Japan 5-2 behind a Carli Lloyd hat trick, and will be looking to join Germany ('03, '07) as the only countries to win back-to-back cups.

Playing the role of favorites is nothing new for this team. Their roster depth also allows for this, as evident when Megan Rapinoe was forced to the bench in USA's semifinal 2-1 over England. Rapinoe, who is expected to play in the final, sat with a minor hamstring injury but replacement Christen Press fit in nicely. Press scored the first goal in the semifinal victory and generally played well. 

The midfield, centered around Julie Ertz, is interchangeable, with Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, and Sam Mewis all able to step up as needed.

Maybe one of the most unsung stories of the tournament for the USA team has been the play of the back four. Seen as a bit of a liability entering the tournament, the unit has performed quite well. Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O'Hara, and Crystal Dunn have all delivered when needed. Dahlkemper and Dunn may have been less heralded among the bunch, but both have had outstanding tournaments.

After allowing zero goals through the first three matches, the team has allowed one in each of the last three. While the unit hasn't been as formidable and dominant as the team in 2015, entering Sunday's final they've allowed just as many goals as the 2015 team did.

Morgan is also in line to win the Golden Boot, given to the Cup's top scorer. She is currently tied with Ellen White from England at six goals apiece. England lost the third-place game to Sweden on Saturday, without White scoring, and even if Morgan ends with six goals, she'll win on account of having three assists to White's zero.

That is unless Rapinoe, who has five goals, passes Morgan on Sunday.

The team from the Netherlands are playing in their first-ever final, in only their second only World Cup. They are a young team, with over half of their roster under the age of 26.

Still, they should not be underestimated. They play a controlled game and have only allowed three goals in the tournament as well. The Netherlands defeated Sweden 1-0 to reach the final and haven't allowed a goal since their round of 16 game against Japan.

Only two players have scored more than one goal for the Dutch in this year's cup. Forward Vivianne Miedema leads the way with three and fellow striker Lieke Martens has two. Midfielder Sherida Spitse has assisted on four of the team's 11 goals.

USA's back four will definitely be tested but the their play, along with goalkeeper Alyssa Naelher, will keep the Dutch scoreless and the United States will win, 2-0.

Kickoff is July 7 at 11 ET on Fox. 

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