The Netherlands will play USA in Sunday's FIFA Women's World Cup™ Final after Jackie Groenen emerged as their extra-time heroine. The midfielder, identified by our Team Reporter as the Oranjeleeuwinnen's key player, scored a 99th-minute winner to sink Sweden and settle the first Women's World Cup semi-final ever to go beyond the regulation 90.
Dramatic as the conclusion was, this was a very different last-four encounter to USA's breathless 2-1 victory over England last night. The first half was tight, tense and lacking in chances while the second was dominated by superb saves by Sari van Veenendaal and Hedvig Lindahl: the teams' respective keepers.
But the Dutch - who are playing in just their second edition of this tournament - secured a historic Final spot by producing the game's one moment of real attacking quality. It came, of course, from Groenen, who charged through on to a clever lay-off from Vivianne Miedema and drilled a 20-yard shot beyond the previously unbeatable Lindahl.
What a thrilling way to reach a World Cup Final! The Netherlands and Sweden made this semi-final a real tactical battle and it took one moment of brilliance from Jackie Groenen to decide an extremely tight match. This semi-final might not have lived up to supporters' expectations as it did not feature the most creative brand of football from either side but it was an intriguing game all the same. It needed 120 minutes in hot and humid Lyon to separate the sides and, in the end, Sweden were the team to blink first.
Disappointment. That’s the prevailing emotion the Swedish players will be feeling right now. They believed so much in the possibility of reaching this Women's World Cup Final and they were so close to doing so. They will be reflecting on the chances they had and the fact they were just the width of a goalpost away from the France 2019 decider. But it was Sweden's defence that had to work the hardest with Nilla Fischer, Hanna Glas and Hedvig Lindahl all outstanding as they were continually put to the test. For a time, it seemed like it was a test they would pass but extra time proved too much. There will be tears tonight and then these players will once again have to show their mental strength as they re-focus on the bronze-medal match against England.