Netherlands Beat Italy to Advance to 2019 Women's World Cup Semi-Finals

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2019

Netherlands' forward Vivianne Miedema (L) vies with Italy's midfielder Valentina Cernoia during the France 2019 Women's World Cup quarter-final football match between Italy and Netherlands, on June 29, 2019, at the Hainaut stadium in Valenciennes, northern France. (Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Netherlands are into the semi-finals of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France after a 2-0 victory over Italy on Saturday. 

Vivianne Miedema and Stefanie van der Gragt found the net with headers during the second half in Valenciennes, and the Netherlands will next face either Sweden, who beat Germany 2-1 in Rennes later in the day.

A match with few chances saw Italy stifle the Netherlands' creativity. A well-drilled and physical defence led by centre-backs Sara Gama and Elena Linari denied the Netherlands' best players time and space in the final third.

Italy also deployed a narrow shape in midfield that ruined their opponents' passing game. The Netherlands needed to exploit width but made little from their lion's share of possession.

FIFA Women's World Cup @FIFAWWC

Nothing between these two teams... #ITANED 🇮🇹🇳🇱 https://t.co/GbGPMlFWgK

While Italy had been stellar defensively, some felt the intense heat was as much a factor for the sluggish fare on display:

Grant Wahl @GrantWahl

Can anyone explain why #NED-#ITA is being played on the surface of the sun in the mid-afternoon when there’s no game scheduled in the late evening tonight? The players are gassed.

Meanwhile, ex-England international Rachel Brown-Finnis told BBC 5 Live Sport about one area where the Netherlands were getting their tactics wrong:

BBC 5 Live Sport @5liveSport

'The Dutch are looking to play it out from the back but its not always their forte.' @rach_brown1 has her say on #NED's Sari van Veenendaal 📲⚽️: https://t.co/ybTBKzFItW #ITANED #bbcfootball #FIFAWWC https://t.co/CA0cti5PV1

Despite any reservations about their approach play, the Netherlands increased the pressure after the break. Some neat passing and clever runs from out to in began to separate Italy's rigid midfield.

Arsenal playmaker Danielle van de Donk took advantage of the extra room to curl a fine effort off the bar:

Match of the Day @BBCMOTD

Danielle van de Donk hits the bar! #NED have started the second half well and are getting closer to an opening goal. 📺 Watch LIVE on @BBCOne. https://t.co/xrsaB6wvWi #FIFAWWC #ChangeTheGame https://t.co/HH0rdwuGyU

Creating more space brought its reward for the Netherlands in the 70th minute when Van de Donk's Gunners teammate Miedema got free to meet a curling free-kick and convert one of the few clear-cut chances the game had produced:

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Can't give Miedema too many chances! The Netherlands' all-time top scorer breaks the deadlock! #FIFAWWC https://t.co/dLeZGMfxaD

It was a deserved lead for the Dutch, who had been the team most willing to get on the front foot and commit numbers to attacking areas.

More proactive football led to a corner Sherida Spitse swung on to the head of Van derGragt with 10 minutes remaining.

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

IT'S TWO! Another set piece header, and this time it's van der Gragt who doubles the Netherlands' lead with 10 minutes to play. #FIFAWWC https://t.co/9UJ1vNXmLX

Italy's response was meek, as a team that had scored freely during the group stage couldn't muster any cohesion of inspiration going forward. Instead, slow passing and ponderous movement wasted the talents of a loaded forward line, where the prolific Valentina Giacinti wasn't involved enough in the play.

Giacinti and Co. paid a heavy price for being too cautious early on. By contrast, the Netherlands showed the kind of impetus and quality in forward areas sure to make them a major threat against any team left in the bracket.


What's Next?

The Netherlands will meet Sweden in the second match of the semi-final bracket on Wednesday.