Netherlands Beat Italy to Advance to 2019 Women's World Cup Semi-FinalsJune 29, 2019
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.
While Italy had been stellar defensively, some felt the intense heat was as much a factor for the sluggish fare on display:
Meanwhile, ex-England international Rachel Brown-Finnis told BBC 5 Live Sport about one area where the Netherlands were getting their tactics wrong:
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:
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:
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.
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.
The Netherlands will meet Sweden in the second match of the semi-final bracket on Wednesday.