Power Moments: What We've Learned Ahead of the World Cup Final

Richard LavertyContributor IJuly 6, 2019

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: Alex Morgan of United States celebrates her goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 2, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images)
Marcio Machado/Getty Images

After a month of high-quality action, the FIFA Women's World Cup final is finally upon us. 

The United States will take on the Netherlands in Sunday's decider, but what did the semifinals teach us ahead of that game? 

                    

1. U.S. looks set to defend its title

And nobody can say the team has done it the easy way. It won all three games in a group that contained fellow semifinalists Sweden before disposing of Spain, France and England to progress to the USWNT's third successive final.

The U.S. is now in prime position to wrap up a second consecutive trophy if it can get past European champions the Netherlands in Lyon on Sunday. The Dutch beat Sweden in a gruelling 120-minute encounter, and that extra-time, combined with a day's less rest, already means Sarina Wiegman's side will be up against it.

The U.S. showed its incredible strength in depth by recalling Lindsey Horan and bringing in Christen Press for Megan Rapinoe against England. It is the clear favourite to win the title once more on Sunday.

                   

2. Rose Lavelle proved she is a star against England 

Rose Lavelle of USA women during the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 semi final match between England and United States of America at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

The 24-year-old looked a little nervous and perhaps overawed by the occasion against France in the quarterfinals, but against England, she shone brighter than anybody else on the pitch before a hamstring injury forced her off.

Right from the opening minutes, she was the biggest threat to England's defence, nutmegging centre-back Millie Bright and drawing a save from Carly Telford before Press opened the scoring inside 15 minutes.

Her penetrating runs from midfield were almost impossible to stop, and she was unlucky not to score when denied Telford her well-struck volley inside the box.

Hopefully she's fit for Sunday's final because her performance on Tuesday deserves to be repeated on the biggest stage of all.

                       

3. England's defensive issues were predictably exposed

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: Alex Morgan of United States celebrates her goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 2, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images)
Marcio Machado/Getty Images

Few people were fooled by England's four consecutive clean sheets given the team could easily have given up a couple of goals each in games against Japan, Cameroon and Norway.

A combination of sloppiness on the ball and some questionable defensive positioning made it likely the semifinal would see the Lionesses punished, and punished they were. England has rarely looked comfortable defending crosses under Phil Neville, and it was exposed by two crosses in Lyon.

Neville's decision to move to a 4-4-2 also left a tired midfield greatly exposed, and while England remained in the game for the durationand could even have won it on another daythe United States' lead could have been much more comfortable too.

                        

4. The Netherlands proved it is still a threat without Lieke Martens

Lieke Martens of Netherlands women during the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 semi final match between The Netherlands and Sweden of America at Stade de Lyon on July 03, 2019 in Lyon, France(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

One of the stars as the Netherlands marched to its first major title at Euro 2017 two years ago, everyone was looking to Barcelona winger Lieke Martens to repeat the feat in what is just the nation's second Women's World Cup.

But Martens has been nursing a knock throughout the latter stages of the tournament, and that culminated in her being substituted at halftime of the win against Sweden on Wednesday.

While Martens is unquestionably a superb talent, replacement Jill Roord performed admirably, and Sarina Wiegman's side still got the result they needed.

They'll still hope to have her back for the final on Sunday because she is a game-changer, but their performance against Sweden proved they're not reliant on her.

                    

5. It is time to put goalkeeping criticism to bed

goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher of USA women during the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 semi final match between England and United States of America at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

From Alyssa Naeher clawing away Keira Walsh's long-range effort and saving Steph Houghton's late penalty on Tuesday, to the top-class saves by Sweden's Hedvig Lindahl and the Netherlands' Sari van Veenendaal the following day, the semifinals provided fans with some quality goalkeeping.

In the Sweden-Netherlands match, Van Veenendaal somehow got down to tip an effort from Nilla Fischer on to the post, while minutes later, Lindahl stretched to push Vivianne Miedema's header on to the bar from a corner.

Lindahl also came up big in the second-round match against Canada when she saved Janine Beckie's late penalty, while Van Veenendaal has been one of the Dutch's best performers during the tournament.

Added to the spectacular save made by Karen Bardsley from a free-kick by Japan's Kumi Yokoyama and the numerous stops from Christiane Endler, Almuth Schult and Barbara, and the criticism of goalkeeping in the women's game should be parked after this tournament.

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