World Cup: Groenen goal sends Dutch to final
Jackie Groenen was the hero for the Netherlands, scoring the winner in their 1-0 victory over Sweden in Lyon as her nation reached their first-ever Women’s World Cup final.
The midfielder, who has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Manchester United Women this summer, fired home in the 99th minute to settle a tense semi-final - the first in the competition’s history to go to extra time.
The Dutch - who are the first European team to compete in the final since 2007 - now have the chance to become world champions for the first time, and add to their success at the European Championship in 2017.
But standing in their way are the holders and favourites USA, who are bidding to lift the trophy for an uprecedented fourth time in their record-extending fifth final appearance.
Another tough challenge lies in wait but Groenen and her Dutch team-mates will hope to make history in Sunday’s final, which will also be played at the Stade de Lyon (kick-off 16:00 BST).
HOW DID GROENEN DO?
Jackie was again part of an effective midfield trio alongside Arsenal’s Danielle van de Donk and Valerenga’s Sherida Spitse, in a 4-3-3 formation which has served the Dutch well throughout the tournament.
Groenen’s constant movement and energy, in particular, was impressive, as she got into advanced positions and helped her attacking colleagues create openings.
As she has done in previous games, the former Chelsea player quietly went about her business with some controlled passing and covered a lot of ground, with the Dutch made to work hard by a strong Swedish side who had numerous chances.
Jackie ultimately made the decisive contribution in the first period of extra-time, latching onto a loose ball, before rifling a low shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
It was the 24-year-old’s third goal for her country, on her 53rd appearance for the Netherlands, after netting against Scotland in 2016 and Northern Ireland in 2018.
Coach Sarina Wiegman has selected Groenen to start in every game at the tournament - and Jackie’s goal will have surely boosted her chances of playing in what will be the biggest game of her career in Sunday’s showpiece.
UNITED PAIR STRIVE FOR BRONZE
Jackie’s club colleagues Alex Greenwood and Abbie McManus could be in action for England in the third-place play-off against Sweden this weekend.
The two defenders were unused substitutes as Phil Neville’s Lionesses suffered semi-final heartbreak on Tuesday night, following their 2-1 defeat against USA.
They will hope to be involved in Saturday’s match at the Allianz Riviera in Nice (kick-off 16:00 BST) as England look to secure the bronze medal for the second World Cup tournament in succession.
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