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2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final preview: Arsenal, The Arsenal versus Sweden

It’s semi-final time!

FBL-WC-2019-WOMEN-NED-PRESSER Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

The Women’s World Cup semi-final, Lyon. I will be there. What a magical stadium. Such great memories. What a wonderful cup. Arsenal, The Arsenal, versus Sweden. What a game it’s going to be. What a game. I wish I was out there playing myself.

In fairness, the Netherlands have more than just Arsenal players, but also, they have four players who were at Arsenal last season and three who will be at Arsenal next season, and if France winning the World Cup in 1998 caused “Arsenal win the World Cup” headlines, then the Dutch doing the same in 2019 should cause similar headlines. The Dutch play Sweden, but before that, there’s the first semi-final: England versus the United States.

Arsenal will be represented by Beth Mead and Leah Williamson. Williamson has not played save for 10 minutes at the end of England’s 3-0 win against Cameroon; Beth Mead hasn’t started since the 1-0 win against Argentina, but played the last 40 minutes of the 3-0 win over Norway, setting up Lucy Bronze’s excellent strike. It’s unclear if Mead starts; Phil Neville has been keeping his cards to his chest, suggesting, even, that he could play Bronze in midfield and Rachel Daly as a right back, which would be pretty wild. A re-jigging could see Mead come into the side; it seems unlikely that Williamson comes in, even as Millie Bright has struggled. For some reason, Neville disputes the idea that Williamson and Steph Houghton can play together.

England v United States
Tuesday, July 2; 9:00 PM CEST/3:00 PM EDT/12:00 PM PDT

The second semi-final will see the Netherlands seeking to continue their 100% tournament record as they face Sweden. The Netherlands’ have not necessarily been impressive this tournament; they struggled with the heat over the weekend, but a Vivianne Miedema header from a set piece set them on their way in an eventual 2-0 win over surprise quarter-finalists Italy.

The Netherlands’ run of form has not been impressive at the tournament, nor before then, but they’ve found a way to win. What is concerning is there seems to be less of a cohesive plan, and more of a, “hope our stars figure it out” plan. It was similar to what Germany employed against Sweden, and Sweden took advantage of a weak central defence—which is a definite weakness of the Dutch. And yet, in Miedema, they have the best centre forward left in the tournament, one who can drag teams over the line. If the Dutch service improves, so can the Dutch; at this point, though, it seems unlikely for Sarina Wiegman to choose a different team (and pick, for example, Jill Roord), and so it might be another hour of struggle before the changes are rung. The question for the Dutch will be whether it’ll already be too late by the time those changes are made.

Netherlands v Sweden
Wednesday, July 3; 9:00 PM CEST/3:00 PM EDT/12:00 PM PDT