Much anticipated U.S. and Netherlands World Cup rematch ends with a resounding ... tie
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Let's check in now on what has already been an exciting opening week for the Women's World Cup underway in Australia and New Zealand. Anticipation was already high for last night's match between the United States and the Netherlands. Some of you may recall this is the same pairing that faced off in the finals of the last World Cup in 2019. That one ended up with a U.S. win. This time around, the match ended with a resounding tie. Well, soccer writer Sophie Downey joins us now from Sydney, Australia, where she's tracking all the action. Hey, Sophie.
SOPHIE DOWNEY: Hello - great to be on.
KELLY: So for a tie, there were some exciting moments, and I want to ask you to briefly recap last night's match for us. I guess I should note it was last night for those of us here watching in the States. With the massive time difference, it was today for you, right?
DOWNEY: Yes, it was this morning. But, yes, it was quite a good game, wasn't it?
KELLY: Yeah. What stood out to you?
DOWNEY: I think it was a really good matchup in the way that they came out. I think the Netherlands really took it to the Americans in the first half. That low block in their defensive lineup was sort of stopping the USA in terms of their attacking ability and limiting what the likes of Sophia Smith and Alex Morgan could do. And so in that first half, they took control and got the lead through Jill Roord in the 17th minute, which was a good finish. And it was the first time, I think, that the U.S. had trailed since 2011 in a World Cup game. But then, as the USA always do, they come back into things; don't they? There was a good substitution at halftime. Rose Lavelle came on, and I think she turned the game, really. And she enabled the USA to get forward.
KELLY: So sounds like, in your view, the tie was the correct outcome. These were two well-matched teams. You mentioned Sophia Smith. She is - is it fair to say the breakout star of the U.S. team so far in this World Cup?
DOWNEY: She is. She's an absolute superstar, even for her young age. And it's just what you want to see. In her World Cup debut, last game out against Vietnam, where she got two goals and an assist - that was a special way to announce yourself on the world stage; isn't it?
KELLY: Yeah. Now, I mean, this is the first World Cup for her, for 14 players in total on the U.S. team. And I know there were questions going in about their relative inexperience. Has it showed?
DOWNEY: Yeah, I think it's a bit of a transitional time; isn't it? You're starting to see the end of the kind of old guard. The Megan Rapinoes and Alex Morgans are probably not going to go on much longer. Well, we know Rapinoe is retiring at the end of the NWSL season. I think it's really exciting for the U.S. to see the young players come through and the talent that they have. It might not be the World Cup where they are fully at their best because it's their first tournament, but it's a great, great sign of the future and what they can do. And the fact that they're producing so many youngsters of that kind of talent is superb.
KELLY: Before I let you go, Sophie, since we are speaking to you from Sydney, I want to ask about another game you were riveted by today, I guess. This was Australia versus Nigeria. Tell me what happened.
DOWNEY: Yes, well, the hosts were beaten, which is quite a shock to the system, I think, for all of the home fans here in Australia. But no, Nigeria played really, really well. They came right at them. They matched them in all areas of the park, in the second half especially. And until the - like, I think it was 100th minute where Australia pulled one goal back. They were 3-1 up, Nigeria. So yeah - big shock to the system. And it leaves one of Australia or Canada looking likely to go out at the group stage.
KELLY: All right, so a tense day there in Australia. Better luck to the home team next time, and thanks for catching us up on everything underway in this Women's World Cup.
DOWNEY: No problem at all.
KELLY: That's soccer writer Sophie Downey speaking with us from Sydney. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.