Groenen strike puts Netherlands into World Cup final
Dutch need extra-time to see off Sweden and set up decider against favourites USA
Jackie Groenen of the Netherlands scores her team’s winner against Sweden. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Netherlands 1 Sweden 0 (after extra time)
New Manchester United signing Jackie Groenen ensured the Netherlands finally got the better of an excellent Hedvig Lindahl in the Swedish goal, in extra time, to set up a final between the reigning world champions, the USA, and the European champions.
A dull 90 minutes, perhaps the dullest of the tournament, saw a grey game under a grey sky stumble towards extra time scoreless.
Neither the Netherlands nor Sweden had looked likely to make the breakthrough in Lyon, instead the former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeepers Lindahl and Sari Van Veenendaal, both let go by their WSL sides, were arguably the stars and firmly in the shop window.
But in the 99th minute Groenen, who’s form had been a concern going into the World Cup, beat Lindahl from 20 yards with a low strike.
The crowd underwhelmed in the first half – the allegedly sold out stadium so patchy you could make out the “Olympique Lyonnaise” in white seats across the top tier – and the play mirrored the lacklustre support.
It was two evenly matched teams playing it safe.
Lina Hunting came in for the suspended Fridolina Rolfo and Elin Rubensson remained in her starting position due to a late injury to Nathalie Bjorn in the warm up, while a struggling Shanice van de Sanden was benched in favour of 22-year-old Bayern Munich forward Lineth Beerensteyn.
With the Dutch unable to carry out their usual orange march to the stadium, officials ruling out the 12-mile route from the centre on health and safety grounds, this was not the home-away-from-home that the Netherlands players had become a little accustomed to in the north. Fischer and Hanna Glas made light work of Vivianne Miedema after she skipped clear inside the box but stumbled, unable to get the ball untangled from her feet.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s first chance fell to Stina Blackstenius, who scored against Canada and Germany on the way to Lyon, Sofia Jakobsson slipped a neat pass to the Linkopings forward overlapping on the right but her shot was hesitant and straight at Sari Van Veenendaal.
With creative hub Lieke Martens whipped off in favour of Jill Roord at half time, the former seemingly not over the foot injury talked about by Sarina Wiegman pre-match, the Netherlands struggled to bring Miedema into play.
A Dominique Bloodworth corner though, found the Dutch record goalscorer towards the far post but her powerful header was expertly nudged by the fingertips of the out-of-contract Hedvig Lindahl onto the bar.
Van de Sanden received a raucous welcome when ushered into the fray with less than 20 minutes to play.
And she immediately burst into life flying towards the Swedish box before earning a corner and thrusting her arms up and down trying to inspire some life into the limp match.
In extra time though, it was Groenen that would prove the difference. The midfielder, who has grown into this tournament, darted towards the box and picked the ball up at the end of a nicely passing move before powering low past Lindahl.
The Netherlands meet the USA back in this stadium on Sunday afternoon, while
Sweden, who beat England 2-0 in November, meet the Lionesses in the third place play-off on Saturday in Nice. – Guardian