The 2023 FIFA World Cup being held in Australia and New Zealand is slowly but surely petering into its final stages. More than half of the teams that started in the competition have been eliminated, with two major favourites (the United States and Germany) on their way home after being throttled by less-favored teams. The tournament is currently at the quarterfinal stage with eight teams who have surely proved their mettle, and the first quarterfinal matchup, Spain versus the Netherlands, is, without a doubt, the biggest clash of the round.
Spain will be playing the Netherlands at the Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, and both teams will be looking to target a deeper run in the competition. La Roja have lost just one match in the competition, against Japan, and will surely have learnt a lot from that loss having won all others by a margin of at least three goals. They are, after all the second-highest goal scorers in the competition, just behind, you wouldn’t believe it, Japan. Having racked up impressive wins against Costa Rica and Zambia in the group stage alone, netting eight goals in total in both fixtures, the loss against Japan must have hit hard. They however bounced back in style, much to the chagrin of the other teams in the tournament, hitting the Swiss five-one in an encounter they dominated with ease and scored an own goal to back up their credentials. They will be looking to add the scalp of the Dutch to their achievement board in this quarterfinal clash, but surely it will be much more difficult than the previous clashes, even more than the match against Japan.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands have been solid, if not spectacular, so far, scoring eleven goals and conceding just once. Unlike the Spanish, they are unbeaten in the competition and have proved to be a stronger team in all their matches. They beat debutants Portugal by a lone goal, drew with the Americans in an unlucky fixture, and made light work of Vietnam in a seven-goal mauling in their last group-stage match. They then beat the South Africans two-nil to set up a meeting with Spain in the last eight. The Netherlands know they have their fate in their hands and will be looking to defeat Spain and go on to take the trophy for themselves. They will however be looking to counter the Spanish’ highly dominant and possessive game to give themselves a good chance of victory and will probably take a note or two from Japan.
Forward Jennifer Hermoso will be a key player for La Roja, having scored six goals so far in their quest for their first World Cup. Elite Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati will also be looking to dominate in the middle of the park against the Dutch, having been excellent offensively and defensively so far in the competition. Forwards Jill Roord (4 goals) and Esmee Brugts will be looking to continue their fine forms and hit higher ratings in the competition. They will, however, be missing the services of their defence-midfield connector Danielle van de Donk who is currently suspended. The Netherlands finished second in the 2019 encounter, bowing to the United States in the final, and will be looking to go the extra mile this time.
I think the Spanish are favourites for this encounter, but football throws curveballs every now and then. It sure promises to be an interesting matchup, and many female football enthusiasts will be talking about it after a long time. Whoever wins this match will be meeting the winner of the Japan vs. Sweden match.
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