LYON, France — When Jackie Groenen received the ball, even though she was outside the penalty area, the Dutch midfielder knew she had to seize her opening Wednesday night.
It was 99 minutes into a grueling Women’s World Cup semifinal, and neither the Netherlands nor Sweden was finding a clear path to the goal.
“I saw a nice angle,” Groenen said. “We’ve been discussing this for a couple of weeks now that I need to take shots more often. The ball just came really nicely, and I thought, ‘Let’s do this.’”
A slick passing sequence ended with Groenen driving a shot past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. A first shot on target in France produced her first goal of the tournament.
“I’m not much of a scorer,” she said, “but I’m very happy today I got to score.”
It sent the Netherlands into its first Women’s World Cup final, in which the Dutch will face the United States on Sunday, back in the Stade de Lyon.
Photo: Alex Grimm / Getty Images
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Two years after the Dutch won their first major trophy — the European Championship — Groenen is dreaming of a first world title in only their second attempt.
“It kind of went through my mind as soon as I got off the pitch,” she said. “The Americans are massive, they have massive players. They are the biggest team in the world but I can’t wait to play.”
Progress for the Dutch has been rapid after reaching the round of 16 during their World Cup debut four years ago.
Groenen became the first overseas signing for Manchester United after the recently formed women’s team was promoted to England’s Super League in May.
Sweden’s players formed a circle following the game to console each other after missing a second World Cup final. Sweden lost to Germany in 2003.
“I felt like we had a golden opportunity to take this team to the final, and we didn’t take it,” Lindahl said. “Very disappointed.”
Rob Harris is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Dutch-reach-first-Women-s-World-Cup-final-will-14070840.php.