For the first time ever, FC Barcelona is to have representation at a FIFA Women’s World Cup Final. And not once but twice, because after Holland defeated Sweden 1-0 after extra time in Wednesday’s semi-final, both Lieke Martens and Stefanie van der Gragt progress to meet the United States and battle for the trophy in Lyon on Sunday at 5.00pm CEST.
Centre back Van der Gragt played the full ninety minutes against Sweden, while Martens was substituted at half-time.
The 2017 FIFA Women's Player of The Year is struggling with a toe injury, and had no qualms about coming off. “The team is better with another girl playing at 100 percent than me playing at I don’t know what kind of percent” said Martens after the game, in which the win was clinched by Manchester United’s Jackie Groenen in the 99th minute.
After winning the European crown in 2017, the Dutch are one game away from the biggest trophy of all. But will their star player be fit enough to play a part in it?
“As a player you always want to play in one of the biggest games of your career and this is one of the biggest ones” she said. “I am hopefully going to play. I am going to do the recovery and I really believe in the medical staff and that something can happen, so let’s see every single day, how it goes.”
Thus far, the World Cup has been a triumphant march forward for the Leeuwinnen. They took maximum points from group fixtures against New Zealand, Canada and Cameroon, and had seen off 2001 champions Japan and then Italy to reach the last four.
They face a stern test against the United States in the final, but Spain (with a wealth of Barça players in the side), France and then Toni Duggan’s England in the semis all pushed the defending champions very hard.
The Netherlands have never won a World Cup, the men or the women. Could this finally be their moment? We’ll find out on Sunday.