The Netherlands have been the team that most reflects your life, a sprinkle of high points during a very sloppy time and somehow, you make it out on the other side.
Their round of 16 tie was a perfect example of this; after having more possession, creating more and taking the lead against Japan, they then allowed their opponents to get back in, let in a goal and only won through a dubious handball call that led to a penalty being awarded.
Against Cameroon in the group stages, it was a similar story.
Die Oranje went 1-0 up after being the more dominant team, but again lost their way and paved a way for Cameroon to come back into it. They, fortunately, won 3-1, but it took some grafting in the second half to fix a lead they had let slip.
Against Italy in the quarter-final, they had too much for their opponents, but it took them 70 minutes to find their clinical scoring boots. This time goalscoring record-breaker Vivianne Miedema breaking the deadlock, with Van der Gragt doubling the lead 10 minutes later.
It takes flashes of brilliance to get the Netherlands ahead, apart from these moments, they’ve been very average.
Sweden were a harder team to pick out to make a semi-final though. Rather untested in the group stage, going close with Chile and thrashing Thailand, they completely rotated their side for their last group match against the USA, and as I said in my previous column implying they had already conceded defeat, it was more important to rest their players.
It proved to be an important tactic, as the Swedes had to be on their defensive A-game in their last 16 match against Canada. They were both teams that focussed more on their defensive game and didn’t score many goals, so when the game ended 1-0, with both teams only accumulating two shots on target each, you weren’t surprised.
But that game works for Sweden, and that’s why their best player is Nilla Fischer after all.
But even that rock solid defence wasn’t enough to put them anywhere near to favourites against Germany, in their quarter-final. They too had been touted as one of the competitions’ best defences, having not conceded a goal all tournament, and after 16 minutes, when Lina Magull put the Germans ahead it looked to be true.
But, it took the Swedes six minutes to equalise and put them on an equal footing. Game on.
I had argued that Germany had been less tested as they progressed in the competition, and probably didn’t deserve to be that heavily odds-on favourite, and in the 48th minute, Stina Blackstenius agreed with me, netting the goal that would send the underdogs through, her second goal of the tournament.
So, what can we take from that here?
The Netherlands have kind of bumbled their way through and the ever-reliable Shanice Van De Sanden has been a weak link the last two games. Should she start, I’ll be backing Sweden at 9/4.
Both teams have been leaving it late to score (apart from the equaliser that Sweden scored against Germany). The first goal in the match to be after the 31st minute is 13/10, I think that’s great value considering the Netherlands can stutter in front of goal and that the Swedes are very good defensively.
Best Bet: First goal in the match after the 31st minute – 13/10
As we get into the nitty-gritty of the competition, it’s harder to call who wins; as backers of Germany will tell you. But, it’s also more difficult to call how many goals will be scored. There’s a talented defence, and there’s a talented attack on show in this one.
The Netherlands will probably see most of the ball with Sweden sitting back and trying to get something on the counter. Die Oranje have pace and flair, I can see their opponents getting stuck in every now and then.
However, they also have a worse defence and may need to stop Sweden with a foul rather than actual tackling talent. The Booking Points line of 30 is too low for this game, so back Over 30 Booking Points at 6/4.
Best Bet: Over 30 Booking Points – 6/4
Finally, I’ve liked Blackstenius in these last two games. She had a poor run out in the group matches but has really ramped her play up in these big ties. Take a chance on her to score first at 13/2.
Best Bet: Stina Blackstenius to score first – 13/2
* All prices correct at time of posting.