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2023 Women's World Cup

A tale of two halves: How the USWNT flipped the switch against Holland

© Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

The United States women’s national team emerged from their first real test of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a point, after a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands. It was the proverbial game of two halves, with the Dutch causing problems in the first and taking the lead before the U.S. imposed themselves on the second, equalizing through a Lindsey Horan header. It was also a game in which traditional strengths and weaknesses came to the fore.

Dutch head coach Andries Jonker used to be Louis van Gaal’s assistant, at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and there are some parallels with this side and the 2014 Dutch men’s team led by Van Gaal. Van Gaal set that team up with a three-back defensive system, veering markedly away from the Dutch 4-3-3 orthodoxy. Their system and style was a shock to many of their opponents, too. Reigning champions Spain were hammered 5-1 in the group opener, and Van Gaal’s side went on to finish in a surprisingly decent third place.

There would be no stunning victory over the reigning champions here for Jonker and his players, but they nonetheless out-played the United States for long stretches of the first half, seemingly confounding their opposition with a 3-5-2 system and a passing game so patient as to make Jorge Vilda’s Spain side look reckless by comparison.

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