After a relatively easy group stage, the U.S. women’s national team has come through a gauntlet to reach the World Cup final. The U.S. has defeated Spain, France and then England in the knockout stage, all by a 2-1 scoreline. It hasn’t been easy, as Jill Ellis’s side has struggled at various points to get through all three formidable European opponents. But as the USWNT seemingly always does these days, they found a way to win. Now, a fourth European opponent in a row, the Netherlands, is the only thing standing between them and a second straight World Cup title. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare After getting through the host nation France and a powerhouse English side, a final against the Netherlands may seem slightly anticlimactic. But the Dutch, who have won all six of their games at this tournament, are no slouch.“Netherlands is a great team and they are at the top of their game right now,” U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle said. “We don’t take them lightly at all.”Though they perhaps aren’t as strong as the English and French, the Oranje are champions of Europe, having won the title in 2017 in just their third appearance at the tournament. “We’ve seen firsthand the last three games what it’s like to try to go through Europe like that,” Megan Rapinoe said. “It’s very difficult, the quality is so high and for them to be champions of Europe and to have that sort of pedigree and experience under their belt, they’re a great team for sure.”Still, the U.S. are heavily favored to win in Lyon on Sunday and clinch their fourth World Cup title overall. But that doesn’t mean that Ellis’s side are going to take their opponents lightly, despite some charging them with overconfidence and even arrogance at this World Cup.“I don’t think we ever underestimate anything,” U.S. defender Kelley O’Hara said. “I think that’s what people project onto us.”O’Hara and her teammates have consistently pushed back against being called arrogant, insisting that the term is hurled at them mostly due to their confidence and winning track record. “We know other teams can compete with us so it’s not like we feel invincible,” Lavelle said. “We’re just confident in what we’re putting out on the field.”The Dutch, in just their second World Cup, can be safely filed in the “happy to be here” category, though that certainly doesn’t preclude them from being able to pull off one of the great upsets in the sport’s history.“They’re a massive team, they have massive players, obviously we know that they’re the biggest team,” Netherlands midfielder Jackie Groenen said of the USWNT, “but I can’t wait to play them and who knows what can happen.“I think we have to play our own kind of football. If we can manage that, we can beat them.”If the Netherlands do pull off a shock and add a world championship to go along with their European title, they will need to execute their game plan to perfection.“This is a team that wants to have the ball and get in a good shape and wear you down with their passing game,” Ellis said. “They have a good variety, meaning they’ll look to get in behind immediately and they’ll look to play in front of you.”Even if they do produce a good performance, it may not be enough for the Dutch, who, despite their underdog status, will not encounter a team that’s taking them lightly.“They’re one of the top teams in the world and they’re playing in a World Cup final,” U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan said. “I think it’s going to be a great game.”
A damaged building is seen during the initial quake on Thursday in the town of Visso, Italy. Photo: AP Photo: APA damaged building is seen during the initial quake, Thursday, in the town of Visso, Italy.Another powerful earthquake has rocked central and southern Italy, near Norcia, crumbling already damaged buildings.Early reports say the ancient city of Norcia is one of the hardest-hit regions with the 14th century St. Benedict cathedral crumbling, leaving just the facade standing.This earthquake comes after a major quake – measuring 6.1 – killed close to 300 people and destroyed many towns in the same area.There are no reports of any deaths or anyone suffering from injuries as a result of the quake that rocked the region, early Sunday.Preliminary reports say the quake measured a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale.Residents who were already rattled by a week of tremors could be seen rushing into the streets and piazzas after being woken up by the quake.