The FIFA Women’s World Cup and two men’s continental championships will all be decided this Sunday as the summer of soccer reaches its apex.
The defending champions United States faces reigning European champions the Netherlands in the World Cup final in Lyon, France. For the first time since 2011, the United States men and Mexico will be squaring off in the final of the Concacaf Gold Cup in Chicago while Peru looks to translate its recent resurgence into a trophy when it takes on hosts Brazil in the final of the Copa America.
The USA women are big favorites to defend the World Cup title as they play in a third straight final. The Dutch, who won the European Championship in 2017, are on the ascendency and are in a World Cup final for the first time. The Netherlands are the fourth different European country, and eighth overall, to play in a final.
Both teams could be without one of their stars. For the Dutch, the 2017 FIFA player of the year Lieke Martens has been dealing with a toe injury and was taken out at halftime of the 1-0 extra-time semifinal win over Sweden. She picked up the injury when a teammate stepped on her toe while celebrating Martens’ winning goal against Japan in the round of 16.
She tells Reuters “I am hopefully going to play”.
Megan Rapinoe missed out on the USA’s 2-1 semifinal win over England due to a hamstring injury. She has been saying she’s healthy for the final but whether USA coach Jill Ellis opts to start her ahead of Christen Pless, who scored a goal and played an excellent overall match as Rapinoe’s replacement against England, remains to be seen.
While the United States women go for World Cup glory, their male counterparts are attempting to win their first trophy as they rebuild from the debacle of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The Gold Cup has lost much of its luster since it no longer is used for qualification to the FIFA Confederations Cup. But Mexico and the United States, the two dominant countries in Concacaf, will be facing off against each other in the final for the first time since 2011.
Team USA defeated Jamaica 3-1 in the semifinals, avenging a 2-1 defeat to the Reggae Boyz at the same stage in 2015. Mexico scraped by surprising Haiti 1-0 in extra-time, thanks to a controversial penalty awarded to El Tri.
Mexico (seven) and the USA (six) have combined for 13 of the 14 titles since the Gold Cup was introduced in 1991.
Brazil is the most successful men’s World Cup team with five titles but both Uruguay (15) and Argentina (14) have won many more Copa America titles than Brazil’s eight.
But the Selecao are the definite favorites to win their first Copa America since 2007 when they host Peru at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil defeated arch-rivals Argentina 2-0 in the semifinals while Peru surprised two-time defending champions Chile 3-0.
Peru’s run to the final continues a resurgence for the country’s national team, which played in its first World Cup in 36 years in Russia last year.
Peru has not lifted the Copa America since 1975, a drought of 44 years.
Photo: USA celebrates semifinal win over England at Women’s World Cup (Getty Images)