Does Netherlands have any chance at all in Women's World Cup final vs. USWNT?
LYON, France -- Europe has one more chance to push the defending champion from its throne when the Netherlands plays the United States in the Women's World Cup final (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET).
This game will be the fifth in a row for the U.S. against a highly ranked European opponent. The Americans knocked off Sweden, Spain, France and England in succession, but must now beat the reigning European champion Dutch to finish the job and win back-to-back titles for the first time in their history.
It will either be a record-extending fourth star on the jersey for the U.S. or the first for an ascendant Netherlands team, which is trying to become the fifth country to win the women's tournament.
What will happen in Lyon? Our crew, ESPN's Graham Hays, Alyssa Roenigk and Julie Foudy and ESPN UK's Tom Hamilton, shares its thoughts.
Who is more needed at full strength? Lieke Martens or Megan Rapinoe?
Hays: It's odd to say, given that Rapinoe could still win the Golden Ball as the tournament's outstanding player if she plays and makes a difference in the final, but it's Martens. The U.S. has options if Rapinoe isn't as close to full health as she has led us to believe in the wake of a hamstring strain. Christen Press was terrific in the semifinal, and we haven't even seen much of Mallory Pugh yet this tournament. The Dutch aren't bereft of depth, but they don't have anyone like Martens waiting in the wings if the star's foot remains a problem. It's no coincidence that she was operating at less than full strength, and ultimately replaced, when the Netherlands looked the worst it has all tournament in the first hour of the semifinal against Sweden.
Roenigk: The U.S. has proved that while Rapinoe changes the dynamic and hyper-charges the front line, the team has the depth to win without her. The Netherlands is facing its biggest test in a World Cup, on one fewer day of rest, and it's going to need all the scoring power it can get.
Foudy: Martens for sure. The Dutch don't have the depth of this U.S team. They need her playing better and at full strength. When she's healthy, she's a difference-maker.
Hamilton: Against England, the U.S. showed this is a team capable of doing damage without Rapinoe, so the Netherlands needs Martens at her absolute best. But more importantly, it needs Vivianne Miedema to find her goal-scoring boots.
After wins against France and England, why should the U.S. fear the Netherlands?
Roenigk: Can't think of a reason why they should. They need only to respect their opponents, stay focused and play the Dutch team as tough as they did France and England. Several Dutch players said they believe the U.S. underestimates them. Kelley O'Hara said those players are projecting. Perhaps it's the Netherlands players who are underestimating themselves, which is a dangerous mindset to have before facing the defending champs.
Hays: The Dutch are newer to the top tier of women's soccer than France or even England, but they aren't likely to crumble under the pressure of Sunday's game. Yes, the World Cup final is unlike anything else in the sport, and only the Americans have experienced it. But this is mostly the same Netherlands team that won the European Championship on home soil two years ago. With the men's team faltering at the time and big crowds turning up for the women, the Dutch lived up to expectations under that pressure. They also endured a more rigorous qualifying process than the U.S., having to come through a pair of home-and-away playoff matchups against Denmark and Switzerland after finishing behind Norway in group play. This team has been through a lot together. It's rare an opponent can match the U.S. in belief, but the Dutch should come close.
Hamilton: The Netherlands will embrace its underdog status and will go all out against the U.S. The Dutch have flown under the radar -- even as European champions -- and though their semifinal against Sweden descended into little more than a sparring match at times, expect them to go after the U.S.
Foudy: Because a little fear is always healthy. That respect for an opponent is what wins titles and cups. This group of U.S. women understand that to underestimate the Dutch is dangerous.
How would you assess this year's tournament for the U.S. if it loses Sunday?
Foudy: A missed opportunity. They've done all the hard stuff. Weathering the storm that was the Spanish game. Beating the hosts in Paris. Knocking out a very good English team. But they know none of that means anything if the U.S. loses at this point. They must bring it home to secure their legacy, especially against a team that doesn't have the same depth of talent and is playing on less rest.
Hays: They made sure they had the nation's attention with a 13-0 opening win and kept it for almost a month, including an unforgettable quarterfinal against France in Paris that enters the team's canon. So in one sense, a loss Sunday wouldn't be as damaging as a loss earlier in the event. This team already ensured its voice will continue to carry and continue to matter. And in getting this far, the team started to set up the next generation to follow in those footsteps. Casual fans now have attachments to Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis. But there's no getting around that from having the oldest roster among the entrants to being painted, mostly unfairly, as arrogant, there is one measure of success.
Roenigk: If the Americans lose Sunday, no critic will be harsher in answering this question than the players themselves. They will see anything less than back-to-back titles as a failure. And after their performance so far this tournament, it'd be hard to argue that it's not. At the start of the tournament, defender Ali Krieger said the U.S. has the best and second-best team (its bench) in the tournament. She said nothing of the Netherlands.
Hamilton: The U.S. came here to win; anything less is a failure. The Americans are building a remarkable legacy off the field and are making huge strides in the fight for equality, but as a team they will want this gold medal as a marker for everything they have achieved on the field in the past four years.
What style of play should the U.S. expect?
Hays: Sweden would have sat in and looked to hit the U.S. on the counter, but the Netherlands is much more likely to come out and go toe to toe with the Americans. That's always a risky move against a team with as much attacking talent as the defending champion, but it doesn't seem in the Dutch soccer character to cede the attacking impetus. They may be pragmatic about possession -- their lone goal in a competitive loss against the U.S. in 2016 came on a Shanice van de Sanden counter -- but it's difficult to imagine a Dutch coach, who played for North Carolina's always-attacking-minded Anson Dorrance, ever parking the bus in a big game.
Foudy: They will be expecting a 4-3-3, a similar system to the U.S. The Dutch like to keep the ball, make other teams chase and get their three forwards involved. And Daniëlle van de Donk in midfield will be their possession engine.
Roenigk: Pacey, attacking, entertaining football, not unlike what we'll see from the Americans. Alyssa Naeher should prepare to have another hero moment.
Hamilton: The Dutch will sound out the U.S. in the early exchanges with a counterattack and will work out how the opposition are playing before throwing a few punches of their own.
Foudy: The U.S., 4-1.
Hays: This isn't a mismatch. But the U.S. has more talent in reserve, more rest than its opponent and more experience. If the Dutch don't do something magical early, something like finding a two-goal lead, the U.S. should be able to wear them down and claim a fourth star.
Roenigk: If the U.S. scores within the first 12 minutes of the match, as they have in all six previous games (arguably the most-discussed stat of the tournament), it puts the Dutch players on their heels and the Oranjeleeuwinnen won't recover. But I think they sneak in a goal. The Americans hoist the Cup with a 4-1 win.
Hamilton: Expect it to be tense, thrilling and drama-filled, but the U.S. will be lifting the World Cup on Sunday after winning 2-0.