USWNT match litmus test for closing gap – Jonker

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Netherlands national team manager Andries Jonker said Wednesday’s match against the No. 1-ranked U.S. women’s national team will reveal whether the gap is closing between the Americans and the rest of the Women’s World Cup field.

“The whole women’s football world is very interested in getting an answer on the question: ‘Are we getting close?'” Jonker said in a news conference. “The feeling is ‘yes’ because of the improvement all over the world. But tomorrow is the first time we can check if we get closer or not, we will see.”

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Netherlands will face the USWNT in Wellington on Thursday (a kickoff of 9 p.m. ET Wednesday night in the United States) in the second round of Group E in the World Cup.

“I think it’s a matter of development in women’s football — on all continents, countries work very hard to close the gap with the United States,” he said. “On your continent, for example, Canada. Brazil, Australia and also in Europe we work very hard to close the gap.”

The USWNT beat Netherlands 2-0 in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final with goals from Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe. The Americans won the 2015 World Cup as well, and reached the 2011 final before that, falling to Japan.

Aside from the Dutch team’s appearance in the 2019 final, Netherlands only qualified for one other Women’s World Cup, a round-of-16 exit in 2015.

Dutch midfielder Jackie Groenen said the USWNT still poses a serious threat, but the Americans are perhaps not as overpowered as they once were.

“America has been one of the best teams in the world for a long, long time and they still have so much quality on the pitch,” she said. “But I think we’re growing too, and that makes the distance different than it was before.”

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