Sunday, July 7th will be a football day for the ages and Culés should have their eye on at least two of three major finals going on that day.
Up first is the Women’s World Cup final where Lieke Martens and Stefanie van der Gragt will play as underdogs to the United States. This is the first Women’s World Cup final for the team that surprised all of Europe by winning the Euros back in 2017 with Martens as the star player. The Dutch squad got to the final by beating Sweden 1-0 in extra time after a goal from Manchester United’s Jackie Groenen.
The recent history between the two squads heavily favors the U.S. The U.S have defeated the Dutch six consecutive times, though the two haven’t met since 2016, before the generation of Martens and van der Gragt broke through. The Netherlands were probably the underdog against Sweden as well, but Sweden’s reluctance to attack made their semifinal a slog and if the Dutch learned anything from the affair, it’s to be not afraid of the favorites.
van der Gragt will have her hands full with Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and potentially Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd; easily the toughest test for the Barcelona femení in the tournament. If the Netherlands pull off the upset, Martens could once again be a favorite to capture an individual honor at the tournament and in the coming months.
Next up on Sunday is the Copa América final between Brazil and Peru. While Lionel Messi and Arturo Vidal were knocked out in the semifinals, Philippe Coutinho and Arthur will still be looking for international glory. Brazil will be the favorites in the final at Rio de Janiero’s Maracana, a stadium with tons of history for the Brazilian national team including the nightmares of the 1950 World Cup against Uruguay.
History is in Brazil’s favor, both recent history and in decades past. Peru’s only Copa América trophy came in 1975 and Brazil’s 5-0 dismantling of their South American rivals in this year’s group stage could be a sign of things to come. Brazil’s starters against Argentina are from Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, PSG and Gremio (that’s Everton, and I doubt he’s there for much longer). Peru’s starters against Chile, meanwhile, play at Internacional, Benfica, Santos, Monarcas Morelia, Cruz Azul, Feyenoord, Flamengo, Vélez Sarsfield, Dynamo Kyiv, Tigres and Veracruz. Peru’s players are experienced footballers who play for clubs in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and some other prominent clubs around the world, but they simply don’t have the club pedigree of the Brazilians.
Playing in an attacking midfielder role in front of Casemiro and Arthur, Coutinho has been given protection that he isn’t usually given at Barcelona. Dani Alves has been turning back the clock at the tournament and was probably the best player on the pitch against Argentina. Peru’s bite and belief are their greatest strengths, but the experience of Brazil’s squad could see them capturing another Copa América trophy. To find out more about how well host countries do at the tournament, check out the history:
The last final of the day is the Gold Cup final where Culés outside of those countries may only have a passing interest. Former Barcelona midfielder and La Masia product Jonathan dos Santos, now with the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS, has had a starring role for Mexico throughout the tournament. Barcelona may not need anymore midfielder cover, but defensive midfielder Edson Álvarez may be the next big name to jump to Europe from North America. On the U.S. side, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Schalke’s Weston McKennie have been the stars of the tournament. The biggest connection to Barcelona aside from dos Santos is former manager Tata Martinto, who is looking for his first major title as boss of El Tri.