US ready to soar again in Netherlands quarter-final, insists Crystal Dunn

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Shinji Akagi/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Shinji Akagi/AFP/Getty Images

Crystal Dunn believes the US women’s national team have only “scratched the surface” of what they can achieve at the Tokyo Olympics before a quarter-final against the Netherlands on Friday.

The US uncharacteristically held back in their final game of Group G against Australia and a 0-0 draw ensured they finished second behind Sweden but meant they were goalless in two of three games.

Related: ‘Tough mental preparation’ key to Team GB’s hopes against Australia

“Now that we are out of group play it’s a new page, it’s a new time for us to get beneath the surface,” said Dunn, the Portland Thorns defender. “We just have scratched the surface of what we can do in this tournament. So I’m excited for this game tomorrow because I know we’ll be hitting the ground running. It’s all or nothing in this moment. We did enough to get through group play and, yes, maybe it wasn’t our best style of play at all times, maybe we didn’t execute everything to our best ability, but at the same time we did enough.”

Enough also included a 3-0 shock defeat by Sweden and a 6-1 win over New Zealand. Responding to criticism of the conservative approach against the Matildas, Dunn said: “I’m not on social media. I have no idea what’s going on in the outside world – it’s been the best thing, I think.

“A lot of people understand that we’re here to compete and win a gold medal and whichever way we get there winning is the most important thing. So yes fans, outsiders looking in, are probably like: ‘Oh, this is so different. We’ve never seen the US do this.’ But at the same time it’s about executing a gameplan, moving on from one round to another.

“Whatever tactical plan we’re given it’s our job as players to trust and believe in ourselves and each other and live to fight and see another day. So yes, things look different, but at the same time this is Team USA, doing what we do best, which is competing, trying to be at our best and executing our gameplan to the best of our ability.”

The forward Christen Press described it as needing “tactical sophistication” and the manager, Vlatko Andonovski, said: “Sometimes we have to sacrifice some of the things that we believe in or we’ve worked on to be able to execute the gameplan. We saw that in game three in the group stage. That was not something that we’ve done in the previous games, but it was a gameplan and I felt like we executed it well from the defensive standpoint. I don’t think we executed the offensive sides of the gameplan. But going forward, it is the same thing. Sometimes you have to sacrifice certain things in order to be able to execute the gameplan as closely as possible.”

Vivianne Miedema celebrates with Renate Jansen after scoring against China. She has a record eight goals at this tournament.
Vivianne Miedema celebrates with Renate Jansen after scoring against China. She has a record eight goals at this tournament. Photograph: François Nel/Getty Images

In the Netherlands the US face a familiar foe. They played the European champions in the 2019 World Cup final, when two second-half goals earned them the win. In their first friendly on football’s return after a pandemic-enforced delay they again defeated the Netherlands by two goals.

In Japan the Netherlands have been a formidable attacking force, scoring more than twice the number of goals of any other team. Discount the 10 they put past Zambia and they have still scored more than any other side (11). In Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema they boast a serial record breaker – the latest saw her become the first female player to score eight goals at a Games.

“They’re a very attack-minded team and very creative,” Andonovski said. “I don’t know if they’re very vulnerable. They are very disciplined, very organised. Obviously as open as they play sometimes they do have areas on the field that are more open, so hopefully we can take advantage of that.”

Press said there was no pressure on the US forwards to keep up with Miedema’s scoring feats. “All of our focus is on improving our performance, getting a W in the quarter-final and obviously going for the gold medal,” she said. “As a part of that my responsibility is to contribute goals but as long as the team is winning then I’m ultimately doing the job.”

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