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U.S. faces the Netherlands today as FIFA World Cup reaches knockout stage

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The United States has been knocked out of the 2022 World Cup following a tough loss to the Netherlands in the Round of 16. The Dutch defeated the U.S. 3 to 1 to advance to the quarterfinals. The U.S. now heads home. NPR's Tom Goldman was in the stadium and joins us now from Doha, Qatar.

Hey there, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: So certainly not the result that the U.S. was hoping for - can the team - what can the team take away, some positives at all?

GOLDMAN: You know, it can. It dominated the first part of the match - had a great scoring chance by forward Christian Pulisic just 3 minutes in. But he shot right at the Dutch goalkeeper, unfortunately, and that was the end of that. The U.S. kept up with this early aggressiveness, but then in the 10th minute, the Netherlands, Memphis Depay struck with the first goal, and then right before half, in stoppage time, in fact, the Netherlands struck with a second goal. And that was a real gut punch right as the U.S. went into halftime.

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said he talked to the team about moments in a soccer match. And at halftime, the message to the U.S. players was, soccer can be cruel when those moments happen against you, and we got to keep going, get a goal, and we'll get back in the game. And the U.S. did get a goal in the second half to cut the lead to 2-1. But shortly after that, Holland scored again, and that was it.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. So what was the difference today?

GOLDMAN: Well, the Netherlands is better, Sarah - not by a ton, but there were stretches of this match where just the way the Dutch moved the ball was superior - so crisply, one-touch passes to players who were perfectly positioned. And the three scores, especially the first two, were really well executed. All three goals took advantage of some defensive lapses by the U.S., things we haven't seen leading up to this match. The U.S. defense has been its strong point. Its weak point has been scoring. That was the case again, as the U.S. couldn't finish enough scoring chances against a good Dutch defense and a very mobile 6-foot-8 Dutch goalkeeper. The Netherlands has now not lost in 11 straight World Cup matches. That's an impressive streak.

MCCAMMON: And tough to beat, clearly - what were the reactions like after the game, Tom?

GOLDMAN: Well, I mentioned U.S. coach Berhalter. He said, it's tough to swallow - guys put everything they had into this - such a great group. You just want more for them. He said he's extremely proud of how his team handled themselves on the field and off. He said, the U.S. set out with a goal to show the rest of the world how we can play soccer. And we partially achieved that, he said. Defender Walker Zimmerman added to that, saying, we showed we can compete with anyone. There's no doubt we'll be back.

MCCAMMON: Yeah. So how does the U.S. move forward here, especially as the next World Cup in 2026 will be played in the U.S., along with Canada and Mexico?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. You know, Sarah, this team grew out of the ruins, if you will, of the U.S. side that failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2018. And this team is always looked at - you know, being a young group, the second-youngest at this tournament, having an eight-year window, really, including this just-completed World Cup and the next one. And I think there's a lot of belief and hope that after this experience, showing the world what it's capable of, the U.S. can focus next time on doing even better on its home soil in four years. A lot of these young guys will be more mature soccer players, and that really bodes well for the team.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Tom Goldman in Doha, Qatar, reporting on the Netherlands defeat of the U.S. 3 to 1, eliminating them in the 2022 World Cup.

Thanks so much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.

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