Italy, Netherlands try to advance in heat wave

National Sports

Netherlands goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal, center left, is joined by coach Sarina Wiegman as she gives a team talk before the Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and Japan at the Roazhon Park, in Rennes, France, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

VALENCIENNES, France (AP) — Italy and the Netherlands are hot about the heat.

Contesting the only Women’s World Cup quarterfinal being played in the afternoon means playing in some of the harshest temperatures of the French heat wave.

And the teams aren’t happy.

The Netherlands even asked FIFA to shift Saturday’s kickoff time.

“We did ask the question, but it was impossible,” Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman said. “So there you are. But OK, I don’t know why it is impossible (to move the kickoff time). But I think it is remarkable, and we’ll just play football at 3 p.m. tomorrow.”

Temperatures are set to be over 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) in the northwest city of Valenciennes when the game kicks off at 3 p.m. local time.

“We will make sure they (the players) drink enough, they bring cool drinks and we have prepared for this,” Wiegman said.

With Saturday’s other quarterfinal between Germany and Sweden scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff time, a later start was possible for the Italy-Netherlands game,

“Clearly, we could have played at 9 p.m. with a different temperature probably,” Italy coach Milena Bertolini said. “I don’t know how it will be tomorrow, but (we could have) a different intensity, a different rhythm, a better regularity in the rhythm of play. That’s what is most disappointing, because so far all the games from the round of 16 have been really fantastic and of high quality.

“Those games have sent an important message (about women’s football) to those who have been watching. Therefore, playing tomorrow at 3 p.m. will penalize this aspect and the players on the pitch.”

The Netherlands reached the quarterfinals for the first time, at its second World Cup appearance, by beating Japan 2-1.

But midfielder Lieke Martens injured a foot while celebrating her wining penalty with teammate Jill Roord and is doubtful for the game.

“I think it will be a 50-50 chance of her playing — we will see,” Wiegman said. “You take risks together as a team. Her toe hurts and she needs to be able to play football, and play well. And if that is impossible, well, it ends there and that is it. So we will see and we will see tomorrow.”

Italy advanced to its first quarterfinal since the first Women’s World Cup in 1991 by beating China 2-0.

“I believe in these girls who are showing great quality,” Bertolini said. “I am confident but I am also aware of the fact that we are coming up against a very strong opponent.”

GERMANY-SWEDEN: Reaching the quarterfinals is the minimum expected of the Germans — it’s the stage they have reached in all eight World Cup tournaments. But Sweden is back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011.

“Matches between Germany and Sweden have been decided by a one-goal difference most of the time,” Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said. “I think the result will depend on who makes fewer mistakes and shows more power on the pitch. We also need a bit of luck.”

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