For Johan Kappelhof, the World Cup match between the Netherlands and the United States is a special match. The 32-year-old from Amsterdam has been playing on the other side of the ocean for years. It is especially noted that the prevailing mood among Americans is more positive. “It was really a relief when I came to play here.”
The temperature contrast is not great between Amsterdam and Salt Lake City: cold and dreary. “But there had just been a snowstorm here,” says Kappelhoff, who has lived in the United States for seven years. He joined the Chicago Fire in 2016 and has been playing for Real Salt Lake since last year and notices a distinct difference from the Netherlands national team. “Analysts and fans are more positive here.”
“Interviews or headlines are completely different. In the Netherlands there is always a ‘but’ if the result is good. You will never see a fan whistling for his player here. I think they realize what athletes have to offer. I think they realize what athletes have to offer,” says Kappelhof, who grew up in Bellmer and ended up in the Ajax academy. To eight-year-olds: “We did it to get to this level.” However, there was no breakthrough at first. “Most people played a sport in high school, college or university. At school they already have this feeling of superior sports. They’re just so good supports. When I came to play here it was a breath of fresh air.”
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Kappelhoff notes that Americans “highlight” the good things more. According to him, this also helps the national team in the World Cup. “They are proud of the boys and the young guests. The mood is good and they also believe they have a good chance against the Netherlands. I have also heard reports that America would rather play against the Netherlands than against Senegal. Then they can. Play in the underdog position on the counter.”
Popularity is growing
Soccer has been on the rise in America in recent years. “Seven years ago, I sometimes played on American football fields with poor-quality artificial turf. Now most teams have their own field with high-quality turf. Things are changing quickly.” Kappelhof is increasingly playing in new stadiums and noticing its popularity growing. In 2026, the United States will host the World Cup with Canada and Mexico. “The younger generation increasingly prefers soccer to traditional American sports.”
“The Netherlands are very dominant so they will rule the game.”
Kappelhof places high hopes on the meeting between the Netherlands and the United States. “I think it will be a close game, but the Netherlands will win,” says Kappelhof, who should sound the alarm early. The match in Salt Lake City begins at eight in the morning. “Unfortunately, I don’t have an orange jersey here,” says the five-time international for the Dutch youth team. “I think America is a bit disappointing in attack, but they have very good players in Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic. The Netherlands are very dominant, so they will rule the game.”
The match between the Netherlands and the United States in the eighth World Cup final will be held this afternoon at 4 p.m.
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