Jill Roord came off the bench and headed home from close range in added time on Tuesday to give the Netherlands a 1-0 women’s World Cup victory over New Zealand in Le Havre.
The victory lifts the European champions into a tie with Canada atop Group E.
“I think we can play better than we did today. But we were looking for a win and New Zealand were looking for a draw, and I’m very glad we finally got what we wanted,” said Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman. “I’m very relieved, of course.”
The Football Ferns, stout in defence and sharp on the counter attack, were left with nothing but disappointment.
“The players will be absolutely devastated but we’re a resilient group and I’m pretty confident we’ll bounce back,” said New Zealand coach Tom Sermanni.
The stars of a lively match were the two goalkeepers, Sari van Veenendaal for the Netherlands and New Zealand’s Erin Nayler. Both were busy and both, at different stages, underwent on-field treatment after brave saves.
The Dutch had almost 70% of possession and almost three times as many goal attempts but New Zealand went painfully close three times.
“The Dutch were the dominant team but we created some great chances,” said Sermanni.
In the first half, Olivia Chance hit the bar and Rosie White drew a sprawling save from Van Veenendaal with a long-range strike.
Early in the second half Sarah Gregorius, who is of Dutch descent, shinned a volley into the ground that gave Van Veenendaal time to lunge to her right and claw the ball round the post.
At the other end, centre-backs Rebekah Stott and Abby Erceg coped well with the physical presence of Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema and the lively skills of the attackers around her.
When the Dutch did carve a clear chance, they were frustrated either by Nayler or some anxious finishing, until the final moments.
“We found it tough to create openings,” said FIFA’s player of the match Lieke Martens. “New Zealand defended well and it was not our best match, that’s clear.”
The Dutch swung one more hanging cross to the far post where Lineth Beerensteyn bullied Ali Riley into a tame header back across the goal and Arsenal’s Roord guided the ball past the advancing Nayler.
“We can’t go away from the game saying we have regrets, we have disappointment,” said Sermanni, who has coached four of the nations in this year’s World Cup. “We’ve got to look at the positive things we did.”
Later in the day Group F kicks off with Chile facing Sweden in Rennes and the USA and Thailand end the first set of games in Reims.
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