The Netherlands maintained their perfect start to World Cup 2019 with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Cameroon.
Oranje Leeuwinnen were made to work by Alain Djeumfa’s resilient team and now join England, Italy, Germany and hosts France as the first round-of-16 qualifiers.
Sarina Wiegman made one change from her strongest XI, an injury to central defender Stefanie van der Gragt saw Anouk Dekker – back from suspension – deputise. The European champions, who left it late against New Zealand a few days ago, were indebted to Arsenal pair Vivianne Miedema and Dominique Bloodworth whilst Gabrielle Onguéné pulled one back for Cameroon.
As the dust settles here are five things we learned from this very first meeting between the sides in Valenciennes.
1. Netherlands unbeaten against Africa’s finest
Cameroon are the fourth different African side the Netherlands have faced down the years. The bulk of those games – seven matches apiece – came against Nigeria and South Africa, while there was also a previous meeting with Ivory Coast. In those 15 encounters the Leeuwinnen claimed 12 wins (perfect score against South Africa and Ivory Coast) and three draws.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 15, 2019
That unbeaten record was stretched on Saturday and now reads: 13 wins, three draws from 16 matches. In terms of goals scored and conceded the Netherlands have now bagged 41 whilst shipping in 12.
2. They finally passed
It’s fair to say Oranje have begun this championship tentatively. That being said, going into Saturday’s game they made a habit of being difficult to breach. Following their narrow 1-0 opening win over New Zealand the Dutch extended their minutes without conceding a goal to 400 and in the process registered four consecutive clean sheets.
Avec son but de ce jour, Gabrielle Onguené a marqué son 3e but en Coupe du monde. Elle détient le record camerounais avec Gaëlle Enganamouit. #NED #CMR#NEDCMR #FIFAWWC @FIFAWWC_CMR #AllezLesLionnes @golionness pic.twitter.com/SmAzb6tVMV
— Fecafoot-Officiel (@FecafootOfficie) June 15, 2019
The chance of making it five in a row ended two minutes before the half-time interval. A team constantly on the front foot, but knowing defences win titles, manager Wiegman will have been disappointed when Gabrielle Onguene sneaked through and bamboozled onrushing Dutch ‘keeper Sari van Veenendaal to score Cameroon’s first of this summer’s Women’s World Cup and her third in World Cup finals history, a national record shared with Gaelle Enganamouit
3. Miedema out in front
What a year Vivianne Miedema has enjoyed. The lethal Hoogeveen-born marksman bagged 20 goals in 17 appearances for Arsenal as they claimed a third FA Women’s Super League title, subsequently earning her the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year award. After a lacklustre performance against the Football Ferns she’s come alive by registering her first two World Cup finals goal.
RECORD: Vivianne Miedema has now scored 60 goals for the Netherlands Women's team, overtaking Manon Melis as the country's all-time leading scorer.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 15, 2019
And they couldn’t have been more historic. Her bullet header from a Shanice van de Sanden cross in the 41st minute, to put Oranje in front, was the first landmark finish. It drew her level as the team’s all-time goalscorer alongside Manon Melis (59 in 139 games) though her 59 goals came in 59 games fewer (77). But she wasn’t done yet.
Five minutes before the end Miedema, who turns 23 next month, saw a powerful effort from just inside the area fly past Annette Ngo Ndom meaning she now has the record all to herself.
4. Cameroon can be encouraged
Despite suffering back-to-back defeats to Canada and the Netherlands – by the slenderest of margins – it’s not yet over for Cameroon who can still reach the round-of-16 as one of the four best third-placed teams. They can take heart from this performance against the Netherlands who are ranked 38 places above them.
Djeumfa’s side had ample opportunities and often had their more illustrious opponents pegged back. A lapse in concentration from a set-piece moments after the half-time interval, allowing Bloodworth to score the all-important winning goal, ultimately condemned them. It’s these fine margins at this level which can prove to be costly.
5. Oranje need to rediscover their mojo
On paper the Dutch front-six is as good as any in this championship. But the sextet – Sherida Spitse, Jackie Groenen, Daniëlle van de Donk, Van de Sanden, Miedema and Lieke Martens – haven’t clicked as they did at Euro 2017 when they roared Oranje to a maiden international title at home.
Martens, undoubtedly player of that tournament, has yet to settle in France but isn’t alone. Van de Donk, a clever number 10, has looked subdued and Groenen – who glides between the lines – hasn’t been her energetic self.
We’ve seen brief moments of brilliance though not enough against opposition ranked below them. It will only get difficult from here on now. Wiegman shouldn’t panic but if Oranje are to do something incredible then it’s imperative they find their rhythm.