The Netherlands laboured to a late victory in their Women’s World Cup opener against New Zealand in Le Havre on Tuesday.
New Zealand battled hard and looked dangerous on the counter attack but failed to take their chances, particularly two big openings in the first half.
In the final stages of the game, Holland began to put on added pressure and the Football Ferns simply couldn’t deal with it, allowing Jill Roord to head in a stoppage time winner.
Here are three winners and three losers from what could be a crucial Netherlands win.
Winner: Sarina Wiegman
For long spells of the game, it looked like New Zealand had done enough to frustrate the Netherlands and hold them to a goalless draw in Le Havre. But Holland manager Sarina Wiegman had other ideas and it was one of her decisions that ultimately won the game.
Wiegman opted to send on Roord as a substitute with 15 minutes remaining, taking off Jackie Groenen – who had been one of the best players on the pitch throughout the match. What first looked like a questionable choice turned out to be a masterstroke when Roord scored the winner.
While New Zealand manager Tom Sermanni instructed his team to sit even further back in the latter stages – an understandable move given the mounting Dutch pressure – Wiegmann freed up Roord to make runs into the box, and it worked perfectly.
Loser: New Zealand’s World Cup record
Going into this game, New Zealand had never won a World Cup match, drawing three and losing nine of their previous 12 attempts. That’s still the case, and Holland’s late winner will rub extra salt in the wounds.
Sermanni’s side created a few chances on the counter but the Netherlands were clearly a level above. Still, New Zealand would have taken plenty of pride and encouragement from earning a point against a better team. Sadly it wasn’t to be in the end.
The Football Ferns will now need a victory if they are to reach the knockout stages. Even if they don’t make it through the group, it will do women’s football in New Zealand a world of good if they do manage to pick up their first three points in a World Cup at this tournament.
Winner: Jill Roord
Roord certainly made her case to start in Holland’s next match against Cameroon. The substitute’s late winner could be crucial to her side’s chances of making it through the group after almost slipping up against a brave New Zealand side.
Wiegman will receive most of the credit for her 75th minute switch, but Roord must be praised for taking her chance when it fell to her, something the Netherlands’ usually clinical attackers failed to do throughout the match.
There is now a tough choice for Wiegman to make: she must either stick with Groenen against Cameroon or bring Rood into the starting line-up. Either way, Holland will be pleased to have another goalscoring option in the squad.
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Loser: Dominique Bloodworth
On the stroke of half-time all of New Zealand’s hard work was almost undone when the ball fell to Netherlands defender Dominique Bloodworth inside the six-yard box. New Zealand failed to clear the ball and all Bloodworth had to do was convert from close range.
But the centre-back completely fluffed her lines, scuffing her shot and sending Holland’s best chance of the game at that time wide of the target. Her distressed reaction was indicative of the wasted opportunity – if only it had fallen to one of her talented attacking teammates.
It’s safe to say nobody will be more thankful for Roord’s later winner than Bloodworth.
Winner: Lieke Martens
Those wondering if Lieke Martens would be in the mood in Le Havre were given a clear indication within a minute of kick-off when the forward pulled off a Cruyff turn, brilliantly escaping two New Zealand defenders with a perfectly executed piece of skill.
Martens was on song from the off, striking fear into her opponents every time she stood them up. The Barcelona star is simply impossible to deal with regardless of how much room she is given, and her capacity to constantly make herself available often left New Zealand chasing shadows.
Unfortunately, Martens’ influence began to wane when she was moved inside to a No. 10 role. But the fact she couldn’t leave a tangible mark on this game will make her more determined to do so next time out.
Loser: Vivianne Miedema
Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema was, and still is, expected to be one of the stars of the tournament and a contender for the Golden Boot. She didn’t get off to the best of starts, failing to get off the mark against New Zealand despite a number of chances falling her way.
Miedama is accomplished at getting the ball out of her feet and finding room for a shot, but her ability to do so is something New Zealand clearly prepared for. The Ferns closed Miedama down quickly every time she was facing goal, stopping her from getting many strikes away.
The 22-year-old was denied from close range midway through the second half and didn’t have any meaningful chances after that. She’ll certainly be hoping more fall her way in Holland’s next match.