Football Features

Winners and losers as Oranje’s WWC record-scorer breaks Japan hearts in dying embers

By Ben Green

Published: 22:13, 25 June 2019

The Netherlands have set up a quarter-final clash against Italy after edging past Japan 2-1 in the Women’s World Cup round of 16. 

Sarina Wiegman’s side would draw first blood in Rennes after a well-worked corner kick resulted in Lieke Martens netting her first goal of the tournament, but Japan would soon respond through an intricate Yui Hasegawa finish just on the stroke of half-time.

But, the Netherlands refused to lie down, and in the closing stages of the match, Martens netted her second of the game from the penalty spot to send the traveling Dutch fans into raptures.

It was a gripping round of 16 encounter at the Stade de la Route de Lorient, but who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Lieke Martens

Lieke Martens has made Dutch history this evening after the Barcelona forward’s 17th minute finish made her the first Netherlands player to score in two different Women’s World Cup tournaments – and she marked the milestone with a quite breathtaking effort.

The Oranje were always going to pose a threat from set-pieces, but very few would have envisioned a goal of such elegance from their decisive corner kick in the first-half. As record-appearance maker Sherida Spitse whipped in a low drive, Martens gracefully flicked the ball through the legs of Yuika Sugasawa before it whistled past Ayaka Yamashita in the Japanese net.

Martens’ improvised stroke of the ball may have taken a slight deflection off Sugasawa, but there was nothing fortuitous in the execution of the goal, or in her quick-thinking ability to intelligently glance Spitse’s corner.

That goal also means Martens has now netted on five occasions against Nadeshiko Japan for the Netherlands in her career, which is more than against any other nation. And she netted the eventual winner to become the Netherlands’ record goalscoring in Women’s World Cup history.

Loser: Vivianne Miedema

Oranje’s emblematic player and the nation’s record goalscorer, Miedema fell below her usual clinical standards this evening, taking on the most shots of any player on the pitch, but failing to penetrate the Japanese net.

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In truth, the Arsenal goal machine had a quiet game in Rennes as she struggled to impose her authority in the final third. She did get herself into a number of excellent goalscoring opportunities, such is her predatory nature in the opposition box, but her shooting boots were nowhere to be seen.

The Hoogeveen-born striker had a glorious chance to restore the Netherlands’ lead mere seconds after Japan drew level, but her effort was fired straight into the gloves of Yamashita, and that was the story of her night, though she did manage to restore some parity in the closing stages after her shot resulted in the decisive penalty kick, but she will certainly have to up her game for the Italy clash.

Winner: Yui Hasegawa

The young INAC Kobe Leonessa midfielder has arguably produced the goal of the tournament this evening. Martens with a piece of magic one end, and Hasegawa with her own moment of pure inspiration the other. But where as one goal came via individual brilliance, the other came through exceptional build-up play – it was almost tiki-taka-esque from the Japanese.

As Hina Sugita went galloping down the left byline, the 22-year-old cut in before playing a precise pass into the path of Sugasawa, whose deft lay-off to Mana Iwabuchi allowed her to cut in and engineer a reverse pass to Hasegawa, who emphatically fired past Sari van Veenendaal to bring the scores level.

Japan were just beginning to ramp up the pressure prior to their equalising finish, and they were duly rewarded for their efforts, with that strike Hasegawa’s first Women’s World Cup goal.

Loser: Shanice van de Sanden

The Olympique Lyonnais winger had an exceptionally poor game by her standards, struggling to get the better of Japan full-back Aya Sameshima, who had the Dutch forward in her pocket the entire time she was on the pitch.

With just 20 minutes to go Wiegman had seen enough and decided to twist, taking the former Liverpool winger off for Lineth Beerensteyn, and she immediately instilled a fresh impetus.

During Van de Sanden’s 68 minutes on the pitch, she failed to complete a single dribble, registered two shots off target, and mustered just the single touch in Japan’s box – not the sort of figures any side wants from one of their star wingers.

In a match that was so tightly contested, the Netherlands needed their best players to step up, and for one reason or another Van de Sanden was not on song; but, she is an incredible talent and this was no doubt just a minor blip.

Winner: Mana Iwabuchi

Elegance personified. If anyone ever questions the standard of women’s football, tell them to go watch Japan’s sensational No. 8 play a game live. The former Bayern Munich forward is delicate on the ball, composed in possession and perfectly balanced.

She was the architect tonight, Asako Takakura’s catalyst, everything positive that came out of Japan tonight, came through Iwabuchi. It will come as a bitter blow that she will not be in the quarter-finals as Japan were the better side, and she was simply mesmeric to watch.

Loser: Non-European nations

It was confirmed on Monday that there would be at least five European nations competing in the quarter-final stage of the Women’s World Cup for the first time since 1995; well you can now make that seven.

Italy triumphed in the early kick-off on Tuesday, producing a solid 2-0 victory against China, and they will now clash against the Netherlands, who have sealed their place courtesy of a late VAR decision.

Those two results now mean that only the United States will be contesting outside of the European scope in the quarter-finals, with the other slots taken up by Norway, England, France, Germany and Sweden.