Netherlands capture first Women’s World Cup win, defeat New Zealand

The Netherlands scored their first-ever Women’s World Cup goal en route to a 1-0 win against New Zealand in the nightcap from Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. Lieke Martens made Dutch history just after the half hour, firing to the far post from the top of the box after a nice feed from Vivianne Miedema.  

New Zealand, who were thrashed 4-0 a couple months back by the USA in an exhibition game in St. Louis, looked a far more composed side on Saturday night against a fleet and physical Dutch side. Using the size of Abby Erceg and Hannah Wilkinson to harass keeper Loes Geurts on every set play, the Football Ferns crashed the net and disrupted much of the flow of game.

The early going was all New Zealand. Annalie Longo forced an early save out of Guerts, then a high lob off a set piece caught Geurts off her line and racing back to defender. Wilkinson would clatter into the Dutch keeper in the 25th minute, giving us what appeared to be our first turf-related injury as from a fairly innocuous collision, Geurts required treatment for an impact to her shoulder. Geurts was OK to continue and was fortunate the foul was called. Replays indicated she may well have bundled the ball over her own net in the action.

The Dutch moved the ball well but only showed their stuff in flashes. Danielle van de Donk had the ball in the net after only 12 minutes with a composed chip over Erin Nayler but was correctly flagged offside. It wasn’t until Martens’ goal in the 32nd minute that the Dutch made their fluency count, and even then it took a special shot to catch Nayler out. In truth, Geurts was far busier and might have conceded an equalizer just minutes later had she not been alert to stop a high, searching ball from Wilkinson that drifted perilously close to her line.

The problem is that New Zealand has struggled to score goals, and so for all their endeavor, they never seemed to catch a break. Wilkinson and Ria Percival were very positive, but there was little link-up in the end, just a series of heaved balls and hope.

Unfortunately, the second half saw the same sort of drift we saw in our opener, as the heat radiating off the turf and the knock-on effect of fouls that on grass would be timid, started to take a bite. Geurts needed treatment again with 20 minutes left to play after another fall on the turf; Percival went down hard and needed attention to wash the blood out of her mouth. Neither woman was seriously hurt but the injuries reinforced the feeling that this tournament surely deserved a better surface.

But the fact is that the Netherlands did a lot on Saturday to reinforce the sense that this dark horse side might be able to do something at this tournament. New Zealand showed more hustle and muscle, but the Dutch showed more composure and control. On the evidence, both teams will be a handful for the hosts, Canada.

As it happens, the Football Ferns will now face Canada on Thursday in Edmonton while China will be on the brink should they lose to Holland. The Women’s World Cup rolls on Sunday night on FOX with Norway vs. Thailand in Ottawa followed by Germany’s meeting with Cote d’Ivoire.