LE HAVRE, France -- The Netherlands scored a very late goal to beat New Zealand 1-0 on Tuesday. A header by Jill Roord in the 92nd minute gave the Dutch a precious win in Group E. After Canada's victory on Monday against Cameroon (1-0), the European champions would have been under pressure had they not found the back of the net. On the other hand, New Zealand can be disappointed. The Kiwis produced a superb performance and deserved at least a point. They defended well, while also creating clear chances.
The Dutch missed early opportunities.
The Netherlands had plenty of chances to score but had to wait for the 92nd minute to finally break the deadlock. Until then, the Dutch were not clinical enough, missing easy opportunities like Dominique Bloodworth on her own in the 45th minute. Vivianne Miedema could have easily scored a hat trick but missed four big chances (13th minute, 22nd, 60th, 66th). There were two more chances for Lieke Martens (10th minute and 29th).
They will have to be more efficient in their next game against Cameroon on Saturday. Losing possession in key areas gifted New Zealand some chances, but Sari van Veenendaal, the Dutch captain, was excellent in goal with two crucial saves to keep her team in the game.
Netherlands' front four looked a bit rusty.
On paper, there is probably no other front four in the world as strong as this one. Martens (Barcelona), Miedema (Arsenal), Shanice van de Sanden (Lyon) and Danielle van de Donk (Arsenal) are the force going forward for the Netherlands. But on Tuesday, their association looked a bit rusty. The link-up play between the four attackers was not good enough. They complement each other so well, though; Martens with her superb technique, the pace of Van de Sanden, the playmaking qualities of Van de Donk and the runs and finishing talent of Miedema. Yet they didn't combine enough on Tuesday.
"It is hard because we don't have much time to work with the national team. We know we can play better than that together, but it will come," Miedema said after the game.
If the Dutch want to go far in the competition, this front four will have to perform better.
Wiegman's coaching won the game.
She seemed to wait a long time before making her changes, but Netherlands head coach Sarina Wiegman won the game with her coaching. All three subs were involved in the winning goal. First, Merel van Dongen replaced Kika van Es at left back in the 71st minute. She delivered the cross for the crucial goal. At the end of her delivery, Lineth Beerensteyn, who was yet to have a touch after coming on in the 87th minute, flicked the ball toward Roord, who scored after taking Jackie Groenen's place 15 minutes before. The Bayern Munich midfielder had not netted a goal for the national team in 872 days before Tuesday. And this is without a doubt the most important of her career to date.
The Orange Army in full swing.
Throughout the competition, the Netherlands will be able to rely on great support from their fans. They were around 5,000 in Le Havre on Tuesday, chanting, trumpeting, clapping and supporting their team until the last minute. The roar coming from the stands after Roord's goal was fantastic. They will follow their team throughout the tournament and will fully play their role of 12th man.
"It is incredible to have this kind of support, I love it. It gives [us] a lot of extra energy. I hope they keep coming all summer long," Miedema said after the game.
Around 10,000 Dutch fans are expected in Valenciennes on Saturday. And a similar number, too, in Reims for the last group stage game against Canada on June 20.
New Zealand showed its strengths.
Only ranked 19th in the world, not many gave New Zealand a chance against the European champions. However, the Kiwis executed their game plan almost to perfection. They defended as a team, didn't leave much space between their lines and worked very hard in midfield while not taking any risks. Their very experienced manager, Tom Sermanni, had prepared them for the match really well. The Kiwis were just unlucky not to get at least a point.
They created three big chances -- Olivia Chance (11th minute), Rosie White (33rd) and Sarah Gregorius (52nd) -- exploiting each time some mistakes by the Dutch. Despite being heartbroken by the late goal, they can take a lot of positives into their game against Canada in Grenoble on Saturday. In the last Women's World Cup, they faced the Dutch and lost 1-0 after a goal by Martens. Four years later, history repeated itself, but New Zealand can be very proud of how it played on Tuesday.