European champions the Netherlands scored an injury-time winner to break New Zealand’s resistance in their opening Women’s World Cup match in Le Havre.
Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema could have had a hat-trick as the Dutch dominated possession in front of their noisy fans, who made up the majority of the 10,654 crowd.
But it was New Zealand, seeking a first World Cup win in their fifth tournament appearance, who came closest to breaking the deadlock when Olivia Chance struck the bar early in the first half.
Tom Sermanni’s side – ranked 19th in the world, 11 places beneath the Netherlands – defended stoutly and looked set for a point before substitute Jill Roord headed in from close range.
Roord sends Dutch crowd wild
Roord, who has joined Women’s Super League champions Arsenal from Bayern Munich, sent the Dutch crowd wild with her first international goal in 872 days.
She told BBC Sport: “I don’t want to think about how long it’s been, but it’s a relief that I scored a goal and it’s such an important game.
“I don’t know what went wrong today, we weren’t quite there and maybe it was something to do with being nervous. We had a lot of chances and we should have scored long before my goal but we can play much better.”
It was a heartbreaking end for New Zealand, who beat England 1-0 in their final warm-up game.
Up until that point they rode their luck as Sarina Wiegman’s side showed technical superiority but wasted a succession of chances, including from Arsenal defender Dominique Bloodworth, who skewed wide from four yards.
Miedema, who finished as the WSL’s top scorer, also headed over, shot inches wide and drew a fine save from Erin Nayler in the Kiwi goal.
But the Kiwis were unfortunate to lose so late in the game, having impressed by creating several good opportunities and nullifying the Dutch attacking trio of Miedema, Barcelona’s Lieke Martens and Lyon’s Shanice van de Sanden.
The Netherlands, who have never been past the last 16 of a World Cup having made their debut in 2015, beat New Zealand by the same scoreline in the same fixture four years ago.
And Miedema said she liked the fact they were seen as outsiders because of their lack of World Cup pedigree.
“If you look at other teams they have been performing at the World Cup many times and it’s only our second time in it,” she said.
“We’ve won the Euros but there is no pressure for us to win anything so it’s quite good for us. We are confident and trust each other but we don’t have the pressure to win the World Cup.”
After their narrow in, Netherlands join Canada at the top of Group E after the Canadians beat Cameroon 1-0 on Monday night.
‘It is a bit heartbreaking’ – what they said
New Zealand boss Tom Sermanni: “I am happy with the performance throughout the game. We were courageous, battled hard and were unbelievably disciplined. We gave everything we could give and tactically spot on. It is a bit heartbreaking but that is football.
“We have to take the great things we did and do it against Canada. We came up against one of the best teams in the world and went shoulder to shoulder with them.
“They [the Netherlands] were very concerned, you could tells things were not going their way. They knew they were in for a battle but would have felt confident coming in to the tournament.”
Netherlands boss Sarina Wiegman: “The opponents defended very strongly but that happened in the qualifiers to us so we were prepared for all situations and had plans A, B and C.
“We wanted to change our plan, our line-up and energise our team and today we were lucky because our three substitutes contributed to an outstanding result. It flags the quality of our team that the subs are ready to play, so I’m pleased with the situation.
“Our play was too slow, our movement was not cute and sometimes we did not play with accuracy, losing the ball and they were able to attack, so there were some negative points which made it difficult for us.”
New Zealand’s winless run continues – the stats
- Both of the Netherlands’ victories at the Women’s World Cup have come against New Zealand in their opening match, also beating them 1-0 in 2015.
- New Zealand have now lost all five of their opening games in Women’s World Cup matches (also 1991, 2007, 2011 and 2015), scoring just once and conceding 12 times in those games.
- This defeat means that New Zealand extended their record of playing the most matches in Women’s World Cup history without earning a win (13 – W0 D3 L10).
- Jill Roord’s winner for the Netherlands was only her fourth goal for the national side, and her first since she scored a brace against Romania in January 2017, 872 days ago.
- With an average age of 27 years, 282 days, New Zealand’s starting XI against the Netherlands was the oldest they have ever named for a Women’s World Cup match, in what was their 13th outing in the tournament.
The Netherlands face Cameroon in Group E on Saturday, 15 June (14:00 BST) at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes. New Zealand take on Canada on the same day (20:00) at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble.