Group E: CANADA 2-0 NEW ZEALAND
Canada gave an assured performance at the Stade des Alpes, beating New Zealand to wrap up qualification to the last sixteen. Jessie Fleming and Nichelle Prince scored at either end of the second half, condemning the Football Ferns to a final matchday showdown with Cameroon for third place.
New Zealand’s Tom Sermanni became the first coach to play the same starting eleven in consecutive matches at this World Cup. Canada made one change bringing in young right back Jayde Riviere for Allysha Chapman.
Whatever the game plan was, the Football Ferns were forced to change it inside 15 minutes. CJ Bott took a nasty blow on the arm blocking Janine Beckie’s cross and had to be substituted. Annalie Longo came on in midfield and West Ham’s Ria Percival moved to right back.
On 18 minutes Canada’s record goal scorer, Christine Sinclair, hit the bar with a header from Beckie’s corner. New Zealand scrambled to clear and Prince had two attempts before Katie Bowen cleared off the line.
Continuous pressure in New Zealand’s defensive third for rest of the first half went unrewarded, but just a minute after the break Fleming scored. Beckie sent Prince flying down the left wing and she beat two defenders before centering to Fleming, who side footed past Erin Nayler.
The Canucks nearly doubled the lead on 72 minutes when Sinclair pinpointed Prince in the box. Nayler sprung to her left to claw away at full stretch.
But they got the vital second goal with eleven minutes left to play. A slick move down the right concluded with Ashley Lawrence finding Sinclair at the back post. The striker’s header cannoned off the upright, but Prince arrived to finish it off.
Both the Netherlands and Canada have booked their place in the knockout stages but there is still the matter of topping Group E. That will be decided in Reims next Thursday.
Player of the match: Nichelle Prince, Canada (A performance of pace and skill, causing New Zealand problems all night. She ended up with a goal and an assist to show for it.)
Group E: THE NETHERLANDS 3-1 CAMEROON
Vivianne Miedema became the Netherland’s most prolific international goal scorer at the age of 22. The Arsenal striker scored a brace which took her to 60 goals in 77 caps, surpassing Manon Melis who previously held the record with 59 goals in 136 appearances for Leeuwinnen.
It was a patchy performance from the European Champions, who perhaps hadn’t expected quite such a robust challenge from the Indomitable Lionesses.
The Netherlands dominated possession throughout the first half but only showed flashes of the speed and creativity their fans have come to expect. Nonetheless, Miedema opened the scoring on 43 minutes, after good interplay between Jackie Groenen and Shanice van de Sanden engineered a cross from the right. Miedema lost her marker and converted with an acrobatic diving header.
It seemed the perfect time to take the lead, but Cameroon stunned everyone in the stadium two minutes later. Gabrielle Onguéné chased a lofted punt from midfield and just a touch of backspin was enough for her to get the better of Sari van Veenendaal in the Dutch goal. Onguéné headed over the keeper and converted from a tight angle.
The Oranje were back in front 3 minutes into the second period. Sherida Spitse played Groenen down the right wing and, when defender Genevieve Ngo couldn’t deal with the pace of the cross, Dominique Bloodworth swept in from two yards.
Miedema became a record breaker on 85 minutes and it was finish of sublime quality. Substitute Lineth Beerensteyn found her on the left; the striker drove towards goal, cut inside and shaped to shoot for the far corner. This moved the defender and the keeper just enough, so Miedema shifted her body shape in a split second and rifled the ball into the centre of the net.
There’s a feeling that the Dutch haven’t quite got going, and that several key players are not yet firing at full capacity. They will get a far sterner test from Canada in their final group game for sure, but this could actually set them up nicely for the last sixteen – win or lose. For Cameroon, well they must beat New Zealand to have any hopes of progressing. But they should take some heart from the fact that they at least look like they have a bit of a goal threat, unlike the Football Ferns so far.
Player of the match: Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands (Record breaker at 22 years old – even when she’s having a quiet game, opponents can’t afford to give her opportunities.)