Netherlands’ Jill Roord pounces at the last to break New Zealand hearts

Kieran Pender at the Stade Océane on 11 June 2019

“Football is not fair,” said the Netherlands manager, Sarina Wiegman, after her team picked up three points with an injury-time winner. New Zealand came within 120 seconds of a well-deserved point in Le Havre, only to have their hearts broken by the substitute Jill Roord.

It had been billed as a mismatch. European champions and rising heavyweights against Pacific small fry who have never made it past the group stage of a World Cup. For an hour and a half it looked anything but – a defensive masterclass from New Zealand frustrating the usually deadly Dutch strikers.

“We were searching for a goal and they were looking for a draw,” said Wiegman, who won 104 caps for her country as a player. “I was not nervous but I certainly thought we could play better than we did.”

Just as the boisterous Dutch fans were beginning to lose their voices, Roord reinvigorated them. Arsenal’s new signing finished from close range to deny a clean sheet to Erin Nayler, who to that point had marshalled an impenetrable defence. It was Roord’s first goal in national colours for 872 days.

“It was a long time [between goals] – I don’t even want to think about it,” the midfielder said. “The goal came really late but the most important thing was that we got the three points.”

From the start, the Netherlands were bent on their usual attacking game – to the appreciation of a largely orange-clad crowd. In one of the first moves of the game, the 2017 world player of the year, Lieke Martens, outpaced CJ Bott and sent in one of many crosses. But New Zealand’s compact defence, who did not concede once while qualifying via the Oceania Nations Cup, held firm.

New Zealand’s Erin Naylor (in goal) and Abby Erceg (No 8) are unable to stop Jill Roord’s winner for the Netherlands
New Zealand’s Erin Naylor (in goal) and Abby Erceg (No 8) are unable to stop Jill Roord’s winner for the Netherlands. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

It was New Zealand who had the first opening in the 10th minute, when Olivia Chance collected a loose ball and darted into space. The Everton midfielder unleashed a shot from the edge of the area that slammed against the crossbar and bounced clear.

The Netherlands dominated as the first half wore on, their possession count at one point reaching 68%, but they struggled to pose real danger. If anything a determined New Zealand, with their occasional rapid counterattacks, looked the more threatening team.

They should have scored in the opening stages of the second half, with a double opportunity squandered by their lone striker, Sarah Gregorius. The Netherlands responded immediately, Vivianne Miedema denied by the onrushing Nayler before Martens had another attempt moments later.

The match opened up, with both teams searching desperately for the points to gain an advantage in group E. But despite chance after chance – a ball flashing across an open New Zealand goalmouth, a powerful goal-bound header at the other end – the score remained unchanged.

At one point the Netherlands spent several minutes camped around New Zealand’s box, unable to find a route to goal.

Finally, when it looked as if New Zealand would get their reward, Roord pounced. Her goal extends the Netherlands’ winning streak to five matches and leaves them confident of progressing to the knockout stage after Canada beat Cameroon in unconvincing fashion on Monday.

“I think we can go far,” Roord said. “We just have to do better than this.” Martens, the player of the match, echoed the sentiment. “It wasn’t our best game,” she said.

New Zealand must regroup and prepare for a similar challenge with Canada on Saturday. “We can’t let the heartbreak of that late goal determine what we do going forward, [we must] look at the 90 minutes as a whole,” the manager, Tom Sermanni, said.

The Scot, who is at his fourth World Cup, added: “I think when we do that we come away with a lot more positives than negatives. The players will be absolutely devastated but they are a resilient group and I am confident we will bounce back.”

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