Three wins in three matches. The Orange Lionesses achieved the maximum score in their final Women’s World Cup group match by beating Canada 2-1 on Thursday night. The victory sends them to the top of Group E and this means they will now face Japan in the Round of 16.
Sarina Wiegman’s women knew this wouldn’t be an easy match, but fortunately they saved the best for last. Facing a stronger opponent, the European champions rose to the occasion and played their best match in this tournament so far.
It was by no means an easy victory, though. After two minutes, Canada were awarded a penalty after Desiree van Lunteren tripped Janine Beckie. But was it inside or outside the box? As Canada captain Christine Sinclair stood with the ball on the spot amid loud booing from the mainly orange-coloured stands in the Stade Auguste-Delaune II in Reims, the referee needed a VAR review to determine that the foul had started outside the penalty area. The resulting free-kick failed to create any danger.
It took until almost half an hour before the Netherlands took more control of the match. Top scorer Vivianne Miedema came closest to scoring before half-time as she hit the post after making a wonderful turn in the box.
This was a balanced and equal game, with both sides creating roughly the same number of chances and evenly sharing possession of the ball. The opener came from a set piece in the second half: a powerful header by defender Anouk Dekker following a superbly taken free-kick from Netherlands captain Sherida Spitse.
Three minutes later, Canada stalwart Christine Sinclair levelled proceedings and, by doing so, became only the second player to score at five Women's World Cup tournaments, along with Brazil's Marta, who achieved the feat a week ago.
This intense encounter seemed to be heading for a draw, until substitute Lineth Beerensteyn grabbed the winner for the European champions 15 minutes from time. The goal prompted Canada to launch a final offensive, but this was to no avail.
Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman was very pleased with the victory, the first ever against Canada. “We played against a stronger opponent, very structured. But we played well as a team, adapted well, and the performance was great. In 2019, Canada had conceded just one goal before today. So to score two goals in one game is fantastic. Now I hope we'll play well against Japan too. We played against them in the last 16 four years ago and know what they're all about.”
Netherlands v Japan is scheduled in Rennes for Tuesday. Kick-off is at 21.00 CET