Chance! That’s her name and multiple missed opportunities for New Zealand.
My hope for Australia was as high as our high-line and faded as quickly as our endless crosses into the box, so time to turn our attentions to a country we would happily replace Queensland with – New Zealand! Plus, if the New Zealand Football Ferns performed better than the Matildas, it is easy enough for us to paint our stars red and claim we knew they had it in them all along.
Netherlands are ranked 8th in the world and came in favourites for this game. Having been crowned European Champions in 2017 and coming off big wins in pre-season friendlies (heyo another Matildas reference). The odds were 14-1. New Zealand have also never won a single World Cup game, only managing a few draws in 2011 and 2015. So off we go.
In the opening ten minutes, the Oranje women were dancing circles around the New Zealand defence. Martens was an early stand out with ball control like I haven’t seen in years – twirling, spinning, and moving with pace to seriously make New Zealand dizzy. However, amidst the dancefloor haze, the Ferns focused on counter attacks which saw Chance in with an early chance, hitting the crossbar in the 11th minute. This was to be the first of their missed opportunities …
The Dutch supporters were out in force and the trumpet players reminded us all that women still have the best active supporters. As the supporters sang along to ‘We will rock you’, Bloodworth took the song a little too seriously and decided to really rock Gregorius to the ground. One could argue that the back
shove was either unnecessary or the reason Gregorius was somewhat useless on the night. White and Chance continued to take their opportunities where they could, and the Netherlands began to show signs of frustration as the solid New Zealand defence.
In case you didn’t have audio commentary, the guy on Optus Sport made it his life’s mission to remind us every 5 minutes what a wonderful result this would be for New Zealand. Meanwhile, we all prayed for the Netherlands players after they went into their half time break with that face:
After the break, New Zealand pushed early but Gregorius wasted away two glorious opportunities in the 51st minute. A swing and miss cross, failure to get up quickly, and then a kick that looked more like me playing futsal than a professional player on the world stage. It was painful, and another wasted opportunity given the relentless Netherlands attack that was about to come.
All credit to Bott and Stott, not only for the greatest last names to hold defence, but for some brilliant work early in the second half that was now causing the Netherlands headaches. For all their dizzying, dazzling, splendid display of back passes, crosses, and twirls, the Oranje women were lacking that final touch and New Zealand were persevering. The commentator again reminded us what a wonderful result this would be for the Ferns.
After an initial burst, the second half pace began to slow with the Netherlands focused on pushing forward like some sort of war formation and New Zealand’s counter attacks few and far between.
Thankfully, Gregorius rued chances were overshadowed by Miedema’s inability to shoot. Someone pass the i30 onto the Netherlands.
Though the second half was being played entirely in New Zealand’s third, the trumpeters began to play ‘Auld Lang Syne’, as the feeling around the stadium was that time has gone by. Unfortunately, it was also at this point that New Zealand thought ‘eh maybe we can do this’ and a few counters came through.
My nerves began to increase. Though I don’t think any team can defend for a full half, it is risky to decide in the dying minutes to pursue an attack. The passes were sloppy, Netherlands now regained some pace and I just knew it was going to end with a scrappy goal. I only hoped it would be New Zealand to scrape through.
In the end, Miedema missed yet another shot (I cheered!) and it was Roord who was only substituted on in the 76th minute that took her chances (I sighed). A header bounced into the back of the net. Heartbreak in the 91 st minute. Familiar feeling that.
The Football Ferns defence did not deserve that result. They put in all the work and can only look upfield to the missed opportunities that would have given New Zealand their first World Cup win. Instead, New Zealand now extend their winless run to 13 games. However, the positive is that this game has exposed the Netherlands. They were considered outside favourites to take the cup but if their dance routine fails to convert into more goals, the USA might just celebrate putting 14 past them.
New Zealand 0. Netherlands 1.
By Nerisa Dozo