MONTREAL – Hosts Canada emerged winners of Group A at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, even if they backed their way into top spot with a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands on Monday at Olympic Stadium.
Kirsten Van De Ven equalized for the Netherlands in the 87th minute to earn the Dutch the draw. Canada (5 pts.) still won the group due to the 2-2 draw between New Zealand and China in the simultaneous Group A finale in Winnipeg. China took second place in the group over the Netherlands (each on 4 pts.) on a goal differential tiebreaker.
Ashley Lawrence scored early for Canada, but the hosts couldn’t hold on. Lawrence’s goal was her first on the senior international level and Canada’s first from open play in this tournament.
Christine Sinclair was happy to see Canada top Group A, but cautioned how Canada ended the match vs Netherlands. Giving up a goal in the final three minutes is something that can’t happen in the knockout round. Sinclair shared her thoughts.
“Ultimately our goal was to win the group,” she said. “We did that and we’re proud of that. You hope that in the last five to 10 minutes of a game up 1-0 you can close out the game. Maybe a little naive on our part. There’s no excuses for them to get almost get a 3-v-1 in the last couple minutes of the game. We can learn from it because these are moments we won’t get back now that we’re headed into the knockout stage.”
Dutch skipper Mandy Van Den Berg was satisfied with how the Netherlands played against Canada. She never lost faith and knew that a goal would eventually come as long as she trusted in the team and how they were playing.
“I think we played the way we actually wanted to play most parts of the game at least,” she said. “We started really good, we had the ball a lot. We were confident in the way of playing. I’m really satisfied by that. I felt that the goal, must, must, come. It’s soccer so you never know. I’ve always trusted in the team and if we continued the way we were playing at that moment, it has to come and finally it came.”
The Netherlands’ shaky defense put Canada in a great position to open the match with an early goal. Lawrence had her deflected shot pop up in the air. Sophie Schmidt out muscled her defender and headed the ball off the Netherlands’ crossbar in the 6th minute. The Dutch back line has been vulnerable at times and Canada almost capitalized on a terrific opportunity.
But Canada was able to take advantage of that in the 10th minute. Schmidt was in the Dutch box and had her attempt on target blocked. The ball fell towards the patch of Ashley Lawrence. The 20-year-old midfielder was left unmarked and smashed the ball home past goalkeeper Loes Geurts.
Canada came to play and gave little time and space to the Netherlands in the first 30 minutes of the match. Kadeisha Buchanan, Carmelina Moscato and Lawrence had timely tackles that limited the Netherlands’ attacking front. Lieke Martens had a shot that went well over the bar and Danielle Van De Donk missed a great chance in close on Erin McLeod.
Coach Roger Reijners and the Netherlands were the first team waiting in the tunnel for the start of the second half. However, it was teenager Jessie Fleming and again Canada that had the better scoring opportunities and quality chances in the first 10 minute after the restart. Netherlands were lucky to escape a two-goal defect as Canada were in search for an all important insurance goal.
In the 56th minute, La Oranje broke in on a 3-v-2 counterattack. Allysha Champan forced Van De Donk to the outside and the Netherlands midfielder was unable to hit the target from a sharp angle. Moments later, Sherida Spitse had a free kick opportunity that was hammed into the Canada wall and cleared away.
Canada coach John Herdman made a double substitution in the 61st minute to try to help his team settle in and close out the Netherlands. Melissa Tancredi and Desiree Scott entered the match for Kaylyn Kyle and Fleming. Tancredi moved up top next to Leon and Sinclair, while Schmidt dropped into the midfield for the vacated Fleming.
Manon Melis had a wonderful opportunity to make the Netherlands level in the 83rd minute, just before the eventual equalizer.
Canada will play in Vancouver in the Round of 16 on Sunday against a third-place finisher from either Group C, D, or E. The Netherlands are still likely to advance as a third-place team.
Herdman made four changes to his starting lineup in an effort to get his teams beleaguered offense going. Geuerts returned to the Netherlands’ starting lineup and Reijners elected to keep his trio of Martens, Vivianne Miedema and Melis in tact.
Vivianne Miedema was kept in check by Kadeisha Buchanan and had a relatively quiet match. The 18-year-old Dutch superstar was happy with the chances Holland created against Canada.
“I think we played quite okay, way better than the second game,” she said. “We created a lot of chances. I think we were better than Canada some parts of the game. Of course Canada is a good country and they also create chances. I think it was from all sides.”
Miedema and her teammates were unaware of the New Zealand and China score. When Van De Ven equalized the Netherlands jumped for joy, and had a feeling that they had put themselves in good standing for the knockout round.
“I was quite happy,” Miedema said. “We didn’t know the other score from the game so we didn’t know if we had to score or not. If you score, you are almost sure about the next round. It was good.”
Canada Starting XI: Erin McLeod; Allysha Chapman, Carmelina Moscato, Kadeisha Buchanan, Josee Belanger; Ashley Lawrence, Kaylyn Kyle (Melissa Tancredi 61), Jessie Fleming (Desiree Scott 61); Sophie Schmidt (Rhian Wilkinson 80), Christine Sinclair(C), Adriana Leon. (4-3-3)
Netherlands Starting XI: Loes Geurts; Van Dongen, Mandy Van Den Berg(C), Van Der Gragt, Van Lunteren (Dominique Janssen 12); Spitse, Danielle Van De Donk (Kirsten Van De Ven 72) , Dekker; Lieke Martens, Vivianne Miedema, Manon Melis. (4-3-3)