The Netherlands didn’t exactly put its high-powered offense on display in its Women’s World Cup opener against New Zealand on Tuesday.
Shanice van de Sanden, their cheetah-haired forward, was bottled up on the right wing and eventually pulled for a substitute in the 87th minute.
Lieke Martens, a former international player of the year, couldn’t bury any of her close chances. New Zealand controlled the pace and stopped the Netherlands from getting out in transition the way it wanted.
The final 20 minutes, then, were filled with substitutions to try to counter New Zealand’s insistence on playing as many defenders back as possible.
In the 76th minute, the Netherlands brought in Jill Roord. Sixteen minutes later, Roord scored the only goal in stoppage time to give the Netherlands a 1-0 win against underdog New Zealand at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France.
For a full 90 minutes, the Netherlands tried to do what it usually does best.
Some of the best chances came when it did get the ball to van de Sanden, one of the fastest players in the world, running down the right wing.
In the 72nd minute, the Netherlands got her a look on the right side of the box, but she couldn’t get off a clean cross and the scoreless draw remained.
Those sorts of chances, however, came too infrequently.
Most of her touches went backward toward the middle of the field as the Netherlands couldn’t create any sort of consistent transition opportunities. New Zealand controlled the pace and the Netherlands pulled van de Sanden out of the game in the 87th minute, looking for a slight stylistic change to counter New Zealand’s grinding style.
The solution ultimately was patience and the Netherlands’ three substitutes combined for the game-winner.
The Netherlands controlled possession for 70 percent of the game and midfielder Merel van Dongen let a play develop while set up on the left wing.
Van Dongen, who entered in the 71st minute, launched a cross into the box for Lineth Beerensteyn, who entered as the substitute for van de Sanden. The forward knocked the ball across the box with her head to Roord, the third sub, who put home the decisive goal to put the Netherlands in excellent position to advance.