The Netherlands 1-0 Portugal: van der Gragt opener sparks VAR review

Under the leadership of Andries Jonker, the Netherlands opened their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign against Portugal in Dunedin. With the Seleçao das Quinas making their debut at the tournament, the Oranjeleeuwinnen were clear favourites ahead of kickoff.

NED: van Domselaar; Janssen, van der Gragt, Spitse; van de Donk, Roord, Brugts, Pelova; Groenen; Martens, Beerensteyn

POR: Înes Pereira; Amado, Costa, Gomes, Ana Borges; T Pinto, Dolores Silva, F Pinto; Norton; Diana Silva, Jessica Silva

The Netherlands immediately sought to pile pressure onto their debuting opponents, with Înes Pereira was forced into action early on as she dashed off her line to deny the onrushing Victoria Pelova. The goalkeeper’s duties weren’t over there though, soon being called upon again to smother Lineth Beerensteyn’s close-range effort following linkup play with Danielle van de Donk.

Lieke Martens was involved as she sought to set up Beerensteyn for the opener, but the Juventus forward appeared to slip as she took her shot – with the effort eventually settling on the roof of the net following a deflection. 

The Oranjeleeuwinnen’s incredible travelling support would soon have something to cheer about, as Stefanie van der Gragt rose highest to nod Sherida Spitse’s corner back across the face of goal and into the back of the ner. The offside flag was promptly raised though as Jill Roord was judged to have interfered with play – but an unneccesarily lengthy onfield review found that Manchester City’s latest signing was innocent, and the Dutch’s lead would stand.

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But as the half matured, any slight grasp that Portugal may have had on this fixture seemed to fizzle out – and the better chances continued to fall in the Oranjeleeuwinnen’s favour. Esmee Brugts’ cross was cleared, and while Martens was able to win back possession with ease, her effort was scuffed and collected calmly by Înes Pereira.

Emerging from the break with a newfound air of confidence, Jessica Silva looked to punish the Dutch defence after being played through on goal – though her shot from a tight angle failed to threaten Daphne van Domselaar.

Înes Pereira was put to work immediately after, with Beerensteyn showing off her skill as she attempted to tee up Danielle van de Donk with a back heeled pass – but the Olympique Lyonnais star was only able to find the hands of the ‘keeper.

Portugal registered their first shot on goal within the final ten minutes, with Telma Encarnação darting infield from the right flank before unleashing a curling effort. Aston Villa’s Daphne van Domselaar was able to parry it away, though the Seleçao das Quinas weren’t able to pounce on the rebound – this wasn’t to be Portugal’s day.

Despite a much improved performance in the second half, Portugal suffered a narrow loss on their FIFA Women’s World Cup debut. The Netherlands earn a crucial three points that sets them well on the way to the knockout rounds, and today’s result will undoubtedly help to build momentum ahead of a crunch tie against the United States.

Group E action resumes on Thursday, 27 July as the Netherlands face the USA in Wellington. Portugal will look to pick up three points against Vietnam at the Waikato Stadium, though that may be easier said than done.