Netherlands beat Canada 2-1 to secure top spot in group E with three wins from three. Meanwhile, Cameroon left it late to secure their progression as they beat New Zealand 2-1 in Montpellier.
In Reims, Canada and Netherlands looked set to be a cracker as the two sides fought it out for top spot in the group. Right from the off, it looked likely to live up to the billing as less than a minute into the match, the referee awarded Canada a penalty.
It came when Janine Beckie nicked the ball from Desiree Van Lunteren, she ran toward the box and went tumbling as the defender desperately attempted to win the ball back. The referee immediately pointed to the spot but as it does with all penalty decisions, VAR reviewed the decision. The referee stood in the middle of the pitch with her finger to her ear for a solid two minutes before deciding to go take a second look for herself.
She ran over to the touchline, took another minute or so to review the decision and then decided to award a free-kick instead. Replays seemed to show that justice prevailed but it took nearly four minutes to come to a decision – that’s way too long. Christine Sinclair stepped up to take the free-kick but it was blocked by the wall and cleared easily.
Despite the game threatening to start quickly, we would have to wait until the second half for our first goal. It came when Anouk Dekker slammed home a bullet header from a free-kick delivered into the box from the left wing. Holland failed to hold onto their lead though as six minutes later, Canada drew level.
The equaliser came from legendary forward Christine Sinclair as, incredibly, she netted her 182nd goal for Canada. Jordyn Huitema made the goal with some great work on the right before delivering a killer cross to the far post. Sinclair was ready and waiting to receive the ball as she turned it home to make it 1-1.
Eventually, Holland’s superiority shone through as substitute Lineth Beerensteyn turned home a cross from Van Lunderen. After that, Canada didn’t really offer all that much in terms of attacking prowess and the Netherlands sealed their place at the top of the group. Nine points from a possible nine – great showing.
In the other game, Cameroon and New Zealand came into the game knowing that they both needed to win to have any chance of going through as one of the best third placed sides. It was a hard fought match for both sides and it took until the 57th minute for the deadlock to be broken. It came from Ajara Nchout as she turned inside two defenders before burying her effort.
Cameroon were playing well and looking like they were heading for a nice win, but the tide swung when Aurelle Awona turned the ball into her own net. It looked as though both sides were heading out of the competition BUT, the drama wasn’t finished there. In the 95th minute, Nchout popped up again with a late, late goal to send Cameroon through – cue pandemonium in Montpellier.
Cameroon finished on three points in the end, the same as their African counterparts Nigeria in group A. However, that late goal meant they had one more goal than the Super Eagles and so they head through as one of the best third placed sides.
What all this means is that Holland top the group and so will face Japan in the next round. Meanwhile, Canada head through as runners up and will face the second place team from group F, the loser of tonight’s game between Sweden and USA. Cameroon will face either England or France.