Saturday, July 13, 2024

Women’s World Cup: Netherlands scores early then shuts down Portugal

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By ELLEN McINTYRE

DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — Stefanie van der Gragt scored on a header in the 13th minute, leading the Netherlands to a 1-0 win over Portugal at the Women’s World Cup on Sunday as the 2019 finalists began their tournament run.

The Dutch defender gathered herself as teammate Sherida Spitse lofted a corner kick her way, then headed the ball across the goal into the far side of the net. An offside review delayed the celebration.

The goal by the 30-year-old van der Gragt, who plans to retire after the Women’s World Cup, was the quickest first goal of the tournament. The Dutch controlled the tempo of the game — Portugal’s first shot of the match didn’t come until the 82nd minute.

The meeting with the Netherlands, ranked No. 9 in the world, marked Portugal’s first-ever tournament appearance.

On hand were 11,991 spectators, who were sheltered from the rain inside Dunedin’s covered Forsyth Barr Stadium, known as the Glasshouse, which has a capacity of 25,947.

Though most of the crowd appeared to be Dutch fans, a small but vocal group of Portuguese supporters with flags and team apparel banged on drums throughout the game, the beat echoing across the venue.

The Dutch victory raises the stakes for their upcoming rematch with the two-time defending world champion Americans, who beat Netherlands 2-0 in that 2019 final. A winner in that match will gain control of Group E and could very well wrap up a berth in the knockout stage.

Portugal failed to break through and become the first of the eight newcomers in the Women’s World Cup to get a win.

France 0, Jamaica 0

SYDNEY — Hervé Renard knows all about World Cup shocks. He also knows an early setback can be overcome in international soccer.

With that in mind, the France coach was not unduly concerned by his team’s 0-0 with Jamaica on Sunday, which was one of the biggest surprises so far at the Women’s World Cup.

Renard led Saudi Arabia to a famous win against Argentina at the men’s World Cup in Qatar last year, before Lionel Messi’s team rebounded and went on to lift the trophy for their country.

“I’ve already won competitions after drawing my first two games,” said the two-time Africa Cup of Nations-winning coach. “Let’s talk about the World Cup 2022. I don’t think that we should be getting ahead of ourselves.

“There are lots of people, lots of teams that start with the fanfare and are not there come the final and others are maybe slow to get out of the starting blocks.”

While there is no need for France to panic, this was still an unexpected result for the fifth-ranked team in the world and one of the tournament favorites.

By contrast Jamaica is ranked 43rd and entered the tournament co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand having lost all of its games at its World Cup debut in 2019 with a goal difference of -11.

“We always tell our players just don’t worry about the rankings,” said Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson, who declared his country’s first point ever in the competition as its greatest achievement in soccer.

“I think it is the No. 1 result I have seen men or women,” he said. “I would put it there. If you go by the rankings you would say that result on this stage has to be No. 1.”

Jamaica’s players ran onto the field after the final whistle as if they’d been crowned world champions. It would have been a very different story had Kadidiatou Diani’s 90th-minute header not struck the bar.

In a game of few chances, Diani had France’s best opportunities to score a winner, but could not find a breakthrough at the Sydney Football Stadium.

She forced a save from Jamaica goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer in the first half and saw another effort deflected wide.

Another header in the second half also went wide of the target before her late effort came back off the bar.

The French were expected to be too strong for Jamaica, but favorites have not had everything their own way so far in the tournament. The 2019 quarterfinalists were the latest to struggle against an underdog.

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