Like a rash
Dominating the game from the off, the hosts were unlucky not to go ahead 15 minutes in when Lieke Martens’ half-cleared cross fell to Jackie Groenen, the Frankfurt woman clipping the bar with her effort. Line Johansen’s goal under constant threat, van de Sanden’s low cross put behind by Beerensteyn moments later.
Playing in Vivianne Miedema’s usual centre-forward role, it was only a matter of time before Beerensteyn broke the deadlock. The young attacker rising expertly in the box to glance a header beyond Johansen. With a hand in the first goal, van de Sanden was on hand to double the advantage just before the break, having peeled off of Katrine Veje, she was free to nod home.
Miss-matched against Veje, van de Sanden remained a winning runner into the second half, happy to stretch her legs and use her trademark pace to put the visiting defence under pressure.
Fairing better after the break but still unable to test the unorthodox Dutch defence, there was little the visitors could do to dig them out of the whole they’d found themselves in.
With another 90 minutes around in the corner on Tuesday, both teams seemed to slack off towards the end of the match, a 2-0 loss for Denmark not the end of the world, a 2-0 win for the Netherlands a fantastic jumping off point.
A hopeful shot that clipped the underside of the bar and stayed out in the last knockings, all the Danes had to show for an exhausting 90 minutes in Breda.
All but over
Coming into the tie, the Dutch were the clear favourites to claim a win, if not two. Having won their last seven meetings against the Danes – notably the Euro final last August – the team looked much more the complete unit. Smoothly transitioning from attack to defence and back again, there was few options for the visitors, with a huge deficit to overturn in Viborg on Tuesday, Denmark will require nothing short of divine intervention.
Not on a song since winning the Euros and brought back down to earth with a thud after their loss to Norway last month, the European champions took to the pitch like a team possessed. Hungry to win, to get back to the World Cup and to delight the sell-out home crowds that have followed them around the lowlands since last summer. In this moment, there is no stronger favourite to progress through to France from the four teams in the play-off, but whether or not the Oranje will be able to recreate their best on the world stage remains to be seen.
Since lifting the shapely European Championship trophy, the whole Dutch team has looked out of sorts, the same XI routinely trotted out, the same formation, the same players. Whilst many have been sub-par individually as well as collectively, tonight was about throwing off the rust and evoking the spirt of last summer. No duo grabbed more attention over those three weeks that Martens – who went on to win every individual accolade possible – and Groenen. Both off colour in recent months, and it was the overlooked midfielder who found that simply irresistible form.
Determined, smooth and slick both on and off the ball, the attack-minded midfeielder remained a constant threat, pulling the strings and running Denmark ragged. Something she's not been able to do for the Netherlands or Frankfurt in recent times.