UEFA Women’s World Cup: Denmark 1-2 Netherlands
Credit: Joerdeli Photography | Daniela Porcelli

UEFA Women’s World Cup: Denmark 1-2 Netherlands

Dutch make it through to final play-off tie after second leg win in Viborg

Sophie Lawson

The Netherlands confirmed their spot in the World Cup play-off final with a second leg win over Denmark, making it four wins out of four over the same opposition in the last 15 months.

All too familiar beginnings 

A goal to the good five minutes in after being awarded a questionable penalty, Denmark saw the mountain shrink down towards a molehill. Nadia Nadim’s well struck penalty evocative of the Euro 2017 final between the two nations, the 4-2 scoreline that saw the Dutch loft the trophy come the end of the match a reminder of where the two factor against each other.

Indeed, just as they had in Enschede, the Oranje soon equalised, Desiree van Lunteren’s deep cross expertly met by Lineth Beerensteyn. The diminutive striker scoring her second header in the tie to leave the hosts needing three.

Digging out some semblance of form, the hosts began to ask questions of the visiting defence though remained wasteful when the chances presented themselves.

The match locked at 1-1 with the Danes still needing three goals to progress and the Dutch not too worried in defence, the clock ticked down. Winning the ball off of Anouk Dekker, Nadim fed it back into the box for Pernille Harder to strike at. The captain somehow skiing the shot from two yards, Harder denied again seconds later as Daniëlle van de Donk got a crucial touch in the box. The half chances continued, though the scores stayed the same, the hosts without enough bite in attack to pocket a conciliatory home win.

The match, just like the tie, claimed by the Dutch, Beerensteyn’s low finish at a corner enough to see the visitors finish with a flourish.

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Job already done

A class apart in Breda, the Dutch had all but done the job before the full-time whistle had even blown on Friday. With the hosts realistically needing three on the night – something they hadn’t managed against a top 20 nation in years – the visitors had a relaxed demeanour on the pitch. Not letting themselves get ruffled after conceding, they stuck to their guns, minimising space for the Danes.

Still not looking their best, the current European champions have shown flashes of their capability over the two legs and will be favourites against either Switzerland or Belgium – especially in the home leg.

Whilst there does at least seem like there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Netherlands, the Danes seem to have deeper issues. Just not a well-working unit under Lars Søndergaard yet, the European finalists will have a barren two years, not getting a look in at either the World Cup or 2020 Olympics. The team likely to undergo an overhaul in that time with a number of senior layers reaching the point in their careers when retirement will come up.

Simply not good enough against Sweden in September or the Netherlands this month, there can be few complaints about a lack of Danish presence in France, although it remains a shame that an individual talent like  Harder will miss out, but she is one of many.

A bright spark

In a largely dull game there are few stand-outs, the Danish captain well below her capabilities so too the likes of Lieke Martens and Sherida Spitse. Not having a storming game by any means but able to answer every question posed, Loes Geurts remained one of the best players on the pitch. The back-up goalkeeper, saving every shot after Nadim’s penalty, claiming most of the crosses that came into her box giving the team a solid foundation.

So too, Beerensteyn, not as dangerous as in the first leg, the attacker tirelessly ran at the home defence, fighting for every possible ball and always giving the Dutch an outlet. Unable to add to her tally for the night, the Munich woman did little to ease Sarina Wiegman’s selection headache.