AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — The United States and the Netherlands meet again on the Women’s World Cup stage — with smaller stakes than the 2019 title game won by the Americans — and the Dutch team collecting injuries at a terrible time of the tournament.
The Netherlands will most likely be without forward Lineth Beerensteyn, who was hurt early in her team’s 1-0 victory over Portugal to open the tournament when they play the Americans on Thursday in New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington.
The Americans are the two-time reigning World Cup champions and Netherlands coach Andries Jonker said on the eve of the match “we would need a miracle” for Beerensteyn to be ready to play.
”And if that doesn’t happen, then she won’t participate,” he said.
The Netherlands came to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand already missing leading scorer Vivianne Miedema, who ruptured her ACL while playing for Arsenal in December. The forward is the Netherlands’ leading scorer with 95 goals.
Just before the team’s first match against Portugal in Dunedin, Miedema posted a photo of herself on social media as a little girl cheering for her team. She’s cried, she said, watching the Netherlands play without her.
“Although I’ve known I won’t be able to play in this World Cup for about seven months now, it’s still been pretty tough and emotional,” she wrote.
Jonker said the team is considering shifting players to shore up its attack, and he could try a one-to-one replacement with Katja Snoeijs.
Thursday’s game is a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final, which the United States won 2-0 for the team’s second straight title and fourth overall.
The United States is undefeated in all but one of its meetings with the Dutch — the first game in 1991.
“America has been one of the best teams in world for a long time. I think they still have so much quality on the pitch,” Netherlands midfielder Jackie Groenen said. “But I think we’re growing, too. And that makes the distance maybe different now than it was before.”
The United States, a 3-0 winner over Vietnam in the opener, and the Netherlands are even on points atop Group E. But the Americans hold the edge with more overall goals. The results of Thursday’s match will be crucial to determine placement in the round of 16.
The top finisher in the group opens the knockout round in Sydney against the second-place finisher in Group G, which includes Sweden, South Africa, Italy and Argentina.
The second-place finisher heads to Melbourne against the top Group G team.
Australia opened the tournament with star player Sam Kerr out injured for at least two matches, and now Kerr’s replacement is hurt, too, heading into a Group B match against Nigeria.
Mary Fowler joined Kerr on the injury list one day before the Thursday match in Brisbane. Fowler, a striker who also plays for Manchester City, suffered a concussion in a recent practice.
The Matildas pulled out a 1-0 victory over Ireland in their opening match and now their depth will be tested.
“I think we could play any one of us right now in the starting 11 and it would be the same as what we do on the training pitch,” midfielder Tameka Yallop said earlier this week. “I think everyone has that ability and capability to step up and be a star at any point.”
Building depth has been a priority for Tony Gustavsson throughout his first three years in charge of the Matildas. Shortly after he was hired, a December 2020 performance report released by Football Australia showed the program had the least overall depth of the 12 leading nations analyzed.
The Matildas’ struggles to replace injured defender Clare Polkinghorne during the 2019 Women’s World Cup contributed to their exit in the round of 16, their worst finish since 2003.
Nigeria was pleased with its 0-0 draw against Canada in the opening match, and the Super Falcons have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four matches. The big moment for Nigeria was when goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie stopped Canada star Christine Sinclair’s penalty kick.
One team could earn its first ever victory in the Women’s World Cup when Portugal and Vietnam meet in Group E.
Odds were stacked against both teams when they landed in the same group as the United States and 2019 runner-up the Netherlands. It’s the first appearance at the World Cup for both Portugal and Vietnam, and both were losers in the opening matches against the two powerhouses.
Portugal’s tournament started with a 1-0 loss to the Dutch and Vietnam dropped a 3-0 match to the Americans. Both teams now have a chance to score their first World Cup goals in the match played in Hamilton, New Zealand, and, perhaps even grab a win.
The loser of this match will likely be eliminated from advancing in the tournament with a game remaining in group play.
“When you come to the World Cup in this situation everything is new — first goal, first game, first winner, first draw, everything is new,” Portugal coach Francisco Neto said. “We worked a lot to give this happiness to the Portuguese people. We felt a lot the support of the Portuguese, and we want to give that to all our supporters so we will try our best.”
Portugal with play without midfielder Fatima Pinto, who is injured.
The Selecao are a decent defensive team and have given up only two goals in their last four matches. The Vietnam match gives Portugal its first shot at a team ranked lower in the world — Portugal is ranked 29th; Vietnam is ranked 32nd — but Neto isn’t overlooking the opponents. He was impressed with how Vietnam played the U.S. in defeat.
“I think the Vietnam team were very brave. They had a great performance against the world champions,” Neto said. “It is the first time that we are playing with a team that is lower than us in the ranking. That does not affect anything — the pressure, or the responsibility of representing our country. None of that changes, depending on your opponent.”
Even though Vietnam was not steamrolled by the United States, its squad did not get a single shot off and were dominated in time of possession as Vietnam controlled the ball just 34% of the game.
Vietnam has not scored in its last three games.