MONTREAL — Canada and the Netherlands will close out Group A competition on Monday night at Olympic Stadium as both teams are in need of some desperate goal scoring and 3 points. The pressure is squarely on the players of both national teams and coaches John Herdman and Roger Reijners.
Dutch striker Lieke Martens and Canada captain Christine Sinclair have been the only players to find a goal for either side. If Canada and the Netherlands decide to bunker down and play a possession-oriented tactical chess match, this game could be a defensive juggernaut with very little chances to produce goals.
“It’s game three, we’ve got four points. Every game we wanted to get three points,” Herdman said. “We wanted to make sure we won the group and then control our destiny with where we play and who we’re playing against. We’re still in control and nothing has changed. We’re here to win the game and put a performance on for the people that come out and watch us and put ourselves in a great position to end up on the west.”
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Herdman was not willing to suggest that Canada are a better quality team than the Netherlands, as he did prior to playing New Zealand (that game ended scoreless). Herdman was also tight-lipped in terms of giving a tactical analysis of the Netherlands, like he also did with New Zealand. He stated that it was a “different team, different approach and a different press conference.”
Herdman knows his defenders will be up against a challenging trio of Dutch forwards and a strong support option from Holland.
“I think what we know about the Netherlands is that they have a very formidable attacking lineup and when that attacking lineup connects it’s got real talent,” Herdman said. “A bit of everything. You’ve got Martens on the wing who is a tricky player. You’ve got (Manon) Melis with pace. On the other side you’ve got a new young wonder kid of Dutch football playing up top who seems to be able to score a few goals as well and (Danielle) Van Den Donk playing behind her. That’s a front four that can really test any back four in the world. It’s going to be a challenge, it’s not going to be easy for our defense to keep a clean sheet.”
Reijners is expecting a very difficult match from Canada. The host country will have an expected crowd of over 40,000 fans at Olympic Stadium cheering and supporting them. Reijners knows it will be a hostile environment and he will make sure his team is ready for what awaits them.
“Obviously Canada is playing at home and it will be enormous pressure,” the Netherlands’ coach said. “It’s a very difficult game because we are playing against your homeland. A lot of spectators in the stadium and it will be very noisy. It will be a great and fantastic game. What we need is a result.”
Martens scored a screamer against New Zealand in the opening match for the Netherlands. Other than Martens’ strike, the Netherlands have been unable to find the back of the net. Martens, Vivianne Miedema, and Melis have had chances to contribute, but have been unfortunate not to find success. Reijners spoke about his teams lack of scoring.
“We can talk about the three in front, but I think we have to talk about our whole team,” Reinjers said. “We watched the game against China so I think it’s the matter of the whole team. Not only three strikers.”
The Netherlands felt that they were almost ran off the pitch against China. The Chinese controlled the 1-0 match and dictated how the Dutch played. Several players had to change their game just to keep up with China. It was a struggle to obtain the ball and keep possession against China. Melis would like to see her team play more together and less far apart on the pitch.
“We have to play more compact, tight on the field,” Melis said. “There was so much space on the field and we had to run all alone. We couldn’t help each other. If we want to have a good result against Canada we have to play tight and more compact.”
The 28-year-old Melis was not willing to outright call the match vs. Canada a must-win. With 3 points secured, it is possible that the Netherlands could advance to the knockout round with a draw as one of the four best third-place teams.
“If you want to go to the second round, you need to win, I think,” Melis said. “They of course are the favorites. We have to come back together and have positive energy and be positive about the game.”
China and New Zealand will be playing in Winnipeg at the exact same time. The pending result will most certainly play a factor in how Group A concludes. If China can get a win they will be on 6 points. Reijners thinks that he and his coaching staff will not be able to ask for an updated score from the sidelines.
The winner of Canada-Netherlands will easily have the upper hand for the knockout stage. Neither team has a clear advantage heading into the match. Whichever can finally fill the net will successfully triumph.
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