The Netherlands are having quite the European Championship, winning all three group matches to win Group A and advance to the quarterfinals. Denmark also advanced as the group runners-up after defeating Norway, 1-0.
As for Norway, the 2017 EUROs could not have been more disappointing. Picked as a dark horse by many ahead of the tournament, the 2013 runners-up did not score a single goal, dropping all three group stage matches to finish last in their group. It’s the first time in 20 years that Norway has been eliminated in group play.
It was not for a lack of opportunity though. Although Denmark took an early lead after Katrine Veje sent in a Pernille Harder ball, Norway finished the match having outshot Denmark, putting 7 shots on frame. However, another solid performance in goal by Denmark’s Stina Lykke Petersen and some frustrating encounters with the woodwork prevented Norway from scoring an equalizer.
Norway’s best opportunity of the day came via penalty near the end of first-half regulation. Ada Hegerberg earned the penalty after being tripped up inside the box, and Caroline Graham Hansen stepped to the spot. She put a well-placed shot on target, but Petersen was able to get her hands in front of the ball to deflect it back out. Norway nearly capitalized on the loose ball, but it was deflected in the scramble and eventually cleared out to prevent Norway from equalizing.
In a game of inches, the woodwork can be a player’s best friend or worst enemy. In Norway’s case today, it was their worst enemy, especially in the second half. In the 85th minute, the Nordic side was denied two consecutive times when first Hansen’s “shross” deflected off the near post, only to see the following shot by Ingrid Wold bounce off the crossbar. As hard as Norway fought for the equalizer, it would not have been enough as they needed to win by three (and for Belgium to lose) to advance.
The Netherlands had a much easier road to advancing, needing only a draw to win the group and move on to the elimination round. The Belgians, making their first ever EURO appearance, would advance with a win. With that in mind and eager to prove their worth, they put up the toughest challenge for the Dutch yet.
Belgium held the Netherlands scoreless until the 27th minute when Maud Coutereels, bandaged up after an earlier collision that resulted in both her and Anouk Dekker requiring stitches, fouled Jackie Groenen in the box. Much the same way she did in the Netherlands EURO opener, Sherida Spitse converted the resulting penalty to put the host nation on the board first.
However, unlike in that 1-0 opening win, the Netherlands did not walk away with the clean sheet. Instead Tessa Wullaert lobbed a high ball from distance that, for some reason, Dutch keeper Sari van Veenendaal could not get a hand on, and Belgium had scored the equalizer just shy of the hour mark. But Lieke Martens would score the game winner in the 74th minute after being on the receiving end of a Jill Roord through ball. Martens then ran on goal and into space before firing off a shot. The ball took a slight deflection of a Belgian defender to change its angle enough so that Justien Odeurs was unable to make the save.
With the win, the Netherlands advances to the quarterfinals, where they will take on the runners-up for Group B on Saturday, July 29. Denmark will take on the winner of Group B on the same day. Times are still to be determined, but both matches will once again be streamed live on ESPN3.
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