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Netherlands edge out debutants Portugal in Women’s World Cup opener

Defender Stefanie van der Gragt scored the only goal as 2019 runners-up the Netherlands beat debutants Portugal 1-0 in their opening game at the Women’s World Cup on Sunday.

Van der Gragt’s early header was given following a VAR check after initially being disallowed for offside and the Dutch held on in a Group E contest played under a closed roof in Dunedin.

The win sets the Netherlands up nicely for a mouthwatering showdown on Thursday with holders the United States, who beat them 2-0 in the final in France four years ago.

The Dutch no longer appear to be the force they were in 2019, with influential coach Sarina Wiegman having departed to take the England job and prolific striker Vivianne Miedema missing the World Cup as she recovers from a knee injury.

However, new coach Andries Jonker named a line-up that featured seven players who started the 2019 final, plus new Manchester City recruit Jill Roord, who came off the bench in that match.

And it was one of their most experienced players who got the only goal in the 13th minute in front of a crowd of nearly 12,000.

Centre-back Van der Gragt, who has over 100 caps, got up to powerfully head a Sherida Spitse corner beyond Portugal goalkeeper Ines Pereira. 

The assistant referee’s flag came up for an offside against Roord, who was standing just in front of the line, but a review confirmed that she was not obstructing Pereira and the goal was given.

Portugal, who came through the play-offs to qualify for their first World Cup, struggled to create chances with substitute Telma Encarnacao producing their first shot on target in the 82nd minute. 

The Netherlands saw Danielle van de Donk come close early in the second half.

But they suffered a blow as forward Lineth Beerensteyn came off with a knock late on.

They will hope she recovers in time to face the USA, while Portugal will hope to get their first World Cup victory when they play Vietnam – beaten 3-0 by the Americans on Saturday — next.

Standings provided by Sofascore


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