Late penalty sends Dutch women through to World Cup quarterfinals

2019 FIFA World Cup ball
2019 FIFA World Cup ball. June 23, 2019Photo: Liondartois / Wikimedia Commons

A controversial penalty in the 90th minute of the Dutch women's national football team match against Japan handed Oranje a 2-1 victory at the Stade de la Route de Lorient in Rennes, France on Tuesday night. The victory in the last Round of 16 match in the 2019 World Cup sends the OranjeLeeuwinnen through to the quarterfinals, where they play Italy on Saturday.

Striker Lieke Martens scored both of the Dutch team's goals. She was named Player of the Match for her efforts in front of a packed stadium that included thousands of orange-clad Dutch fans. 

The scoring started in the 17th minute during the Dutch squad's second chance of the match. Midfielder Sherida Spitse sent the ball into the area on a corner kick, which connected with forward Lieke Martens. She flicked the ball at the goal from the upper-left corner of the six-yard box and it deflected off the foot of Japanese forward Yuika Sugasawa, rolled through her legs and went into the far corner of the goal far away from keeper Ayaka Yamashita.

Sugasawa nearly made up for the deflection two minutes later when she received the ball in the area on the other side of the pitch. She got a shot off from about 12 yards away near the penalty spot that went past goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, but bounced off the post and out of play.

Left midfielder Yui Hasegawa brought the match level in the 43rd minute. A series of passes eventually placed the ball at the feet of striker, Mana Iwabuchi, who sent the ball brilliantly through to Hasegawa. As Van Veenendaal came off the line fast, perhaps too fast, and charged the midfielder. Hasegawa flicked the ball up over her head and into the top of the net.

Japan had a handful of good chances in the first 30 minutes of the second half, but perhaps the two best came back-to-back in the 79th and 80th minutes. Iwabuchi sparked a brilliant attack with a lovely through-ball into the area, that led midfielder Hina Sugita past defender Dominique Bloodworth. Sugita, clear on goal, delivered a shot above Van Veenendaal that struck the crossbar.

The Japanese attack continued with a string of four lovely offensive passes that set up substitute midfielder Yuka Momiki. Her hard strike was knocked aside by Van Veenendaal.

Lieke Martens finally put the Dutch side up 2-1 with a penalty in the 90th minute. The low ball struck the right side of the back of the net as Yamashita jumped the other way. The penalty was awarded when the Oranje Vrouwen kept control during their best attack in the second half. Captain Saki Kumagai was given a yellow card when a shot from top Dutch goal scorer Vivianne Miedema struck Kumagai's left arm as she stood in the area. The penalty decision was reviewed by the video assistant referee for two minutes before the penalty decision was affirmed.

While some football commentators said it was clear that Kumagai's arm was outstretched, away from her body, thus necessitating both the penalty and the yellow card, former Dutch men's team striker Pierre van Hooijdonk disagreed. Now an analyst for broadcaster NOS, Van Hooijdonk said it was not clear that the contact with Kumagai's arm was intentional.

Oranje managed to hold the ball for 54 percent of the match, though Japan looked to be the better team in the second half. Both teams managed 12 chances, with the Dutch side edging out Japan 5-4 in shots on goal. Both had eight fouls, with Kumagai's yellow card the only booking of the match. The Netherlands also held a slight edge over Japan on passing accuracy (80%-77%). 

For the Dutch women, it was their fourth straight victory in the tournament. Oranje defeated each team in their group play to enter the Round of 16. They have won their last seven matches in a row, and are unbeaten in their last eight. The squad's last loss was on March 4 against Poland during the Algarve Cup in Portugal.

Saturday's quarterfinal match against Italy will take place at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes, France. The match is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday.