EDMONTON (Reuters) - Canada and China will provide the main event when they kickoff the Women’s World Cup on Saturday but the Netherlands and New Zealand will provide an intriguing nightcap to opening day.
For New Zealand it will be their fourth World Cup but arrive in the Alberta capital searching for a first win on the sport’s biggest stage.
Considered the tournament dark horse by many, New Zealand had the easiest passage into the tournament needing just five days and three matches to secure their place outscoring their opponents 30-0.
But the 17th ranked Football Ferns are sure to find the going much tougher in Canada starting with a young, talented Dutch side, who are surprisingly making their World Cup debut.
“Every game is going to be close and this one will be no different,” New Zealand coach Tony Readings told reporters. “Holland are 12th in the world for a reason.
“Of all the teams I have seen play recently they are the one that embraces possession style football more than most teams.
“They’ve got the players to do it and play to their strengths.”
Despite having never played in a World Cup the Dutch do not lack for experience with five players with more than 100 caps.
The Dutch are well organized defensively and have plenty of power up front in veteran Manon Melis and 18-year-old Vivianne Miedema, who could emerge as one of the players of the tournament.
Melis, 28, has spent 12 years on the national team and is her country’s all-time leading scorer with 54 goals while Miedema led the Dutch with 16 goals in the qualifiers, including the decisive away goal in Italy that ensured they advanced.
“We have a good team, everybody is talking about Miedema and she is a great player, a young talent but I think we have more than that, it is a team,” said Dutch coach Roger Reijners, who has set the goal of finishing among the top three European teams, which ensures they qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“We are newcomers and it is good for us and our team to play games against world class teams make us better.
“Of course we want to win our games but we will see how far we go.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury