RENNES, France (Reuters) – Netherlands goal hero Lieke Martens admitted her side struggled through the closing stages of Tuesday’s women’s World Cup victory over Japan but said a team sometimes need a little luck to progress in the tournament.
Soccer Football – Women’s World Cup – Round of 16 – Netherlands v Japan – Roazhon Park, Rennes, France – June 25, 2019 Netherlands’ Lieke Martens celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Martens’ last-gasp penalty earned them a 2-1 victory and a ticket to the quarter-finals for the first time where they will play Italy in Valenciennes on Saturday.
“Sometimes you need a little luck and that’s what we had. It was tough… we had it really tough towards the end of the game, but it really doesn’t matter in the end. We are so happy with the victory,” she said.
Martens got the first goal for the Dutch only for Yui Hasegawa to level on the stroke of halftime, and see Japan, who hit the woodwork twice, dominate the second half but lack the finishing touch.
Martens is not the team’s nominated penalty taker but said she had felt confident throughout the game and wanted to take the kick.
“I asked Sherida (Spitse) if I could take it because I felt so confident,” she said. “I ran towards her and said ‘may I take it?’ Luckily Sherida agreed, but it was also nerve-wracking waiting to take the kick.”
Martens was the talisman for the Dutch when they won the European Championship two years ago but until Tuesday had looked mostly out of form at the tournament in France.
“Everyone has been expecting a lot from me. Sometimes you can’t fulfill those expectations,” the 26-year-old said.
“Luckily there have been other girls who have helped us to realize our victories. That how it works in team sports. I have played a few poor games and received criticism.
“Criticism has its place so I was pleased I was able to show what I can do against Japan. It was my night.”
Reporting By Mark Gleeson; editing by Sudipto Ganguly