WUHAN, China (AFP) - A much-fancied Denmark beat a determined but outclassed New Zealand 2-0 here Saturday to keep alive their slim hopes of advancing to the knockout stage in the women's World Cup.
Captain Katrine Pedersen found the back of the net first on a well struck free kick in the 61st minute following New Zealender Maia Jackman being booked for a questionable foul on advancing striker Maiken Pape near the penalty area.
Denmark rammed home their advantage five minutes later as a tiring New Zealand were again penalised, once more paying dearly for their errors when Cathrine Paaske Sorensen snapped a header home.
It gave the Danes a key, if unconvincing, victory in Group D and sent the inexperienced but tough-defending Kiwis all but packing from the tournament. For Denmark it was a do-or-die match. After losing to rivals China in their opening game 3-2, they struggled to finish off the New Zealenders, helped by the defensive efforts of captain Rebecca Smith and the experienced Jackman.
Anne Dot Eggers Nielsen was instrumental in her duties as midfield general for Denmark but the veteran of 112 international caps warned they would not beat Brazil in their final group game unless they picked up their intensity.
"I don't think we can win against Brazil with this play," said Nielsen.
"We didn't think too much today. I don't know if it was because we were tired, but we have to think about football if we're going to win against Brazil."
The sixth ranked Danes missed coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller who was serving a two game suspension for unsportsmanlike behaviour, and the lack of a steady hand showed against a side ranked just 23 in the world.
The New Zealenders had little offense to speak of but the Danes, who have been distracted by a case of alleged spying, were unconvincing in their attacks, littered with listless passing and wide shots on goal.
The Kiwis, who were hammered by Brazil 5-0 on Wednesday, face China in their final group fixture on Wednesday.
Mathematically they are still in the hunt but it would be a fortuitous calculus that would see them through.
"We're not out of it," said New Zealand coach John Herdman, before jokingly explaining the complex formula that would allow his team to qualify.
Fellow Group D teams China and Brazil play later Saturday.
|5||B. Falk Hansen|
|8||J. Rydahl Bukh|
|7||C. Paaske Sørensen||66'|
|10||A. Dot Eggers Nielsen|
|Coach: K. Heiner-Møller|
for M. Gajhede 46'
for J. Rasmussen 72'
for C. Paaske Sørensen 86'