With a 1-0 victory over Nigeria Tuesday at BC Place, the U.S. booked a trip to Edmonton for the Round of 16. Its opponent has yet to be determined, but will likely be the third place finisher in Group F, which could be either Colombia or England.
Coach Jill Ellis shook things up to start with some intriguing lineup changes, giving injured Alex Morgan her first World Cup start ever over Sydney Leroux, who started the two previous matches. Tobin Heath got the nod over Christen Press on the left flank as Megan Rapinoe moved to the right. The U.S. came out flying in the first 10 minutes, but after several missed opportunities, the game slowed down.
The U.S. had 18 set pieces against Nigeria. It took 12 free kicks and six corners and only scored once. It was a beautiful goal by Abby Wambach, a volley off a Rapinoe corner in the dwindling seconds before halftime, but with the amount of numbers the Americans push forward, plus the fact that Nigeria had been weak on set pieces against Sweden and Australia, the U.S. should have capitalized on those opportunities.
Through three World Cup games, no one has played better for the U.S. The 23-year-old center back has done everything. She gets stuck in on every set piece and had a gorgeous goal called back as offside in the eighth minute. Depending on which camera angle you look at, it could have been a goal.
She also had one of the most critical saves of the game. With the match tied 0-0 in the 25th minute, Nigeria forward Asisat Oshoala broke away down the middle of the field and got a shot off that looked like it was going to skate right by Hope Solo. But Johnston’s foot sent it wide at the last minute. Throughout each game, she makes critical tackles in the midfield, smart defensive plays on the back line and tactical moves in the box while in the attacking third.
BUMPY ROAD: Sweden’s path was already tough. It’s about to get tougher. The fifth-ranked team led by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage will face top-ranked Germany in one of the early marquee matchups of the elimination stage. Sweden drew Group D, the so-called Group of Death, to start the World Cup, joining No. 10 Australia, the second-ranked United States and perennial African champion Nigeria. Sweden was surprised by Nigeria with a 3-3 draw in the opening match before playing to a scoreless tie with the U.S. The Swedes wrapped up the group stage with a 1-1 draw with Australia, concluding the group in third place.
GROUP D SURVIVORS: With its first-place finish in the Group of Death, the United States headed to Edmonton to face No. 28 Colombia, the surprise of the opening round after a 2-0 upset of France. Colombia, however, will be without its starting goalkeeper in the Monday match because of accumulated yellow cards. Second-place Australia has a challenging opponent in No. 7 Brazil, which won all of its group-stage matches. The two teams meet on Sunday in Moncton.
CAMEROON ADVANCES: Cameroon is the lowest-ranked team left. As just the second African nation to advance out the group stage after Nigeria in 1999, Cameroon will face No. 16 China on Saturday in Edmonton. China finished second in its group after a 2-2 draw with New Zealand. The match was courted controversy when coach Hao Wei was sent off the field after the ref ruled he had interfered with Ria Percival on the sideline. The replay was inconclusive whether Hao had stumbled. Cameroon, ranked No. 53, secured its spot in the knockout round with a second-place finish in Group C after a 2-1 victory over Switzerland.
HAPPY HOSTS: Canada scored just two goals in the opening stage at the World Cup, but it was enough to send the team through as the top finisher in its group. The eighth-ranked Canadians opened the tournament in Edmonton in dramatic style after a gala opening ceremony: A 1-0 victory over China on a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time by star forward Christine Sinclair. Canada played to a 0-0 draw with coach John Herdman’s former team, New Zealand, before wrapping up the stage with a 1-all draw with the Netherlands.
Korea Republic came from a goal down to defeat Spain 2-1 and win through to the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ knockout stage for the first time, leaving the Europeans are eliminated. Spain dominated the first half, taking the lead through Veronica Boquete, only for Cho Sohyun and Kim Sooyun to revive the Taeguk Ladies.
The opening minutes saw Spain’s Natalia Pablos spin and fire on the turn just inches wide. Spain got a deserved reward just prior to the half-hour mark as their iconic midfielder Boquete scored her first Women’s World Cup goal by adroitly side-footing home following a marvellous run and pull-back from Marta Corredera.
Pablos was at it again after being allowed far too much latitude in the penalty area, but she fired straight at the goalkeeper from a 45-degree angle. An action-packed second half opened with Ji Soyun starting a move which ended with Cho Soyun heading home the equaliser.
Silvia Meseguer and Corredera had strong chances to score for Spain, but it was Korea Republic who scored the crucial next goal as Kim Sooyun’s overhit cross surprised the goalkeeper. The drama continued until the very last minute of the game, with Sonia Bermudez directing her free-kick on to the crossbar. A draw would have kept Costa Rica in second but instead the South Koreans went through for a meeting with France.
France scored twice in the first eight minutes in Montreal as they brushed aside South Korea 3-0 in a Women’s World Cup last-16 game on Sunday to set up a quarter-final meeting with Germany, also in Montreal, on Friday. They will hope to do better than their male counterparts, who lost 1-0 in the quarter-finals against Germany in the World Cup in Brazil a year ago.
All the French starters were drawn from Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain and they proved far too strong for a South Korea team making their first appearance in the knockout round. The French players possessed great technical skill and it was no surprise when Marie-Laure Delie opened the scoring in the fourth minute, ending a fast, flowing attack with a cleverly placed shot that trickled over the line.
Four minutes later Élodie Thomis fired home after racing into the box to pick up a pass from Eugenie Le Sommer and South Korea were doomed. Le Sommer herself drove into the area in the 48th minute to set up an easy third goal for Delie. France, ranked third but whose best World Cup performance is fourth in 2011, will have a tougher game against Germany, who crushed Sweden 4-1 in their last-16 meeting on Saturday and have scored 19 goals in their four games in Canada.
Alex Morgan saved the United States. In her second World Cup start, Morgan scored the first goal in a decisive U.S. 2-0 knockout-round victory over rival Colombia. The week leading up to the round of 16 match was full of smack talk. Colombia players predicted they would beat the Americans because “they talk too much” and have more heart.
That looked like it could have been the case for most of the match — on the pitch and in the stands, with Colombia fans sounding like the majority at Commonwealth Stadium with their flags, drums and vuvuzelas.
But after an underwhelming first half, the USA dominated the second and moves on to play China on Friday in Ottawa in the World Cup quarterfinal. It’s definitely a little bit a sigh of relief,” she said. “As a forward, we always want to score goals, we’re expected to score goals, and we needed that breakthrough after not converting the penalty. It was a breath of fresh air.” Morgan has played 155 minutes in the last two matches combined — both U.S. victories — more than six times as many as she appeared in the first two against Australia and Sweden.