Group F: USA 3-0 CHILE
Well it wasn’t thirteen goals this time, but the USA did more than enough to book their place in the round of sixteen with a comprehensive victory over Chile. In front of 45,594 noisy fans in Paris, a first half brace from Carli Lloyd was supplemented by Julie Ertz’s header. Team USA were not able to add to their tally in the second half largely due to a sensational performance from Chile ‘keeper, Christiane Endler. Lloyd did get a chance to complete her hat-trick from the penalty spot but blazed wide.
Jill Ellis made seven changes to her starting line-up and would later introduce three more new world cup players into the fray, which made the US occasionally disjointed, particularly in the second half when starters Ertz and Lindsey Horan were replaced. Jose Letelier made one alteration to his side with Claudia Soto coming in for Yanara Aedo in midfield.
The tone was set early with the US pressing high and earning a series of corners. Lloyd and Morgan Brian had early sights of goal which came to nothing, but Chile’s hearts were in their mouths on 4 minutes when Lloyd got on to Brian’s cross from the right and had two bites at finishing – denied first by the post and then by Endler.
A game of attack versus defence ensued with the Americans looking to put diagonal passes in behind the defence. On 11 minutes this approach got the breakthrough they needed. Abby Dahlkemper’s cross was only half cleared and Lloyd got to the loose ball first, hammering it left-footed past Endler on the half volley.
More pressure and more corners came and went with the USA camped in the Chile defensive third. US left back Tierna Davidson, in particular, was offering real quality from the deal ball.
Lloyd had another header saved just before the second goal arrived on 26 minutes. It was not without some controversy. Mallory Pugh appeared to let the ball run beyond the goal line before hitting her cross into the defender, but the match official called it for the US. Davidson’s driven corner picked out the onrushing Ertz and she glanced her header inside the near post.
Jill Ellis’s side extended their lead ten minutes later and Davidson was at it again delivering a pinpoint delivery to the edge of the six-yard box where Lloyd just wanted it more than her marker and headed down into the keeper’s bottom right hand corner.
With La Roja Femenina simply unable to get out of their half frustration led to niggly fouls. Just before half time Brian teed up Pugh from another Davidson set-piece but the Washington Spirit attacker fired over the bar.
Ertz went off at half time and on came young forward Jess McDonald, shifting Lloyd into a deeper role behind the front three. Yessenia López replaced Soto for Chile.
Normal service resumed immediately with the Americans on the front foot. Kristen Press was played in behind the defence and cut back to Horan, but Endler got across and saved with her feet. Davidson picked out Lloyd from another corner but the number ten headed wide. Press struck Brian’s cross full on the volley, but Endler made a fantastic reaction save to deny her.
Just past the hour and Lloyd broke through the Chile midfield finding McDonald on the left. She cut inside Galaz, curled the ball round Endler but watched her effort crash off the post.
The US attacks were relentless. Pugh whipped a cross in from the right, McDonald helped it on, and Press must surely have thought her header was goal bound – Endler again finding a way to spring into the right spot and claw away. Carli Lloyd’s header hit the crossbar from McDonald’s long throw-in. Then Lloyd played in Press, America’s liveliest forward in the second half, but Endler was well positioned again, saving with her legs.
In the 78th minute VAR prompted the referee Riem Hussein to award a penalty. Long had been hauled down on the edge of the box during a free-kick routine. It was another decision of fine margins looking as it did outside the box.
Lloyd placed the ball on the spot and then, to the surprise of everyone in the stadium including Endler, drove the wrong side of the post. It was the fourth missed penalty out of twelve given since the start of the tournament. Lloyd would get one more try for her hat-trick on in stoppage time, heading Davidson’s cross well wide.
So, the US progress and now it remains to sort out which of them and Sweden win the group. Despite the more modest looking score line, they passed better than their opponent, tackled better, pressed better, transitioned better, won their battles and looked a menace at set pieces. What’s more, Team USA sent out a message today that no matter who they rotate in they are not significantly weakened as an attacking force.
Chile, meanwhile, go into their 3rd place showdown with Thailand knowing that they were able to keep the score down somewhat – thanks in part to a sensational goalkeeping display, and more concerningly at the cost of no attacking threat whatsoever. They must take some risks now, go more expansive and more expressive. They have nothing to lose.
Player of the match: Christiane Endler, Chile (Could easily have ended up another double figure win for the US without her between the posts)
Group F: SWEDEN 5-1 THAILAND
Thailand’s defensive nightmare at the Women’s World Cup continued with a second drubbing, this time from Sweden. But Chaba Kaew were at least able to celebrate their first goal of the tournament.
Sweden opened the scoring on 6 minutes from a set-piece on the left. Elin Rubensson whipped the ball into the box and Linda Sembrandt got to it before Boonsing in the Thai goal.
On 19 minutes Blågult made it two. Boonsong could only parry Lina Hurtig’s header and, with a static Thai defence assuming the ball would roll out for a corner, Kosovare Asllani retrieved it and slotted.
Three minutes before half time Boonsong inexplicably punched a ball she could have caught and Fridolina Rolfö picked it up on the edge of the penalty and rifled into the keeper’s top left-hand corner.
The Swedes continued to dominate the ball in the second half but showed they just didn’t have the fiercely ruthless streak of group rivals USA. It took until the 81st minutes for them to extend their lead when substitute Olivia Schough and Magdalena Eriksson combined well to cross for Hurtig who headed in to make it four.
The crowd of just over 9,000 at Stade de Nice might have thought that would conclude the story and the match would fizzle out, but not a bit of it. Kanjana Sung-Ngoen, who had looked Thailand’s most threatening attacker, got on to Miranda Nild’s long ball down the right. Sensing that once again she wasn’t going to get any support, she outpaced Sembrandt, broke into the box and fired past Lindahl at her near post.
It was a lovely moment, which VAR ruined around 90 seconds later, adjudging that Thailand’s Chinwong had handled in her penalty area – one of the harsher video assisted decisions. Rubensson stepped up and drove the ball into the keeper’s bottom right hand corner.
So, Sweden progress to the round of 16 before their highly anticipated encounter with the USA, which effectively takes the worst of the pressure off both sides. For Thailand, well their goal difference is so poor they are playing for pride now, something they’ve continued to show, at this World Cup, that they have in abundance.
Player of the match: Lina Hurtig, Sweden (Took her goal well and just made life so difficult for the Thai back line)