– The United States certainly deserved their win: they saw more of the ball, attacked in numbers, and had another level to their game. But Nigeria matched them for strength, tackling ability, and passing in the midfield for much of the ninety minutes. They lacked a creative spark, and struggled to build numbers in the attack. Head coach Edwin Okon has been criticised for failing to change things adequately from a losing position, and his role may now be under threat.
The United States finish at the top of Group D. They will face a third-placed qualifier in Edmonton on 22 June, from 18:00 local time. Australia join them in the Round of Sixteen, and they are set to meet Brazil in Moncton on 21 June from 14:00.
Sweden will have to wait and see. Their result means that Switzerland – who lost earlier today against Cameroon – have now qualified as a best third-placed team, by virtue of their +7 goal difference.
* * *
Full-time results: Nigeria 0-1 USA, Australia 1-1 Sweden
90 (+3) minutes: And it is all over. Churlish behaviour from Edwin Okon as he declines Jill Ellis’s hand.
90 minutes: Three minutes of added time to be played.
88 minutes: The ball is headed out to Ayinde, but her first touch is too heavy.
86 minutes: The game is fading out, with the United States reluctant to commit players forward, and Nigeria struggling to carve chances.
80 minutes: Ten minutes left, and as things stand the United States will qualify as group winners. Remember, even if they were to concede twice, they’d still go through as a best third-placed finisher. Australia remain in second, with Sweden third.
79 minutes: Tobin Heath comes off, with Christie Rampone on in her place.
75 minutes: Francisca Ordega finds space in the United States area, but her shot is blocked. And then she makes way for Cecilia Nku.
74 minutes: The excellent Megan Rapinoe is replaced by Shannon Boxx.
73 minutes: So with less than twenty minutes remaining, Nigeria are a woman down and need to score twice.
70 minutes: Holiday’s free-kick is straight at the goalkeeper.
69 minutes: And now a fifth yellow, as Nnodim concedes a foul on the edge of Nigeria’s penalty area. Nnodim has already been booked – and two yellows equal one red. Nnodim is sent off.
67 minutes: Okobi is given a yellow card for challenging with two feet. That’s a fourth yellow for the Nigerians.
64 minutes: Alex Morgan is replaced by Sydney Leroux. Morgan receives a tremendous reception.
62 minutes: Krieger surges down the right and plays a low cross which Morgan looks set to convert. But the ball slows up off the pitch, and Dede smothers.
60 minutes: Both Wambach and Chukwunonye are back on the pitch. Over in Edmonton, it is still all square at 1-1.
58 minutes: Wambach and Chukwunonye bang heads competing for a header. Chukwunonye receives a yellow card and will miss Nigeria’s next World Cup match; and worse, she looks hurt after the clash, on the sidelines holding her head.
56 minutes: Wambach wins a header in the penalty area, but the ball is driven in and she can only manage a glancing touch.
55 minutes: Oparanozie hits a free-kick from a long way out: it is a shot when one might have expected a cross, and it goes close but lands on the roof of Solo’s net.
51 minutes: Nigeria look to get a shot away on the edge of the United States area, but a promising move breaks down.
49 minutes: Two substitutions for Nigeria. Dike, lively in the first half, is replaced by Oparanozie; and Sunday comes off for Ayinde.
47 minutes: Wambach blocks an attempted clearance on the half-way line, and the ball is played over the top for Morgan. She attempts to lob Dede, but doesn’t get the ball high enough.
45 minutes: The United States keep hold of the ball and work it down the left to Morgan. She slices her effort well wide; then moments later nobody can capitalise on her low cross.
45 minutes: We are back out for the second half.
* * *
– Remarkably, that was Abby Wambach’s 183rd goal for her country. Those goals stretch over 243 appearances.
– The United States enjoyed 63% possession in that half, and eight shots to Nigeria’s four. They had six corners, with Nigeria earning three. The United States were also offside a lot: on five occasions, compared to none for Nigeria.
45 minutes: And almost immediately, the half-time whistle goes in Vancouver.
44 minutes: On the stroke of half-time, Krieger wins a corner down the right. A long cross reaches Wambach at the back post, and her left-footed volley hits the back of the net. Nigeria 0-1 USA
43 minutes: Nigeria threaten to break, but Oshoala misplaces her pass.
42 minutes: A couple of corners come and go for the United States. Then Rapinoe finds space down the right, and pushes the ball past Ebi only to be scythed down by the Nigerian. That’s a yellow card, and Ebi will be suspended for Nigeria’s next World Cup game.
38 minutes: A pass is played through to Morgan down the left hand side, but Dede is out quickly to cover.
37 minutes: Nnodim picks up a yellow card for a foul on the half-way line as the United States attempt to break.
35 minutes: Rapinoe is caught late, but after a lengthy setup, the resulting free-kick wanders wide.
33 minutes: A chipped cross doesn’t quite reach Wambach in the penalty area. Rapinoe then picks up the ball, and her long shot is tipped round the post by Dede. Rapinoe appeals for a handball from the corner, but nothing is given.
28 minutes: Another slick Nigerian move forces Sauerbrunn to cut the ball out for a throw.
24 minutes: A fantastic through-pass from Dike finds Oshoala through on goal, but Johnston just gets a toe on it to ensure that the United States concede only a corner.
21 minutes: A couple of surging runs down the right give Nigeria a corner, and they win another, but the ball is cleared.
16 minutes: After Wambach is called offside, Rapinoe drives a shot towards goal from distance, which is pushed behind by Dede for a corner. Nothing comes of the corner kick.
15 minutes: Sweden equalise through Sofia Jakobsson. Australia 1-1 Sweden
14 minutes: The ball falls to Heath in the area, but she can’t get her shot off.
13 minutes: After an effort from Rapinoe dribbles through to the goalkeeper, Lloyd hooks a shot wide from distance.
11 minutes: Dike receives the ball in the box and lays it off to Oshoala, who forces Solo into her first save of the match.
7 minutes: Holiday fires in a free-kick from the left of Nigeria’s area, and Johnston tries to get her head on it, but it is blocked by Dede in goal. The ball comes back in, and Wambach heads across the goal for Johnston to put it into the back of the net – but she is called offside. That was a really tight call: the two Americans were alone in front of goal, but Johnston was only fractionally ahead of Wambach when the ball was headed across.
5 minutes: Australia take an early lead over Sweden. Captain Lisa De Vanna is the scorer. Australia 1-0 Sweden
5 minutes: Rapinoe gets in behind Sunday down the right, but again her ball into the box is overstruck.
4 minutes: Rapinoe curls a free-kick into the Nigerian penalty area, but it is too long for everyone and drifts wide. The United States have started with a lot of energy.
0 minutes: We are underway at BC Place in Vancouver, and the United States hoist the ball forward, immediately on the attack. But Morgan is offside.
* * *
– We’ll be following Nigeria vs. USA while keeping an eye on Australia vs. Sweden. The teams:
Nigeria XI: Dede, Nnodim, Chukwunonye, Ebi, Ebere, Ordega, Nwabuoku, Okobi, Sunday, Dike, Oshoala
(Substitutes: Edoho, Ohale, Nkwocha, Oparanozie, Umotong, Ayinde, Whyte, Ayila, Ohadugha, Nku, Ohiaeriaku)
USA XI: Solo, Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg, Rapinoe, Holiday, Lloyd, Heath, Wambach, Morgan
(Substitutes: Leroux, Rampone, O’Hara, Engen, Boxx, Rodriguez, O’Reilly, Brian, Chalupny, Harris, Naeher, Press)
– Who will join Germany, Norway, Canada, China, Netherlands, Japan, and Cameroon as guaranteed qualifiers for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of Sixteen? This is the only question that need concern you over the next couple of hours. We are ready for the final round of matches in Group D.
This has been called the World Cup’s ‘Group of Death’, because three of its participants are in the top ten of the FIFA World Rankings. The United States are ranked 2nd in the world; Sweden 5th; and Australia 10th. The United States won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999; while Sweden finished runners-up in 2003.
Rounding out the group, Nigeria are ranked 33rd. That is still enough to make them the top-ranked African side in the competition; but Cameroon’s performance earlier today suggests African sides may be grossly undervalued.
A 3-1 opening victory over Australia, followed by a 0-0 draw against Sweden, have given the United States four points. They sit on top of Group D. Australia beat Nigeria 2-0 in their second game, and they are in second place with three points. Sweden drew their opening fixture versus Nigeria, with the match ending 3-3; with two points, Sweden are in third place in the group, while Nigeria are in fourth with just a single point.
All four sides remain in contention. We will see Nigeria vs. USA and Australia vs. Sweden. A point is all the United States need to qualify automatically for the Round of Sixteen; and even if they lose, they will qualify as a best third-placed finisher. But a two-goal win would allow Nigeria to move above them and finish among the top two. A draw for Sweden will not be enough to secure qualification; but if they beat Australia, they will go through and the Australians will have to wait.
Once more, the group phase of the competition has comprised six groups of four teams. The top two sides from each group will qualify for the Round of Sixteen, along with the four best third-placed teams. Qualification depends first on points, with three points for a win and one for a draw; then on goal difference; then goals scored; before the results of matches played between sides are considered.