England, USA weather storms to advance
THE DAY REPLAYED **–** On a sun-drenched Monday afternoon in Ottawa, England’s heroics left Norway out in the cold at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, while United States turned up the heat on Colombia in Edmonton.
Performing significantly better than England for two thirds of the match, the Scandinavians took the lead through a fine headed goal from Solveig Gulbrandsen. But the Three Lionesses have blown hot and cold since the beginning of the tournament, and they promptly turned the match around courtesy of a Steph Houghton header and an impressive Lucy Bronze strike.
At Commonwealth Stadium, USA experienced two very different halves against a strong-willed and tactically astute Colombian side. Incapable of finding a way past a well-organised defence during the first 45 minutes, they eventually eased through to the quarter-finals after Colombian goalkeeper Catalina Perez was sent off early into the second period.
Results Norway 1-2 England USA 2-0 Colombia
Goal of the day Norway 1-2 England, Lucy Bronze (76) Loitering with intent just outside the right-hand corner of the box, England’s Lucy Bronze ran onto a short Jill Scott pass and crashed a thunderbolt of a shot past Ingrid Hjelmseth.
The Norwegian goalkeeper had conceded a similar strike to Côte d'Ivoire forward** **Ange Nguessan in the previous match, but this time, rather than providing consolation to a beaten team, Bronze’s long-range effort was enough to see England through to the quarter-finals and send Hjelmseth and her team-mates home.
Memorable moments Pellerud’s prediction: Even Pellerud is not an unfamiliar figure in Canada, having coached the national women’s team between 1999 and 2008. Most fans remember him well, except those that were not born at the time. As the man in charge of Norway was making his way from the dressing room to the pitch, the supervisor of the ball boys and girls at Lansdowne Stadium remarked to his young charges, “There’s the Norway coach, who also used to coach Canada. Maybe he’d like to come back one day.” After laughing loudly, Pellerud gave the children an insight into his future plans: “Perhaps I will come back, and who knows, in a few years, I could be coaching some of you!”
Mind the gap: In the men’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Colombia are presently sitting in fourth position, 23 places ahead of USA. In the women’s version, the positions are reversed: the Americans lie second, 26 spots higher up than Las Cafeteras. However, on the pitch there was initially little to choose between the teams at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on Monday. At half-time, the statistics read 54 per cent possession for USA versus 46 for the Colombians, seven shots to six, and 12 fouls to three. A red card for the South Americans at the beginning of the second half proved crucial to the outcome of the match, however, and in the end football logic was respected.
Ice-bucket challenge: The extreme heat in Ottawa did not just affect the two sets of players. Not long before the teams walked out onto the pitch, England supremo Mark Sampson, still dressed in shorts and flip-flops, kneeled down beside a bucket full of ice, plunging his hands inside and splashing himself with the icy water. A few minutes later, he was back in a shirt and trousers as Norway’s energetic performance proceeded to give him cold sweats. By the end of the match, however, he was likely feeling completely revitalised as his resilient players pulled off a memorable victory.
Olympic options: While it may not currently be top of the agenda of many football fans, whose minds are focused on events on Canada, the results of the past few days have also had an impact on the 2016 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Rio de Janeiro. With the top three European teams at the Women’s World Cup qualifying for Rio, Germany and France enjoyed a double celebration at the culmination of their Round-of-16 ties, as in addition to sealing a place in the quarter-finals, they also automatically booked a berth at the Olympic Games. Because England do not compete as a separate nation in the Olympics, only the Netherlands can now join the French and Germans. But in the event of a defeat at the hands of Japan in the Round of 16, the Dutch would not be completely out of the running, as they, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland would then compete in play-offs to decide the identity of the final European qualifier. In other words, the Japanese will have strong backing on Tuesday evening.
The stat 1 – Abby Wambach needs just one goal to draw level with Brazilian star Marta at the top of the all-time Women’s World Cup scoring charts. The American striker had the magic number of 15 in her sights at one point, but sent her penalty wide of the post versus Colombia in Edmonton.
The words “Normally when I get into that position, I pass the ball on so that someone else can shoot. But the coach and my team-mates have told me that I need to try my luck from time to time,” Lucy Bronze, England defender.
Next matchday Tuesday 23 June Round of 16 Japan-Netherlands (BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, 19.00)
(All times given are local)*