Farewell, but not goodbye

It is said that “one man’s joy is another man’s sorrow”, and this is certainly the case among the 24 teams at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™. The group stage at the seventh edition of this competition is now over after being contested by an expanded number of participants for the first time. And while 16 sides are already preparing intensively for the next round, eight more have been packing their bags to head home.

Although the footballing world can now look forward to some fascinating knockout encounters, there is also a lingering sense of nostalgia about the departing characters who have left their mark in Canada. Read on to relive these moments yourself.

Taking part in a World Cup is something many players only experience once or twice in a lifetime, but for Mexico goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago, Canada 2015 marked her sixth such appearance on the international stage – and she is still only 20 years old. Although Ceci conceded five goals in a game for the first time against France and is still waiting for her first win in the competition, there is no doubt that things are still moving in the right direction. “Women’s football has been on the up in Mexico for some time now,” she explained. “Players are better prepared, demonstrate a good understanding of tactics and move more intelligently than before; I’ve noticed real progress between the two World Cups I’ve played in. I believe we can win the trophy at some point – it’s just a matter of time. Hopefully I won’t have to wait ten years to experience it.”

Another player heading home without a win is Erin Nayler in the New Zealand goal, despite only having to pick the ball out of the net three times in as many games. She showed off her skills on several occasions, particularly against the hosts. Although she was rewarded with the accolade of Live Your Goals Player of the Match after that goalless draw, she was ultimately unable to prevent the Kiwis from making their fourth group stage exit in four Women’s World Cups. After playing 12 games in the sport’s most prestigious competition, New Zealand’s must continue their wait for a maiden victory for at least the next four years.

Ecuador’s Angie Ponce’s unique impact on Canada 2015 took place in the space of 90 minutes as she not only became the first player to score two own goals at a World Cup but, to add insult to injury, netted both in the same match. Fortunately, the defender etched her name in football’s history books for another more positive reason that day, becoming the first Ecuadorian to score at a Women’s World Cup by converting a penalty in the second half of her team’s game against Switzerland.

Shirley Cruz was Costa Rica’s captain, midfield linchpin and on-pitch mouthpiece for the coach, sustaining Las Ticas’ hopes of a Round of 16 spot until the very end of the group stage. Unfortunately two draws – 1-1 with Spain and 2-2 against Korea Republic – together with a narrow 1-0 defeat by Brazil were not enough to see her team through to the next round. “I think we’re getting the message across that there a lot of women in this Central American country who can play football very well,” she said in a recent interview with FIFA.com. “I hope this World Cup opens a lot of doors.”

There is no doubt that Veronica Boquete is to Spain what Cruz is to Costa Rica. The 28-year-old is La Roja’s key player, having been nominated for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2014. Although she appeared to put the European side on the path to victory with her goal in their third and crucial match against Korea Republic, it was ultimately not enough for them to progress. Despite this disappointment, Boquete gave her captain’s armband, socks and shoes to fans at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Stadium after their group stage exit, fulfilling their every wish by posing for selfies, signing autographs and shaking countless hands.

Ange Nguessan of Côte d’Ivoire made history for her country against Thailand by scoring their first goal at a FIFA Women’s World Cup before making doubly sure her name would not be forgotten by firing home the most stunning strike of the match against Norway. Her powerful 20-metre shot flew past goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth and into the top left corner, making it a serious contender for the Goal of the Tournament award FIFA.com will be presenting in a few days’ time. The 24-year-old ultimately provided two of the Banyana Banyana’s three goals.

Asisat Oshoala arrived in Canada amid plenty of early praise, having left its shores after last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup clutching both the adidas Golden Boot and Golden Ball. The 20-year-old refused to crumble under the weight of expectation, quickly living up to her billing by scoring her first senior World Cup goal in Nigeria’s 3-3 draw with Sweden and baffling the Scandinavian defence on several occasions together with her team-mates. Unfortunately, a 2-0 defeat by Australia and a 1-0 loss to USA prevented ‘Superzee’ and her colleagues from reaching the knockout phase.

Orathai Srimanee’s brace not only helped Thailand to their first points at their first-ever World Cup but also made the diminutive striker her country’s leading goalscorer in the competition. She started off in futsal before eventually making her breakthrough on turf and earning herself a place in the annals of sporting history. Although the Asian side suffered 4-0 defeats at the hands of footballing giants Germany and Norway, there is no doubt that their 3-2 victory against Côte d’Ivoire made up for much of this disappointment. The fact that the team were ultimately only eliminated from the finals on goal difference might provide some further consolation.

It is often said that you can bid “farewell but not goodbye”, something we urge every one of the eight departing nations to remember. We wish them all the best as they prepare to mount a fresh challenge at France 2019!