Heavyweight quartet advance, Thais and Dutch must wait

THE DAY REPLAYED – The final round of games in Groups A and B of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ saw Germany, Canada, Norway and China PR all advance to the Round of 16 on a day where statistical curiosities were as rife as top-quality goals and action.

For example, when the Germans crossed paths with Thailand at the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup in 2004, their six goals in the 6-0 victory recorded that day were all scored by players present in Canada, namely Lena Goessling (two), Celia Sasic (also two), Simone Laudehr and Anja Mittag.

As for Norway, they continued with a tradition of emerging victorious from encounters with African opponents – after Nigeria, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea, the Scandinavians added Côte d’Ivoire to their list of World Cup conquests.

Canada’s record against the Netherlands gave the hosts reason for optimism prior to their clash in Montreal. By stretching their unbeaten run versus the Dutch to 11 matches, the Group A winners emulated all previous host nations by reaching the knockout stages, despite conceding their first goal of the tournament.

Last but not least, China PR also improved their statistics against New Zealand by avoiding defeat for the 14th time in 17 outings, an outcome that did no favours to the Football Ferns, who needed a victory to remain alive in the competition.

Results Group A China PR 2-2 New Zealand Netherlands 1-1 Canada

Group B Thailand 0-4 Germany Côte d’Ivoire 1-3 Norway

Goal of the day *Côte d’Ivoire 1-3 Norway, Ange Nguessan (71)

*Ange Nguessan had already created a little piece of history by scoring Côte d’Ivoire’s first-ever Women’s World Cup goal against Thailand. Against Norway, she guaranteed that the fans watching in Moncton would not forget her name any time soon, conjuring up the most memorable goal of the match with a powerful shot from well outside the box that rocketed past Ingrid Hjelmseth into the top right-hand corner of the net. The quality of the strike was such that it immediately became a contender for the Goal of the Tournament, the shortlist for which will be revealed by FIFA.com in due course.

Memorable moments *Brief belief: *Rebekah Stott was the youngest player in the New Zealand starting XI that lined up against China PR in Winnipeg. She also happens to be one of two Kiwi stars – the other being Betsy Hassett – who are not currently on the books of a club. This undesirable situation did not prevent her from opening the scoring and temporarily giving her team real hope of qualifying for the last 16. Unfortunately, the dream did not last, and it is consequently during the long plane journey back to New Zealand that she will celebrate her 22nd birthday, on 17 June.

Young guns: Canada’s Ashley Lawrence is also part of her team’s younger generation. Four days after turning 20, she brought a two-and-a-half year goal drought to an end, notching her first international strike to propel her country to the next round. Although eligible for the Hyundai Best Young Player award, she faces some serious competition in the shape of compatriot Kadeisha Buchanan, five months younger and again in sparkling form today, and Norwegian attacker Ada Hegerberg, whose brace against Côte d’Ivoire propelled her to the upper reaches of the Canada 2015 scoring charts.

Retail therapy: Although they do not yet know if they will still be in Canada in a few days’ time to take part in the Round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams, the Thai players are already prepared should they soon have to catch a return flight. Shortly after the final whistle, they could be seen browsing Winnipeg Stadium’s official Women’s World Cup shop for souvenirs of their first adventure at the prestigious tournament. While today’s 4-0 defeat may be weighing heavily on their minds, the gadgets, merchandise and miniature cuddly versions of Shueme, the Official Mascot of Canada 2015, will likely just weigh down their luggage.

The stat 7 – Silvia Neid possesses sufficient experience to know that an entire squad wins a World Cup rather than 11 individual players. It was no therefore no surprise to see her make no fewer than seven changes to the team that drew with Norway, and only retaining Nadine Angerer, Annike Krahn, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Celia Sasic to face Thailand.

The words “I can’t say that I’m happy with the result, but we just played the best team in the world, so we can’t complain about our performance too much. We’ll learn lessons from this defeat that will help us to improve in the future,”* *Duangnapa Sritala, Thailand defender.

Next matchday *Tuesday 16 June 2015 (all times local) * Group C Ecuador-Japan (Winnipeg, 16.00) Switzerland-Cameroon (Edmonton, 15.00)

Group D Nigeria-USA (Vancouver, 17.00) Australia-Sweden (Edmonton, 18.00)