Who will follow Japan into the last 16?
Defending champions Japan have so far justified their billing as favourites at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015™, becoming the first team to book their place in the Round of 16 after only two matches. While the Nadeshiko can now go into their final group game against Ecuador on Tuesday 16 June with the pressure off, the tension could not be greater for the other sides competing on Tuesday. The other encounter in Japan’s Group C is an all-or-nothing affair, while in Group D all four teams still harbour hopes of reaching the last 16.
Match of the day Nigeria - USA, Vancouver, 17.00 local time
With their current tally at four points, the USA only need a draw to progress to the next round or a win to top the group. In contrast, not even the three points will necessarily guarantee safe passage for the Super Falcons, who have a solitary point going into this match. The odds seem to be very much in favour of the Stars and Stripes, who have four wins from four games against their African opponents, scoring 16 goals while conceding just twice. Their most recent meeting in the 2007 group stage ended in a narrow 1-0 victory for USA.
The other matches The statistics for the other game in Group D are similarly one-sided. In their nine previous meetings, Sweden have emerged triumphant on six occasions, scoring 20 times along the way, while Australia have just a solitary win and seven strikes to their name. The two teams last competed against each other in Germany four years ago, with the Scandinavians sealing a 3-1 quarter-final victory on their way to a third-place finish. With two draws so far in Canada, the Swedes have yet to reach their full potential, while Australia are a step closer to reaching the knockout stages for the third Women’s World Cup in a row after beating Nigeria.
The teams have been allocated distinct roles in Group C ahead of the final round of matches. Holders Japan have already qualified for the Round of 16 and have a chance to rest one or two players against Ecuador. Although their South Americans will be focused on leaving the tournament on a high note, progress seems highly unlikely after two heavy defeats: a 6-0 rout by Cameroon and a 10-1 thrashing by Switzerland.
The situation is entirely different for Switzerland and Cameroon. Both teams have three points so far and are keen to gain direct qualification to the knockout stages in their first Women’s World Cup. The European side go into the match with a slight advantage thanks to their more favourable goal difference.
Player to watch Ramona Bachmann may only be 24 years old but she has already played a key role in this competition. The Swiss star impressed against world champions Japan and newcomers Ecuador with her incredible ability to read the game, strong technique and dribbling skills. Although she failed to score against the Asian side, she made amends by netting a hat-trick against La Tricolor. This midfield dynamo's contribution will again be crucial if the Eidgenossinnen are to overcome the Black Queens and reach the Round of 16.
The stat 3 – With Lotta Schelin, Lisa Dahlkvist and Therese Sjogran all in Canada and starting the first two group games, Sweden have at their disposal all three goalscorers from their encounter with Australia four years ago, while the Matildas’ sharpshooter that day, Ellyse Perry, was not selected for the squad this year.****
The words “We need a championship at a higher level to enable us to compete at a major tournament. Every match contributes to our development process. We’re learning from difficult experiences and need to keep improving so that we can taste success in the future.” Vanessa Arauz, Ecuador coach
Match schedule (all times local) Group C Ecuador - Japan (Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg, 16.00) * *Switzerland - Cameroon (Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, 15.00) **
Group D Nigeria - USA (BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, 17.00) Australia - Sweden (Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, 18.00)