WWC 2015: Best and Worst of Match Day 7 – Group D

Our daily guide to the best and the worst of today’s Group D action in the 2015 Women’s World Cup!

What Happened

The USA sealed their position as the frontrunners to progress to the next round while the Matildas’ sensational victory over Nigeria sees them move up to second place and gives them real chance of taking out the second automatic progression spot. However it’s all still left to play for as victories for Sweden and Nigeria in their final matches can see them still escape the Group of Death.

The Matildas lined up against the African Champions knowing that collecting all three points would be vital to their chances of escaping the Group of Death. While the Australians took some time to settle into the match they eventually got a reward for their positive play taking a 1-0 lead into the break on the back of Kyah Simon’s goal set-up by captain Lisa De Vanna.

Australia doubled their lead after the break against the run of play with big-game star Simon getting her second. Nigeria were improved in the second half but all the hallmarks of their performance against Sweden – decisiveness, speed, clinical passing – were all absent against the Matildas and despite having plenty of possession and shots the Super Falcons never really looked in the match.

The Australians played well to frustrate Nigeria and close the game out in a very seasoned and professional performance for a young group of players. Confusion surrounded the end of the match when referee Stephanie Frappart called time after just one added minute despite the fourth official signalling an additional four minutes.

The United States went into their match against Sweden knowing that capturing all three points would see them the first team in Group D to qualify for the Round of 16 while the Swedes were looking to bounce back following a disappointing performance against Nigeria. Both teams struggled to get a foothold early in the match but by the time the first half whistle blew it was easy to see why both teams were considered two of the pre-tournament favourites in a half dominated by slick triangular passing.

The second period continued in a similar fashion to the first with free-flowing play running end to end allowing little apart from the occasion half chance. The US had gained control of the match by the midway point of the second half and peppered the Swedish box with corners and crosses but still couldn’t find a telling touch.

Sweden weren’t without their chances to take the lead and desperation from Meghan Klingenberg did just enough to head Caroline Seger’s shot into the cross-bar and out of the danger zone to keep the Americans on equal terms. Both teams had their chances in the closing stages but the 0-0 score line stood as a testament to the quality of both teams.

Standout Performances

Great performances all over the park for the Aussies including Lisa De Vanna, Alanna Kennedy and Samantha Kerr but the stand-out was two goal hero Kyah Simon. The 23-year-old always seems to play her best when Australia’s need is dire and her performance against Nigeria was no exception. Take nothing away from Michelle Heyman who has done the green and gold proud in her 36 appearances. But Simon should be the starting striker form now on, no exceptions.

The playing style deployed by both the US and Sweden didn’t lend itself to individuals standing out in the match but there was plenty of strong showings from both nations in attack and defence. As usual Sydney Leroux was impressive and looked dangerous for the red, white and blue while the defensive line was commanded well by Julie Johnston. Veteran midfielder Lina Nilsson was strong on the ball during her spell and the best for the Swedes while their defence can take great confidence from the match particularly Jessica Samuelsson who saved a certain goal and finished the match with a stylish bandage for her head-wound.

Needs Work

The Super Falcons need to do some soul-searching over the next couple of days as they hardly resembled the team that put the rest of the competition on notice with the 3-3 result against Sweden.

Against the Scandinavians the Nigerians slickly moved the ball around constantly finding quality passes which allowed them to control possession and dominate the game. Let’s not forget two of Sweden’s goals came from set-pieces. But by the end of match against the Matildas the Super Falcons had completely lost their shape and seemed to have no discernible tactical approach. Rapid improvement is need as they’ll be facing the USA in their last match.

Few criticisms to level at the Americans and the Swedes as their goal-less draw was a result of two evenly matched teams playing effective structured defence. If both teams play similarly in their next match-ups they will each have a great chance of getting through to the knockout stages.

What Next

Team USA are still in the prime position for qualification as they currently sit on four points and face off against Nigeria on the final day of Group D. The Nigerians are currently on one point and will need nothing short of a miracle to progress. The Super Falcons will need to win against the Americans by as many as possible, hope for a draw in the other match and pray they go through via FIFA’s complicated three-way tie ruling.

With the Americans the front runners to go through all eyes will be on the Australia vs Sweden match next Tuesday with the victor set to progress alongside the States to the Round of 16 and based on their performances it should be a cracking match.

However for the teams that don’t qualify directly there is still hope as the structure of the tournament allows some of the third placed teams to go through to the next stage, meaning no match is a dead rubber.

Goal of the Day

It has to be an Australian goal and Kyah Simon’s first goal was great team play sealed off by a smart run and finish. Katrina Gorry surged out of the midfield and played the ball to Lisa De Vanna who made a blistering run towards the 18 yard box. De Vanna found Simon on a silky bent run and the Sydney FC legend neatly flicked it over the diving keeper.

Miss of the Day

Let this section take nothing away from the performance of Samantha Kerr, she was excellent for the Matildas and if not for Simon would have been the best player on the park. But she really should have had at least one goal, possibly two.

Towards the end of the second half Kerr arrived back post for an Emily van Egmond free kick trying to volley it home. Afterwards the horror on her face showed the realisation that if she used her head they would have been even more ahead.

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