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Utah Royals in France: Round 2 Review

USA and Canada through; New Zealand and Scotland hang by a thread.

USA v Chile: Group F - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Scotland v. Japan (1-2)

I am well known for being a Rachel Corsie/Scotland National Team Homer. This game ended 2-1 in favor of Japan, and it absolutely should not have ended in the scoreline that it did. That said, the scoreline is the scoreline, and Scotland will have to deal with it. Like in the previous game, Scotland didn’t successfully break down the opponents defense and look consistently dangerous until the last 15 or so minutes, but there was a lot of bad reffing in this game, or in different terms, a lack of VAR. In the 36th minute, Rachel Corsie was given a yellow card and conceded a converted penalty on an extremely, extremely questionable call that was clearly embellished, and then again later in the game, there was an easy handball in the box that should have led to a kick from the spot for Scotland. Questions remain, and who knows if they would have been able to convert it to earn a point, and in what ways would that have changed the match. The game of ‘what if’s’ is easy to play, but ultimately, the game came down to a banger of a goal by Mana Iwabuchi in the 23rd, the penalty conversion in the 37th, and a screamer of a shot from Lana Clelland in the 88th to get one back and narrow the goal differential.

Up Next: Argentina, 1PM, Wednesday June 19th, Fox Sports 2

This game is going to be huge. Four third place teams advance, and at times, Scotland has seemingly gone extremely defensive in order to prioritize the goal differential which can be so key in advancing. The way it looks, the winner of this game could very likely sneak into the Round of 16. I said this last time around, but again, call it a must-win.

Canada v. New Zealand (2-0)

Desiree Scott and Katie Bowen clashed it out in the midfield for a battle between Canada and New Zealand, but the real story on paper heading in was the showdown between two of the world’s best defenses and lackluster offenses. And, that’s exactly what it was. With the sheer amount of firepower split between a Canadian front, the continued failure to put together the finishing pieces and lack of purposeful possession remains concerning. Holding 73% of the first half possession means very little if you cannot do anything with it. The halftime talk certainly changed things for Canada as three minutes into the first kick of the second half Houston Dash player Nichelle Prince made the exact same run she did a dozen times down the flank and found Jessie Fleming who slotted it in for goal. The next snippet of the game was more akin to the first half as New Zealand failed to string more than a couple of passes together at once, barely getting the ball. Canada continued to have movement and buildup, but seemingly not a lot of faith in an ability to score outside of a handfull of moments including forcing Erin Nayler to make one of the saves of the tournament in the 72nd minute. Come the 79th minute, the continued attacking pressure and possession again payed off as a header from Christine Sinclair went off the crossbar, but Nichelle Prince was able to get a foot on the rebound giving her both a goal and an assist.

On the Royal Watch, Desiree Scott played smart, held possession, broke up play, made some tackles and all around did the same things we are accustomed to seeing her do week in, week out, just wearing a different jersey. Katie Bowen did some really, really good things as well. Like the below for example. Excellent in the midfield, with her team only holding 30% of possession, she wasn’t able to do much with the ball, but was consistently solid on the defensive end.

Up Next For Canada: Netherlands, 10AM, Thursday June 20th, FOX
With both teams guaranteed to advance to the knockout round, this game will ultimately serve to decide who tops the group and the fixture for the Round of 16. The Dutch will be much stiffer competition compared to Cameroon and New Zealand, but given the strength of the Canadian backline and the Dutch playing far below their own capabilities, this could turn out to be a very interesting game.

Up Next for New Zealand: Cameroon, 10AM, Thursday June 20th, Fox Sports 1
This will be the Kiwi’s 15th World Cup game. In the 14 games they have played they are winless, drawing 3 and losing 11. With both teams sitting bottom of the group on 0 points and sharing a goal differential of -3, this is a must-win if either team wants to give themselves a shot of making it through to the round of 16. In the two previous games, New Zealand has conceded huge chunks of possession, and in the upcoming game, I expect possession statistics to look much more even, and the New Zealand defense to hold steady. The question remains, can they score?

United States v. Chile (3-0)

Chile was met with seven changes to the starting lineup including Utah Royals players Becky Sauerbrunn and Christen Press moving in, and Kelley O’Hara moving out to the bench. Much like Thailand, Chile dealt with an onslaught of USA attacking motion despite a changed cast. It only took Carli Lloyd 11 minutes to get her first goal and 35 to get her brace. Within that time period, Julie Ertz flicked in a beautiful backward header in the 26th minute. In the 81st minute after turning to VAR for a penalty, Lloyd had a shot at a hat trick but put the ball far wide.

On the Royal Watch, Sauerbrunn’s name was hardly called, but for a center back name, that is a very good thing. Christen Press looked dangerous, taking multiple shots, but she was unable to execute as every shot she took was seemingly was a magnet to the body of Chile’s world-class keeper Christiane Endler.

Up Next: Sweden, 10AM, Thursday June 20th, FOX

Not a whole ton to talk about here. Both teams are into the Sweet Sixteen, and the only question that remains is who is it that will top the group. While this should be the United States hardest test yet, it can still be categorized as “unchallenging.”

Group A

Nigeria v. South Korea (2-0)

With both teams coming off a loss, this game became a must-win for both teams, and that win would ultimately go to Nigeria. The scoring started in the 29th minute off a South Korean own-goal. The 58th minute brought a tap in goal completely unmarked to level the score, but Lee Geummin was ruled offsides. The young Nigerian star Asisat Oshoala would put in the 2-0 dagger in the 75th minute after doing some great footwork around the Korean keeper for an easy tap in. While chances are important, soccer is ultimately a game of finishing, and despite only having two shots on target compared to seven as well as only 43% of the possession, Nigeria was able to finish one of their chances after getting a little bit of luck earlier in the game.

France v. Norway (2-1)

Just as every game they play in this group, France came in as the favorites, although they would not have as easy a time as they had the last time around. While the first half had plenty of movement, the goalscoring wouldn’t happen until the second half when Valerie Gauvin slid the ball in on a cross just seconds in. In the 54th minute, center back Wendie Renard would get her third goal of the tournament, although not in a way that she would have wanted as putting in the own goal leveled Norway. Sixteen minutes later, a high boot to the knee would create a penalty for France and an opportunity for Le Sommer to easily put it away for her second goal of the tournament as well as Les Bleus their second win.

The result officially puts France in the Round of 16 and officially eliminates South Korea, unless they can both beat Norway and overcome their negative -6 goal difference.

Group B

Germany v. Spain (1-0)

Both teams came into this platform game of the group on three points after Spain had a comeback win against South Africa, and Germany beat out China by a goal in a very physical match. The storyline was Dzsenifer Marozsan for Germany missing the game after breaking a toe, and the perfect opportunity for Spain to upset Germany and put themselves in an optimal position to win the group. But throughout the game, Spain blew it. They blew it multiple times. First in the 14th minute when Nahikari Garcia had a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, playing high enough where she was near the penalty shot but pushed it wide. And then again in the 42nd minute, in what is one of the weirdest sequences I have ever seen as Sandra Panos made a diving save to keep the German shot out of the net, but then stands still, not even attempting to go after the rebound despite it being right in front of her, watching Sara Dabritz toe-poke it into the goal. Contextually making it even odder, outside of the one goal, Panos had several elite saves throughout the game both before and after the goal, enough for her to probably have been the player of the game.

The result of this game puts Germany into the Round of 16, and leaves the game between Spain and China to decide who will be the group’s runner up. In order to make 2nd in the group, China will need to win, and Spain will get by with a draw.

South Africa v. China (0-1)

With both teams coming off losses, this was going to be a very important game for both teams, especially South Africa who were eager to pick up their first-ever World Cup point. For the majority of the game, and especially in the first half, Banyana Banyana sat and allowed China to hold possession, unable to do anything on the counter-attack. At halftime, China dominated 57% of the ball possession as well as created 12 attempts compared to South Africa’s 1. The second half was a little bit better for the debutant nation, getting 4 more attempts and narrowing the possession gap to 47% to 53%, but ultimately, Li Ying’s 40th-minute goal off an incredible volley was the decider.

Following this loss, South Africa are all but officially eliminated, and China will have the opportunity to take the runner up slot in the group with a victory, and nothing less in their final group game against Spain.

Group C

Australia v. Brazil (3-2)

Brazil came into this tournament on a nine-game losing streak. They handily beat Jamaica to get three points in the first game of the tournament and had a fantastic first half against one of the tournament contenders in Australia. The first goal came from a Marta penalty, making her the first player to score in five World Cups, and the second off a Cristiane header to the bottom corner in the 38th minute. After that, the script would flip as Australia scored one back in the last minute of stoppage and then eventually level on a pass/shot from Chloe Lagarzo from range in the 58th. Australia would score a third unanswered on a controversial own goal with Sam Kerr offsides in the 66th. Ending 3-2, it would be that own goal which would not only keep Australia alive but put them in a promising position going into the last round of the group stage at 3 points, while simultaneously handing Brazil their first group stage loss since 1995.

Jamaica v. Italy (0-5)

There are two major storylines in this game. The first is Jamaica, another game, another multi-goal shutout loss, as the Reggae Girlz despite having some incredibly exciting attacking talent, as well as a 19-year-old rising star in a goalkeeper, continue to be let down by an unorganized midfield and a porous defense. The other story is Italy, surprising many pundits, putting a target on their back, and proving that their win at the death over Australia was not a fluke after a drumming Italy 5-0. So far, this has been one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Lots of runs, lots of breakaways and despite what the scoreline alludes to, Jamaica competed, and they played with heart, looking threatening a lot. In fact, they had 12 attempts, only one less than Italy, but in order to move from threatening to dangerous you need to have support, and Khadija Shaw did not have much of that on the buildup, and when she did, she often opted to go at it alone. Italy put it together, and they were dangerous. The floodgates opened in the 12th minute, and the impressing Sydney Schneider originally saved the PK, but a few inches off the line, it was taken again and would be the first of three goals in a span of 46 minutes for Cristiana Girelli, who became the third player to get a hat trick at this year’s tournament. Already up 3-0, Aurora Galli would come off the bench in the 65th minute and hammer in the coffin with a brace of goals, 10 minutes apart in the 71st and 81st minute.

The win officially makes Italy the third team to qualify for the knockout rounds and cements an incredibly daunting task for Jamaica.

Group D

England v. Argentina (1-0)

Coming into this game, both teams were in a relatively favorable position. England had won their first game; Argentina drew theirs, and with Japan beating Scotland earlier in the morning, both teams would be relatively in charge of their own destiny regardless of what happened in this game. That said, this is the World Cup, and there is no such thing as only ‘semi-high stakes.’ The first half was a barrage of attack from England, who took 11 shots while concurrently dominating possession, allowing Argentina to only complete 41 passes through 45 minutes. Despite the onslaught, putting numbers behind the ball as well as the skill from keeper Vanina Correa, who made some incredible saves in the run of play, as well as a penalty paid off. In the 60th minute, Argentina put numbers for perhaps only the second or third time all day, and they were punished for it as England countered and finally beat the Argentine bunker. Ultimately, they took a risk, and they lost, but Argentina making some of the best teams in the world work is one of the best stories of this World Cup.

With the win, England becomes the 4th team to advance to the round of 16, although Argentina can still get in as a third place team if they get a win over Scotland.

Group E

Netherlands v. Cameroon (3-1)

Projected to be a very attacking, high-paced game, but if anything, it was groggy, physical and not exactly dazzling. Much like New Zealand, Cameroon had reduced a very lethal Dutch attack to looking disorganized. That is, until the 41st minute, when Shanice van de Sanden, off a give and go, was able to lob the ball to Vivianne Miedema running centrally to give the game its opening goal. Not even two minutes later, Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene got on the other end of a beautiful long ball, drawing Dutch keeper Van Veenendaal off her line, heading it over her and sliding the ball in from inches away. The excitement would keep going to open up the second half as a run off a set piece sent in a crossed ball, which bounced around for defender Dominique Bloodworth to put in, making it 2-1 for the Dutch and giving the game it’s the third goal in less than a 10-minute span. In the 80th minute, Cameroon had a great chance to level, but a bare hit to the shin just moved the ball off the goal. Four minutes later, Holland would put a dagger in Cameroonian dreams of a comeback as Miedema put in a second for a brace, a brace that would not only secure the Netherlands a place in the knockout round but sketch her name as the Dutch all-time leading scorer.

Group F

Sweden v. Thailand (5-1)

Much like the game that came before it, for Thailand, this game was largely written before it happened. Possession split 72% to 28% and getting outshot 18 to 1 while down three goals, the first half was all Sweden. That said there was some significant improvement. Thailand was able to create movement in the final third, and the return of now healthy first-choice goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing, who came up impressive on multiple occasions, helped Thailand. The scoring opened up in the 6th minute when Linda Sembrant smacked in a header off of a free kick. A second would come in the 19th as Boonsing darted across goal to make a save of the tournament but Kosovare Asllani smacked in a rebound. Shortly before half, Fridolina Rolfo put in a beautiful third from outside the box. Come the 81st minute, Linda Hurtig would tack on another one, making it four goals on the day. In the 91st minute, Thailand would get one back from Sung-Ngoen lighting up Thai faces across the stadium in a positively chilling manner. Although the last kick of the game would come from a soft penalty in the last minute of stoppage, which was converted by Elin Rubensson.

With the result, Sweden ensures themselves a place in the knockout round, and puts Thailand in a near impossible position to get in.