Alex Mott·31 July 2023
Alex Mott·31 July 2023
Groups C and D came to an end on Monday in what’s turning out to be one of the best World Cup group stages ever.
Scorers: Raso 10′ 39′, Fowler 58′, Catley (PEN) 90+4′
Australia brushed off the pressure of their Group B decider as they beat Canada 4-0 to finish top.
The co-hosts’ came into this clash in Melbourne looking for a win that would guarantee them passage into the last 16.
But they would have to do without their star player, Sam Kerr, who was missing for the third straight game with a calf injury.
The Aussies got off to the best possible start as Hayley Raso fired in from the edge of the area. The goal was initially ruled out for offside but after a VAR check, the referee confirmed the strike and sent the home crowd into raptures.
Canada pushed for an equaliser but it was the home side who thought they had doubled their advantage just after the half hour mark.
After some pinball in the penalty area, Mary Fowler thrashed one into the roof of the net but the goal was ruled out for a close offside.
It wasn’t long, though, before Australia did score again. Raso was all alone at the back post and tapped in after an in-swinging corner.
After the break it was, once again, Australia who looked most dangerous going forward. Kyra Cooney-Cross had a long-range effort that was tipped over the bar whilst Steph Catley was impressing in the midfield. And it was Fowler who eventually got her goal as she arrived late in the area and tapped into the unguarded net.
As the game went into stoppage time, Australia were awarded a penalty that was converted by Catley.
Nigeria held on for a 0-0 draw with the Republic of Ireland to book their place in the knockout stage.
Group B leaders Nigeria took on bottom side Ireland with a chance to make the last 16 for only the third time in the Women’s World Cup.
There was a huge let off for Ireland early on as Louise Quinn gave the ball away to Asisat Oshoala but the Barcelona striker dragged her shot wide of the far post.
Despite that effort, it was Ireland who were enjoying a monopoly of possession but struggled to really find an opening in the final third.
Into the second half and once again it was Nigeria who had the best chance to open the scoring but Courtney Bronsan produced one of the saves of the tournament to keep things level.
Ireland were looking leggy as the game went into its last quarter but boss Vera Pauw wasn’t convinced by her bench and decided not to make a change. It took until five minutes to go for the Girls in Green to put fresh legs on but it was too little too late as they got a share of the spoils.
Scorers: Miyazawa 12′ 41′, Ueki 28′, Tanaka 63′
Japan became the new favourites for the 2023 World Cup as they beat Spain 4-0 in a masterclass of a performance.
The two sides at the top of Group C had a straight shoot-out to see who would finish first but it was Spain who were doing all the early pressing. Aitana Bonmati was looking assured, once again, in the middle of the park, and she almost scored after six minutes as she ghosted into the box but put her effort just wide of the post.
But it was Japan who opened the scoring after 12 minutes as Hinata Miyazawa beat the last line of defence and cooly slotted home.
Japan were flying now and soon doubled their lead as Riko Ueki found space in the area, cut in on her right foot, and saw a deflected effort beat Misa Rodriguez in the Spain goal.
This was a counter-attacking masterclass from Japan and they got their third of the match just before half time as Miyazawa raced in again and struck from the right-hand side of the box.
Into the second half and Japan were quite happy to sit back, pack players into their own half, and allow Spain to keep passive possession. The European side were reduced to a few pot-shots from the edge of the area but never really troubled the goalkeeper.
And Japan completed the most impressive win of the tournament so far as Mina Tanaka curled an effort into the top corner with seven minutes to go.
Scorers: Herrera 47′; Mweemba 3′, Banda (PEN) 31′, Kundanahi 90+3′
Zambia won their first ever Women’s World Cup match as they beat Costa Rica 3-1 to finish third in Group C.
Group C’s bottom two teams went up against each other in Hamilton but it was Zambia who struck an early blow.
Defender Lushomo Mweemba volleyed home after only three minutes to score their first goal of the tournament.
Zambia then got their second soon after as Barbra Banda scored from the penalty spot.
It would forever go down in history as Banda scored the 1,000th goal in the Women’s World Cup.
After the break however, Costa Rica finally got themselves together and scored almost immediately as Daphne Herrera found the back of the net.
But Zambia managed to restore their two-goal lead right at the death as Rachael Kundanaji scored from close range.