A Canada player in a red shirt and black shorts leaps for a header while flanked by two Nigerian players in lime green uniforms.
Canada played to a scoreless draw against Nigeria in its opening match.Credit…Hamish Blair/Associated Press

The next stretch of games in the Women’s World Cup will see several favorites to win the tournament look to build some momentum — or, in Canada’s case, find some — and display the dominance for which they’re known.

Canada, which left the field frustrated after playing a scoreless tie with Nigeria in its first game, will look to rebound against Ireland. Japan and Spain, who both cruised in their openers, will look to repeat the feat.

And then on Thursday afternoon in New Zealand (Wednesday night Eastern time), the United States will try to set aside an uneven performance against Vietnam and produce the kind of authoritative victory its fans expect.

Japan and Spain can lock up places in the knockout round with a repeat of the winning performances they turned in to start the tournament.

Japan’s five goals were the headline from its opening win against Zambia, but beneath that was another promising statistic: Japan did not allow a single shot.

If the Japanese turn in a similarly one-side performance against Costa Rica, which struggled to contain Spain, it may restart conversations about their status as true championship contenders.

To do so, Japan will have to contain Raquel Rodríguez, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League who is her team’s best hope of turning things around.

Spain opened the World Cup in impressive style against Costa Rica. Zambia’s tournament has already taken a bad turn.

It is down to its third-string goalkeeper, after the starter Hazel Nali was ruled out of the World Cup with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and her backup Catherine Musonda earned a suspension by getting two yellow cards in the Japan game.

That doesn’t bode well for a Zambia team that allowed five goals in its first game, especially as it faces a mesmerizing offense that is just now starting to return Alexia Putellas, the reigning world player of the year, to full fitness after a knee injury.

Ireland lost to Australia in its opening match but had several chances. It needs at least a draw against Canada to keep alive its hopes of advancing from Group B.

Canada, meanwhile, is under pressure to get its first win. But simply scoring a goal or two would be a confidence boost after the veteran forward Christine Sinclair failed to convert a penalty that might have meant a victory — instead of a scoreless draw — against Nigeria.

Adding to the Canadians’ challenges is the number of Irish fans expected to be in attendance Wednesday. More than 10 percent of Australia’s population claims Irish roots, which was part of the reason the Australia-Ireland opening day matchup was moved to a larger stadium.

“We’ve already sensed that there is a strong following,” Canada Coach Bev Priestman said.

But Priestman sees bigger issues than a hostile crowd. She described the Irish as a “horrible” team to play against because of its combativeness and physicality, a “passion” she said her team would have to match.

One of the most highly anticipated matchups of this World Cup comes with huge stakes, since it most likely will determine which of these teams has an easier path out of Group E. But it comes off unsatisfying performances by both the United States (in a 3-0 win over Vietnam) and the Netherlands (1-0 against Portugal) in their opening games.

“We weren’t always clicking on the field,” the United States co-captain Alex Morgan said this week.

The Americans figure to have a tougher task against the Dutch. The Netherlands beat its first opponent, Portugal, by only a single goal, but did not allow a shot on target until the 82nd minute. And therein lies the problem facing the United States: that sturdiness, discipline and organization will be tough to break down.

Their game is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in New Zealand, or 9 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday.

Mathilde Harviken and Ingrid Syrstad Engen of Norway slap hands after a scoreless draw with Switzerland.
Norway’s first job in its third game? Win.Credit…Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Norway is in about the worst position it could have imagined going into its third game of the Women’s World Cup: It has a loss and a draw; its best player, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, did not play on Tuesday because of discomfort she felt during warm-ups; and one of its most respected midfielders, Caroline Graham Hansen, tore into her coach after the game for dropping her from the lineup.

“People talk all the time about ‘standing together as a team’ and ‘standing together as a nation,’” Graham Hansen told the Norwegian broadcaster Viaplay after the game. “It is not true that you should get anything for free in this life. But I thought I had earned a certain amount of respect.”

Still, because of a strange set of results in its group, in which every team but the Norwegians has a win, Norway is very much in play to go from last in the Group A standings to the round of 16 if it can beat the Philippines on Sunday.

The scenarios for advancing at the World Cup can often be convoluted, but we’re here to help. The Upshot has again produced a team-by-team look at who would move on given the possible outcomes for each game, accounting for the complex system of tiebreakers that comes into play each tournament.

The charts show, for example, that Norway — which entered the tournament as the top team in its group based on the FIFA rankings — could use a bit of help from Switzerland. And, conversely, the math shows that Switzerland probably might want Norway to win, too, to give the Swiss some chances to advance even with a loss. New Zealand and the Philippines each can advance with a win, but also with a draw, depending on how things play out.

These scenarios will be updated as each group wraps up its second set of games, giving you an immediate look at what each team will need in its final group-stage game to advance to the knockout rounds.

Alex Morgan of the United States preparing to take a penalty kick.
Alex Morgan of the United States said the team showed “glimpses” of its potential during its first game against Vietnam. “But I feel like we weren’t always clicking on the field,” she said.Credit…Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The game the United States has been waiting for since the World Cup draw was released is finally here: its rematch of the 2019 final against the Netherlands.

Much has changed since the Americans beat the Dutch in France four years ago. Women’s soccer has grown more competitive, with more contenders than ever. The gaps between teams are closing fast.

The United States team is different, too. It is no longer the veteran-heavy team of 2019, a team that was stocked with big-game experience and big-stage savvy.

For forward Alex Morgan, the change is even more dramatic: She’s a mother now. Her daughter, Charlie, is 3, born the year after Morgan won her second World Cup title. “I’m just in a very different place than I was four years ago,” Morgan said Tuesday.

The same is true of her team, both on and off the field. In 2019, it spent a lot of time, effort and brainpower pushing for equal pay, a successful campaign that now lets the team focus (for the most part) on soccer. Good thing, too. Because the Netherlands poses as tough a challenge as ever.

“They don’t give you much space at all to receive and turn or get on the dribble,” Morgan said of the Dutch defenders, calling them “incredibly organized” and physical, but also great in transition. To beat them, she knows, the United States will have to improve on its opening-day performance against Vietnam.

“You saw glimpses of our potential,” Morgan said of that 3-0 victory. “But I feel like we weren’t always clicking on the field. I feel like some of the plays that we had were a little forced or rushed.”



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *