There are big games to be played in Group B where it is a must-win game for the Matildas as they enter their final group game against Canada where three points will confirm their spot in the Round of 16. In the other Group B matchup, Nigeria are in a similar position to Canada as a win or a draw will ensure a place in the knockouts where they will face the Republic of Ireland.
But before those games, nations from Group C will face off as Spain and Japan will play against each other to figure out who finishes first and second. Whereas Costa Rica and Zambia will look to win their final game at this year’s Women’s World Cup.
Let’s see how all these teams went in their final group-stage matches.
Costa Rica vs Zambia:
With Costa Rica and Zambia winless in their two games in the group stage, both teams will look to finish their Women’s World Cup campaign with a win at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium. With their first chance in this match, Zambia scored their first Women’s World Cup goal after a corner taken by Avell Chitundu found Lushomo Mweemba who volleyed it past Costa Rica’s keeper Daniela Solera to put them in the lead.
Zambia continued to look threatening every time they went to attack with shots from Racheal Kundananji, Susan Banda and Avell Chitundu, but weren’t able to capitalise on their opportunities in front of goal. In the 29th minute, Costa Rica’s captain Katherine Alvarado committed a foul on Zambia captain Barbra Banda in the box and Zambia were given a penalty. Banda stepped up to take the penalty which she scored doubling their lead.
Costa Rica had three chances within a minute to score from Maria Coto, Shieka Scott and Fabiola Villalobos but they weren’t able to put the ball in the back of the net. Valeria Del Campo got close to cutting Zambia’s lead back to one just before the break, but Catherina Musonda responded with a straight-forward save.
Coming back into the second half, the South American side got a goal in the 47th minute where Valeria Del Campo headed it down towards Melissa Herrera who tapped the ball into the goal to cut Zambia’s lead back to a single goal.
However, Zambia regained their two-goal lead in the third minute of added time where Barbra Banda was able to find Racheal Kundananji in space and tucked it past Solera to end their final World Cup game with a win.
Japan vs Spain:
With both teams already confirming their place in the Round of 16, Spain and Japan’s final group match at Wellington Regional Stadium will determine who finishes as group winners. It only took 12 minutes for the opening goal to be scored where Hinata Miyazawa scored to put Japan in the lead. She timed her run to perfection after a pass from Jun Endo from the left-hand side, putting her in a one-on-one situation against Misa Rodriguez where she slotted into the bottom corner.
Japan doubled their lead in the 29th minute after a counter-attack involving Rika Ueki where she sized up Spanish defender Irene Paredes cutting onto her right to get her shot off and scored. Despite Paredes’ deflection, it made it difficult for Misa Rodriguez to make a save where the ball looped over her and ended in the back of the net.
Just before the half-time whistle, Hinata Miyazawa scored her second of the game in the 40th minute where Japan were on the counter-attack once again and Ueki laid it off to Miyazawa who struck it past Rodrguez giving them a three-goal advantage.
Despite being three goals down, Spain held the majority of the possession and had chances to score through Ona Battle and Teresa Abelleira but they weren’t able to find the back of the net. Substitute Mina Tanaka increased Japan’s lead to four where she had space to run into and scored in the 82nd minute curling the ball past Rodriguez and into the top left corner.
With those four goals, Japan finish the game as group winners where they will play Norway and Spain will face off against Switzerland in their first knockout games on Saturday.
Republic of Ireland vs Nigeria:
After a huge win against co-hosts Australia, Nigeria will look to avoid defeat against the Republic of Ireland at Brisbane Stadium to secure a place in the knockout stages. Ireland looked to put the pressure early on Nigeria with a shot from Katie McCabe in the fourth minute just falling wide of the post.
An error by Louise Quinn in the Irish defensive half caused a potential goal-scoring opportunity for Asisat Oshoala in the 14th minute, but her shot was wide of the goal as well. In the 36th minute, Nigeria goalkeeper and captain Chimaka Nnadozie was faced with a Kyra Carusa header but was able to make a comfortable save in the end.
Ireland’s goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan was called into action in the second half, where she parried Uchenna Kanu’s header onto the crossbar in the 52nd minute keeping the scores level. Nigeria and Ireland continued to find ways to get the winning goal through Oshoala and McCabe but both players couldn’t find the back of the net and therefore ending the game in a goalless draw where Nigeria will advance into the Round of 16.
Canada vs Australia:
The Matildas head into their third and final group game looking for a crucial win to book their spot in the Round of 16, but they face Canada at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium who only need a win or a draw to make it out of the group stage.
It was a cagey start between these two sides with Canada holding most of the possession and Australia looking to counter when they win the ball. In the ninth minute of the game, Steph Catley crossed the ball into the box and the Canadian defence were unable to clear their lines. The ball landed in the path of Hayley Raso who scored the opener with a composed finish putting the Matildas in the lead early in this game.
Only four minutes after the opener, Catley was able to find Raso once again in the box. However, Canada’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was able to make a strong save keeping the Canadians in the contest. In the 34th minute, Mary Fowler did score Australia’s second of the game after the ball was bouncing around the box and Canada once again couldn’t clear the ball properly. However after a VAR check, Ellie Carpenter was ruled offside as Fowler was taking her shot and therefore the Matildas were still only leading by one goal.
It wasn’t long till the Matildas finally got their second in the 39th minute with Hayley Raso once again on the scoresheet. After a corner taken by Kyra Cooney-Cross, Canada weren’t able to clear the ball out of their box and it was a simple tap-in for Raso putting the Matildas with a two-goal advantage into half-time.
Cooney-Cross had a chance in the 52nd minute from distance to score the Matidas’ third, but Sheridan was able to tip the ball over the bar to settle for a corner. On the other side of the pitch, substitute Sophia Schmidt had an opportunity at goal but her shot flew over the bar.
In the 58th minute, a well-timed run by Caitlin Foord launched a counter-attack for Australia where she was able to run at the Canadian defence and get a cross off to Mary Fowler who tapped it into an open net with some help from the post to increase Australia’s lead to three goals.
Mary Fowler was close to scoring her second of the game but struck the post in the 80th minute. To top off a strong performance, Australia were awarded a penalty in the fourth minute of added time where once again Steph Catley scored to make it four and cement Australia’s place in the knockout stages.
With Nigeria’s match against the Republic of Ireland ending in a scoreless draw, Australia tops Group B and awaits to see who finishes second in Group D.