The weak have been weeded out, the meek still could inherit the earth and the giants of women’s soccer are all alive. Such is the result of the 2015 women’s World Cup group stages. However, it is now do or die time for all 16 teams in the knockout stages.
Saturday marked the start of the real tournament in Canada, so let’s get in to the nitty gritty of the first day of round of 16 action.
1) Biggest Winner — China
It’s been a long while since the Chinese women’s side has mattered at the international level. The last time that happened was back in 1999, when it reached the final against the United States.
China’s last scored goal in the knockout round also happened to be in that tournament. Not only did China snap a long drought of mattering, it also snapped its goalless streak that dated back all the way to the run in the 1999 women’s World Cup.
Since then, the Chinese side have made appearances in the knockout stage in two of the last three Women’s World Cup’s. It only missed out on advancement at the last World Cup in Germany in 2011.
Unlike the 1999 experience in the semi-final against Norway, which was a 5-0 win, China mustered just one goal on Saturday. However, that one goal was all it needed thanks to some timely defending and Cameroon’s inability to put a ball on frame.
Getting back towards the form it had early in the women’s international soccer game is important to China, so was getting the 400-plus minute goal-scoring drought off its back. The bad news — the United States is very likely to await them in the next round.
2) Biggest Loser — Pia Sundhage, Sweden
There wasn’t a coach who talked more junk before the World Cup than Sundhage, who couldn’t resit jabbing her former team (the United States). However, her own Sweden side couldn’t cut the mustard in group stage play, reaching the round of 16 thanks to the ineptitude of others more than their play.
It showed on Saturday, as Germany dismantled Sundhage’s bunch in a 4-1 win that felt and looked a lot more like 7-1 or 8-1 to the Germans. For a coach who took over a USWNT program in excellent shape and drove it in to the ground, she sure didn’t learn much.
Sweden’s defending was awful, especially for the “5th ranked” team in the world. The offense and goal-scoring ability was equally awful all tournament long.
Perhaps Sundhage should go back to the drawing board and worry more about what’s happening with her and her coaching than a team she’s no longer in charge of…just sayin’
3) Standout Performer — Celia Sasic, Germany
On a day where goals were vital, Sasic was vital to the German demolition of Sweden. She calmly slotted home a penalty — putting it on the ground and wrong footing the goalkeeper in the process — and also scored late to make it a 3-0 scoreline and effectively end the hopes of a Sweden charge late.
Not only were her two goals very big, her overall play was simply impressive. Sasic dominated the middle of the pitch all day long and was in on at lest a half-dozen dangerous chances. She served her teammates well and knew when to be selfish, and in the knockout stages that’s a great quality to have.
4) Results of the Day —
Sweden 1 (Sembrant 82′) Germany 4 (Mittag 24′; Sasic 36′ PEN, 78′; Marozsan 88′)
Cameroon 0 China 1 (Wang Sh Sh 12′)
5) Tweet/Social Media of the Day:
What was the downfall of Sweden in this women’s World Cup? Some have suggested it was manager Pia Sundhagen’s personality. Others…well, how about you look to the field of play first:
Sweden's troubles had very little to do with Sundhage's personality. Look closer at how they were set up, adjustments & coached.
— Davidde Corran (@DaviddeCorran) June 20, 2015
6) Goal of the Day — Dzsenifer Marozsan, Germany
Don’t need to say much here…just watch this moment of balance & brilliance
7) Best Moment of the Day — Speculation of Pia Sundhage becoming Nigeria manager
Seriously…”reports” began surfacing as the game was still going on against Germany that Sundhage was interested in being manager of Nigeria. It was hilarious. Not that we’re piling on, but the ink was barely dry on the official loss just suffered before this happened:
Just asked Pia Sundhage if she'd be interested in coaching Nigeria. One word answer: "No" https://t.co/EqYtdiC5L1
— Caroline Rigby (@Carigby) June 20, 2015