It is either painfully ironic or hilariously funny that Group D turned out to be the Group of Death. Either way, the four squads had their first match, and we have our first set of standings to meticulously judge. But before we do, let’s take a look at the actual matches.
USA 3:1 Australia
Talk about a tale of two halves. For the first 45 minutes, Australia were the ones controlling the tempo and making dangerous runs. Hope Solo almost singlehandedly kept the US in the match with a string of nice saves. Megan Rapinoe did make an early run and scored the opening goal, but that was about all the US had going for it in the first half. In the 27th minute, Australian captain Lisa De Vanna scored an equalizer, injecting a shot of adrenaline into the Aussie side, where they continued attacking, but to no avail.
At the half, the score was 1:1, with Australia holding the momentum. Somewhere in the break, something happened. Either Jill Ellis gave a legendary pump-up speech, the World Cup jitters finally went away, or something happened in the USWNT locker room. Neither team subbed at the half, but we immediately saw a different USA team in the second half.
A little over a third of the way through the 2nd half, Christen Press got onto a ball on the left side of the box, and slotted it past the keeper to put the US up 2-1. A few minutes later, she gave way for Tobin Heath, who immediately made a difference in possession for the US. The crowd didn’t have to wait very long for another goal, as Megan Rapinoe got her second on the day and iced the game in the 78th minute.
Alex Morgan came on in the 79th for Sydney Leroux to test out her legs and see some game time. Morgan Brian made her World Cup debut in the 86th, coming on for Megan Rapinoe, who won the Player of the Match. The last 10 minutes or so saw the US completely dominating possession, seemingly practicing passes instead of going for a 4th goal.
Overall, the 2nd half United States looked like a World Cup contender. First half, not so much. Australia proved that they can play with anyone, and will continue to be dangerous all tournament long. For me, Hope Solo was Player of the Match, especially in the 1st half. Julie Johnston was solid in defense during her WC debut. Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe both got a yellow during the match, which might be troublesome if they get another in the group stage. They are some of the best attacking and creative players on the roster, so having them avoid a suspension will be a huge factor.
Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux did not impress me up front. Wambach had a few good header opportunities that were saved, but looked exhausted in the 2nd half. Alex Morgan getting minutes was a positive sign, as she will be critical if the US is to advance deep in the tournament. Wambach cannot go 90 minutes each game, so it is extremely important that the US finds an opportunity to get her some rest. Tobin Heath was dominant during the second half, easily controlling possession like the ball was stuck to her feet. She had one bad giveaway, but other than that, she was the nail in the coffin for Australia. After the jitters went away, this game went about as expected.
Sweden 3:3 Nigeria
Talk about an exciting and surprising match. Sweden took a 2-0 lead into the half, while Nigeria used 3 second half goals to muster a tie, including the final goal in the 87th minute. Sweden came into the tournament ranked 5th in the world, while Nigeria were 33rd. This should have been a win for the Swedes, but Nigeria played much better and used their athleticism to dominate in the 2nd half.
A lot of folks were expecting Sweden to win the group, myself included, but Pia Sundhage’s squad can likely throw that goal out the window if they don’t win both of their remaining matches. Let us take a look at where these opening matches put us in the standings.
USA is tops with 3 points and a +2 Goal Differential. Sweden and Nigeria are tied for 2nd with 1 point and 0 GD. Australia currently sits in the cellar with a -2 GD. The 2nd matches will be played on June 12th with Australia playing Nigeria, and the United States matched up in an epic showdown with Sweden.
Other groups are tight as well. In Group A, hosts Canada and Netherlands each won their opening match 1-0 over China and New Zeland. Group B saw Germany demolish Ivory Coast 10-0, with Norway beating Thailand 4-0. Group C might be the biggest surprise so far, with Cameroon crushing Ecuador 6-0, while Japan edged Switzerland 1-0.
Plenty more action to come, and we will be covering it all. Check out our Women’s World Cup coverage here.