USWNT / Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup: USA 1-0 Nigeria

Abby Wambach scored the only goal of the match as the US Women defeated Nigeria 1-0 at BC Place in Vancouver to win Group D at the Women’s World Cup.

Wambach latched onto a Megan Rapinoe corner kick just before halftime to score her first goal of the tournament. The US could not add to their lead despite playing the final 20 minutes of the contest up a player after Sara Nnodim was shown a second yellow card in the 69th minute.

Jill Ellis made three changes to the team that drew with Sweden on Friday. Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan replaced Sydney Leroux and Christen Press on the forward line, while Morgan Brian was replaced by Tobin Heath at right midfield. Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday kept their places in the central midfield, but it was Holiday in the more advanced role against Nigeria rather than Lloyd, who played that role in the first two matches.

The Americans started strongly and were on the front foot from the opening whistle. Morgan looked particularly strong early on, latching onto almost anything hit toward her.

The US had the ball in the back of the net in just the 9th minute, but the goal was disallowed for offside. A long, high ball was hit into the box after Nigeria could only partially clear an American set piece. Abby Wambach was onside as she got under the ball and headed it across the Nigerian box to Julie Johnston, who was controversially ruled offside when it appeared she was even with Wambach before tapping into the Nigerian goal.

The US continued to probe and would finally get their reward just before the halftime whistle when a simple lofted ball from a  Rapinoe corner kick toward the back post found Wambach unmarked. The striker made no mistake volleying into the near post from 5 yards for her 14th World Cup goal, tying her for second all time.

The Americans did well to control possession throughout the match and forced the Nigerians into a number of must-foul situations as they attacked. The challenges added up in the second half and Nnodim was shown a second yellow card after taking down substitute Sydney Leroux just outside the Nigerian box in the 69th minute.

Veterans Shannon Boxx and Christie Rampone were brought on to see out the result and the US did just that, possessing the ball for long stretches of the last quarter of the match.

The win assured the Americans the top spot in Group D. The team will face the third place finisher from Group B/E/F (opponent to be determined after Wednesday’s final Group Stage matches) in the first knockout round on Monday, June 22 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Kickoff is at 8 pm.

Three thoughts

Set plays?

Before Wambach cashed in on a corner kick just before the half, the US produced a number of terrible set plays. With Wambach, Holiday, Lloyd, and Johnston all on the field, the Americans played multiple short corner kicks that ended without a cross even getting into the box. It wasn’t just the corners either, Rapinoe and Holiday were both guilty of overcooking their balls into the box from deep lying set play positions, particularly in the first half.

Holiday and Lloyd

The US central midfield was in disarray for much of the game against Sweden on Friday and they were not any better tonight. Lloyd was pulled back from the top of the midfield, and Holiday was brought forward from her more holding role, but almost nothing was different about the play. Most of Nigeria’s best counterattacks came when one of the two central players turned the ball over from a prone position, something that happened far too frequently. Holiday was again ineffective with her passing, despite being moved into her more comfortable position as an attacking midfielder. Shannon Boxx was brought in during the second half to sure things up and provide some additional coverage for the defense, but surely the 37-year-old cannot be the answer when the team faces off against better competition as the tournament progresses.

Alex Morgan looks healthy

Morgan played over an hour and looked good doing so. She was a menace, particularly in the first half, latching onto just about every ball that was played her way. She twice found her way behind the Nigerian defense only to have her shot saved by Nigerian goalkeeper Precious Dede (which has to be best name in the tournament, no?). Morgan combined with — and also as played off of — Wambach very well throughout the match. With the Americans most likely facing a weaker opponent than they played in the group stages in the Round of 16, Morgan can most likely continue her injury recovery conservatively, which could be a big boost for the later rounds, provided the US can advance.

USA
1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 19-Julie Johnston, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 22-Meghan Klingenberg; 15-Megan Rapinoe (7-Shannon Boxx, 75), 12-Lauren Holiday, 10-Carli Lloyd, 17-Tobin Heath (3-Christie Rampone, 80); 13-Alex Morgan (2-Sydney Leroux, 66), 20-Abby Wambach (capt.)
Unused substitutes: 5-Kelley O’Hara, 6-Whitney Engen, 8-Amy Rodriguez, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 14-Morgan Brian, 16-Lori Chalupny, 18-Ashlyn Harris, 21-Alyssa Naeher, 23-Christen Press
Head coach: Jill Ellis

Nigeria
1-Precious Dede; 22-Sarah Nnodim, 6-Josephine Chukwunonye, 5-Onome Ebi, 23-Ngozi Ebere; 8-Asisat Oshoala, 14-Evelyn Nwabuoku (capt.), 13-Ngozi Okobi; 17-Francisca Ordega (20-Cecilia Nku, 77), 10-Courtney Dike (9-Desire Oparanozie, 50), 7-Esther Sunday (12-Halimatu Ayinde, 50)
Unused substitutes: 2-Blessing Edoho, 3-Osinachi Ohale, 4-Perpetua Nkwocha, 11-Ini-Abasi Umotong, 16-Ibubeleye Whyte, 18-Loveth Ayila, 19-Martina Ohadugha, 21-Christy Ohiaeriaku
Head coach: Edwin Okon

Scoring Summary
USA – Abby Wambach (Megan Rapinoe) 45th minute

Disciplinary Summary
NGA – Sarah Nnodim (caution) 38th minute
NGA – Onome Ebi (caution) 43
NGA – Josephine Chukwunonye (caution) 60
NGA – Ngozi Okobi (caution) 68
NGA – Sarah Nnodim (caution) 69
NGA – Sara Nnodim (ejection) 69

Stats Summary (USA / NGA)
Shots: 14 / 7
Shots on Goal: 7 / 2
Saves: 2 / 6
Corner Kicks: 6 / 5
Fouls: 8 / 12
Offside: 7 / 0

Officials
Referee: Kateryna Monzul (UKR)
Assistant Referee 1: Natalia Rachynska (UKR)
Assistant Referee 2: Sanja Rodak (CRO)
Fourth Official: Rita Gani (MAS)

Date: June 16, 2015
Competition: 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Group D
Venue: BC Place; Vancouver, Canada
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. local)
Attendance: 52,193
Weather: 70 degrees; Cloudy

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