After watching 72 hours of hype and a pre-show dedicated to the same, the United States women finally face the Super Eagles of Nigeria. After last game’s draw, we all knew some changes were going to be made. Jill Ellis did not disappoint and made 3 changes: Sydney Leroux and Christen Press were benched for the duo of Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach. Morgan’s last start for the USWNT was April 4, 2015 but Jill Ellis and Co. need to rekindle the duo’s attacking synergy. Finally, Tobin Heath replaced Morgan Brian in the midfield
The US attack was solid the 1st Half but they struggled to find the back of the net. They dominated possession and corner kicks but accrued an absurd number of offside calls (5). An amazing goal by Julie Johnston was called off by a questionable offside whistle, the first of many.
The one thing I was worried about before this match was Nigeria’s speed. Their ability to counter quickly was seen in their shocking draw against Sweden. Johnston had her work cut out for her on the backline and in one instance, lost a foot race with Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala. Luckily she was able to get her foot out to block at the last minute, but Nigeria’s speed was causing problems from the beginning.
The US took a total of 6 corner kicks in the 1st Half. They finally hit pay dirt in the 45′ off a set piece spearheaded by Megan Rapinoe. She crossed a perfect ball in the box to Abby Wambach who nailed a sweet volley to the back of the net.
Here is how the match shaped up at Halftime:
NGA / USA
Shots on Goal: 1/3
Corner Kicks: 3/6
The 2nd Half started with a few close calls for the US but they were able to recover. A scare came in the 60′ when Nigeria’s Chukwunonye had a head-on collision with Wambach. Chukwunonye was given a yellow card and had to walk off with an icepack. Wambach also left the pitch according to protocols but soon returned soon after getting cleared.
Alex Morgan saw her best chance of the match in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper but Nigeria’s Precious Dede made the clutch kick-save to keep her team in the game. That would be Morgan’s last attempt as she was subbed in the 66′ for Sydney Leroux.
Putting Leroux in the game was perfect to counteract Nigeria’s speed. But in the unlikeliest of situations, the US was given a gift when Nigeria’s Nnodim was given a second yellow card and left the match in the 70′.
In the 73′, Rapinoe was subbed out for 4-time World Cup veteran Shannon Boxx.
One subject that has been brought up several times during the tournament has been the officiating. Nigeria couldn’t get a whistle for the life of them, getting fouled several times and having no fouls called. For the US, that questionable offside-call on a clear goal. For Nigeria, in the 2nd Half, a ball clearly went out of bounds in front of Nigeria’s bench but Megan Klingenberg was allowed to keep the ball in play (the result should’ve been a Nigeria throw-in).
In the 80′, Kristi Rampone came in for Tobin Heath.
The game was pretty uneventful after that as the US played keep away for most of the final 10 minutes. It was a bitter loss for the Super Eagles, as could be seen when Nigeria’s coach was reluctant to shake Ellis‘ hand but eventually did after his staff pre-empted contact.
The final score was 1-0 for USA, which was just enough to win their Group. Many were fearful of the girl’s placement in what was labeled “the group of death” but they made it out on top. The girls move on to the Round of 16 and will play June 22 at 8pm in Edmonton. Their opponent will be the 3rd Place winner of Group B, E, or F.
Australia finished 2nd in their group and will face titans Brazil in Moncton. Sweden finished 3rd and will have to wait to see if they make it out of the 3rd Place pool to move on. Nigeria finished last and was officially eliminated from the tournament with tonight’s loss.