The US on Thursday made it a perfect three wins out of three at the Women’s World Cup by beating Sweden 2-0 to top Group F, while Ajara Nchout fired Cameroon into the last 16 with a last-gasp winner.
The US are to continue their bid to defend their world title against Spain in Reims tomorrow after a win that saw them make it 18 goals for the tournament and break Norway’s 24-year-old record for the number of goals scored in the group stage.
Lindsey Horan opened the scoring when she tapped home Samantha Mewis’ flick with two minutes on the clock, and Tobin Heath helped make sure of the points by firing past Hedvig Lindahl via a big deflection off Jonna Andersson four minutes after the break.
Andersson’s own-goal somehow survived a video assistant referee (VAR) check, despite substitute Carli Lloyd looking to be offside in the buildup.
Afterward, Lloyd claimed that she had not seen the incident, with Heath saying that she would “take the goal” all the same.
Lloyd replaced star player Alex Morgan at halftime after the 29-year-old took a knock in the opening 45 minutes, but US coach Jill Ellis was noncommittal on whether she would be fit for Spain.
“Alex took a knock in the first half and it was more of let’s be smart about this, in terms of what we did,” she said. “It’s a zero-risk game in terms of having players available in the next round.”
Sweden started with seven changes from the side that beat Thailand 5-1 with four players making their World Cup debut, and offered very little attacking threat.
However, their defeat means that they face Canada next in Paris tomorrow and are in an easier side of the knockout draw from the US, who have France, England and Norway as potential opponents further down the line.
The only truly top-draw side lined up for the Swedes is Germany, who they could meet in the quarter-finals if they beat Canada, who earlier on Thursday lost 2-1 to Group E winners the Netherlands.
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson said that he “didn’t think in advance that it was important to end up first or second,” but Ellis was unconvinced.
“I think after the game that might be a fair comment. I think that’s not caring about the game, but thinking ahead,” she said.
Meanwhile, there was heartbreak for Chile, who needed to beat Thailand by three goals to pip Nigeria into the knockouts.
They were 2-0 up with five minutes left when they were awarded a penalty via VAR, only for Francisca Lara to crash her spot-kick off the bar and see her side knocked out.
In Montpellier, just 10 seconds of the allotted five minutes of added time remained, when Nchout curled Cameroon into the next round as one of the best third-placed teams with a superb strike to beat New Zealand 2-1.
Nchout had given Cameroon the lead in the 57th minute, controlling with her shoulder before slotting home.
However, when Aurelle Awona sliced a Katie Bowen cross into her own net with 10 minutes left, it looked as though both teams were heading out.
Instead, Nchout’s last-gasp goal means that Cameroon go through as one of the best third-placed sides, while New Zealand return home without a point.
The Netherlands are to meet Japan in the last 16 after Lineth Beerensteyn turned in a Desiree van Lunteren cross in the 75th minute in Reims to seal their win over Canada and advance as Group E winners.
Veteran Canada forward Christine Sinclair scored her 182nd goal for her country on the hour mark following Anouk Dekker’s 54th-minute opener, leaving her just two shy of Abby Wambach’s international record for the US, but it was not enough to beat their opponents to first place.
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