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2023 Women's World Cup

The Big Story Day 2: Nigeria frustrate Canada, Switzerland defeat debutants, Spain score three

Noe Llamas / SPP

Day two of the FIFA Women’s World Cup saw Canada take on Nigeria, the Philippines take on Switzerland, and Costa Rica versus Spain.

Slept through it and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the second day of the World Cup.

This story will be updated as games finish.

Your bite-sized recap of Day 2 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup

Nigeria 0, Canada 0

The Big Story: A dramatic, physical match featuring a saved penalty, a red card, and sustained box-to-box action kept all 21,410 fans in Melbourne’s Rectangular Stadium on the edge of their seats until the last minute, even if it ultimately ended in a 0-0 draw.

The Big Moment: After drawing a penalty early in the second half, Canada’s Christine Sinclair was denied by Nigerian keeper Chiamaka Nnadozie who made a huge save.

What it means: In many ways, the missed penalty by Christine Sinclair represented the entire match in a microcosm. Sinclair’s shot wasn’t particularly well-taken, but Nnadozie’s save was spectacular. Similarly, none of the chances Cananda strung together were particularly threatening even as they dominated possession and held control of much of the match. Nigeria also stymied them with gutsy last-ditch defending at every turn.

For Nigeria, this is a very positive result. They earned a point off a top-ranked team despite going down to 10 players after Deborah Ajibola Abiodun was shown a red card for a dangerous challenge in second half stoppage time. They also created a solid number of chances themselves and even outshot Canada six to five in the first half. It’s worth remembering that the Super Falcons had considered boycotting this match in protest over a lack of payments from their federation. The fact they were able to get a positive result in spite of the turmoil surrounding them will likely make this point even sweeter.

Canada, on the other hand, will likely leave this game a bit worried. Frustration was clear on the faces of players as they failed to connect consistently throughout much of the game. Even when they did take better control in the second half, they couldn’t match Nigeria’s relentless energy and drive enough to break through and find the back of the net. It doesn’t help that star midfielder Jessie Fleming sat out of the match with an undisclosed injury. Head coach Bev Priestman says it’s not a tournament-threatening injury which is good news for the Canadians who will need to find a spark to help jumpstart their World Cup performance as they prepare to take on the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.

-Bekki Morgan

Philippines 0, Switzerland 2

The Big Story: World Cup debutants, the Philippines, did not win but they made a strong start to the tournament with a close game.

The Big Moment: Another match, another penalty — but this one gets converted. After initially letting play continue, a penalty was given to Switzerland after the Philippine’s Coumba Sow fouled Switzerland’s Jessika Cowart in the box. Midfielder Ramona Bachmann calmly sent it into the side netting to score the first first-half goal of the tournament. 

What it means: Among all the debutant teams in the tournament, the Philippines are arguably the Cinderella story of the World Cup. With a team made up of a significant number of non-professional players, they almost certainly have the longest shot of any team at winning the tournament so any positive result could be seen as a win. 

Even without earning any points, this can be considered a positive result for the Philippines. In the 16th minute, they found the back of the net first even if the goal was ultimately called back due to being offside. Even as they shrunk back into a defensive five-back as the Swiss increasingly took control of the game, they still held firm and made the Swiss work to break them down. The only goal in the first half was the result of a mildly controversial penalty, and even if they gave up another goal in the second half, it wasn’t the blowout it could have been. So, even without a win, this is a match the Philippines can take pride in. 

The Swiss, as expected, handily took control of the game roughly a third of the way into the first half and didn’t let go for the rest of the match. In the 64th minute, their relentless pressure finally paid off when Seraina Séverin Piubel found the back of the net after two excellent saves by Filipino keeper Olivia Davies-McDaniel. Overall, it was a dominant performance to be happy with especially because goal differential leaves them in first place in Group A.

-Bekki Morgan

Costa Rica 0, Spain 3

The Big Story: Ballon D’Or winning midfielder Alexia Putellas started the game on the bench for Spain after training separately from the squad last week, and entered the match late in the second half, but the sixth-ranked FIFA squad still put on quite a show without her on the pitch. 

The Big Moment: Costa Rica goalkeeper Daniela Solera came up big in the first half with the penalty save against Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer Jenni Hermoso. The save helped bump Costa Rica’s confidence and they went into halftime not allowing another goal, and that momentum carried into the second half.

What it means: Costa Rica was looking to join New Zealand in earning their first FIFA Women’s World Cup win, but was unable to withstand the pressure of a relentless and consistent Spanish attack. Spain scored three goals in quick succession midway through the first half.

It wasn’t all bad for Costa Rica, they were able to show their explosiveness on the counter-attack multiple times and get in behind the Spanish backline. But they were just a little off on the last touch or the final pass and unable to find the back of the net. In the second half, Costa Rica looked better defensively and they were able to hold the ball and start showing some movement of the ball between lines. Solera continued to come up with save after save to keep the scoreline at 3–0. Portland Thorns midfielder Rocky Rodriguez didn’t get on the pitch in Las Ticas‘ World Cup opener but was on a gameday roster for the first time since she sprained her MCL mid-May.

The Spanish side can’t be unhappy with their output from their World Cup opener, retaining an impressive 81% possession and forcing the Costa Rica side to make stop after stop to try to limit the damage. Having 26 shots in the first half alone is quite a feat and put Spain in a good position to continue building their momentum through the group stage. They were also able to get substitutes substantial minutes on the big stage. Spain ended the match with 46 shots, the most shots in any World Cup game since Opta began keeping track of stats in 2011. They’ll want to clean up their finishing as they move through the group stage, but all-in-all a good opening performance for Spain. 

-Taylor Vincent

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