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2023 Women's World Cup

The Big Story Day 8: USWNT come back to draw Netherlands, Portugal get first World Cup win, Nigeria stun Australia

Credit: Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Day 8 of the FIFA Women’s World Cup opened with the United States facing off against the Netherlands and is followed up by Portugal taking on Vietnam and Australia going up against Nigeria.

Couldn’t watch and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the eighth day of the World Cup.

Your bite-sized recap of Day 8 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup

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United States 1, Netherlands 1

The Big Story:  This game got chippy early and only got chippier after the United States conceded early. Although the United States battled their way back into the game in the second half, questions remain about the United States’ struggle to connect in the final third and their uncertain defense. For the Netherlands, they showed just how dangerous they can be if given half a chance, but ultimately gave the U.S. far too many chances in the second half.

The Big Moment:  Jill Roord scores for the Netherlands and put the United States behind by one early. The goal was the Netherlands’ first real chance of the game and they seized it to take control of the match from this point on. While Roord’s shot was a rocket, the United States’ defense was shaky positionally and made it easier than it should have been for the Dutch to navigate through and find the back of the net.

What it means: Going with an unchanged starting XI for the United States was a surprise to many. Playing Julie Ertz in the backline and Savannah DeMelo over Rose Lavelle raise questions about Alana Cook and Lavelle’s fitness. Ultimately, the U.S. did come out on the front foot, but the wind was taken out of their sails early with the Netherland’s first goal and it took until well into the second half before they found it again.

Luckily in the second half, Lindsay Horan did find the back of the net off a set piece to find the equalizer showing that the United States is still able to claw back and get a result when necessary. Horan’s goal was to some extent the result of frustration and anger at the chippy play that marked this match. The goal injected her side with the anger and energy they needed to carry them through the rest of the match.

Although the U.S. didn’t find the game-winner, they definitely had the better chances throughout the second half. In what has become a common refrain for the United States, they just couldn’t connect in the final third despite creating an abundance of chances. Too often Trinity Rodman made solo runs only to tread water waiting for other white jerseys to make runs and put together an attack. More worrying is how uncertain their defense looked. Again, this isn’t entirely surprising with Becky Sauerbrunn missing the tournament and Ertz playing center-back for the first time in years, but this definitely raises concerns for the United States’ against stronger opponents.

Conversely, the Netherlands were able to hold onto possession convincingly through most of the match. They only had a fraction of the United States’ chances, but they made enough of them to get a point out of the match. The United States struggled to break through their solid defense even when the U.S. gained the upper hand in the second half. Ultimately, they’ve shown that they are a very hard team to break down.

Even though this was a draw, the Netherlands will probably want to address how few chances they generated compared to their opponents. Sure, they have a lot of offensive injuries, but only five shots with one on target is not the level of offensive output that will carry them far. Especially because they allowed the United States to take 18 shots with five on target. If the United States had been slightly more clinical in their finishing this would have been a considerably different game.

– Bekki Morgan

Portugal 2, Vietnam 0

The Big Story: This game featured two World Cup debutants looking for their first World Cup points. Portugal came out attacking and quickly took the lead, as well as their first World Cup win. 

The Big Moment: Portugal’s first World Cup goal was this Lúcia Alves to Telma Encarnacão connection in the 7th minute of the match 

What it means: Following their opening 1–0 loss to the Netherlands in their World Cup opener, Portugal came into their second match of the World Cup with seven changes to their lineup. Benfica forwards Kika Nazareth and Jéssica Silva were the keys to the Portugal offense, drawing fouls, supplying services into the box, and taking shots themselves—and Kika had the second Portugal goal.

With a must-win scenario against the United States in their final group match, Portugal still has a few things to clean up offensively, mainly their clinicality in front of the net. They had 29 shots, only 9 on frame, but the scoreline could’ve easily been four or five goals. Although the two goals they scored was more than enough to get the three points, against better competition they just won’t get as many chances. 

Vietnam struggled defensively in the first half as Portugal had 10 shots, half of which were on target. Multiple times there was clear confusion between the Vietnamese defenders on who was going to clear bouncing balls in the box which led to unnecessarily dangerous moments. Coming out of the locker room, Vietnam did a good job of adjusting tactics and goalkeeper Trần Thị Kim Thanh had really settled into the match after the two early goals, ending the night with six saves. With the loss, Vietnam has effectively been eliminated from the knockout stage of the World Cup.

– Taylor Vincent

Australia 2, Nigeria 3

The Big Story: Nigeria shocked Australia and their legion of fans by topping in them 3-2 to put the Super Falcons on top in Group B. 

The Big Moment: Nearly halfway through the second half, Nigeria goes on top with a goal from Osinachi Ohale to shock the host nation and their legion of fans in attendance. Ohale took a kick in the ribs thanks to last-ditch defending from Alanna Kennedy that kept her on the ground for several worrying minutes but still saw the goal through to the back of the net. 

What it means: Although they dominated in possession and chances, Australia found Nigeria hard to break through until stoppage time in the first half. But it wouldn’t be long until Nigeria found the back of the net in the final seconds of stoppage time to keep things level. Nigeria were deliberate and calm in their play in the second half and it paid off. By the 72nd minute, Nigeria had turned the 1-1 draw into a 3-1 lead thanks to the go-ahead goal by Ohale and Asisat Oshoala’s ability to capitalize off a mistake by Australia’s backline. An Alanna Kennedy header deep in the 10th minute of stoppage time did put Australia back in the game briefly, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Super Falcons from taking all three points.

This was a stunning showing by a Nigerian team who were unbowed under the pressure put on by the host team in a stadium packed with gold and green. In spite of their ongoing battles with their federation, the Super Falcons have more than risen to the occasion and pulled out points against top sides Canada and Australia. Despite only holding approximately 35% possession throughout the match, they made their moments count and left the Aussies looking increasingly flustered and desperate as the match wore on. Conversely, Nigeria never seemed rattled by the hosts. Even when Australia peppered them with chances and eventually scored a second goal deep in stoppage time, the Super Falcons never seemed out of control in the match. With the victory, they are now in first place in their group and in complete control of their World Cup destiny.

This match is a definite black eye for Australia who seemed completely unprepared for Nigeria’s resilience. Despite dominating in possession and chances created, their small mistakes gave the Super Falcons the only chances they needed to pull off a stunning win. Alex Chidiac and Caitlyn Foord gave them a few solid chances toward the end of the match, but overcooked crosses and rushed touches ultimately kept them from getting the Aussies back in the game until far too late. They’re now in third place in their group which is certainly not where they saw themselves before the start of this match. Their toughest match of the group stage awaits them as they’re set to take on Canada on Monday. Superstar Sam Kerr may be back to give them a needed boost, but will it be enough to beat a Canadian team that also has everything to play for?

– Bekki Morgan

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