Carli Lloyd says that everyone is gunning for the United States after they moved into the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup as Group F winner with a 2-0 win over Sweden on Thursday. Jill Ellis’s side broke a 24-year-old record for the number of goals scored in the group stage when Jonna Andersson deflected Tobin Heath’s shot into her own net four minutes after the break, and the States go into the last 16 having scored a whopping 18 times without conceding once.
Those numbers make the reigning world champions the side to beat as they prepare for a last-16 clash with Spain in Reims on Monday, but there is room for improvement after a far-from-thrilling performance against a much-changed Swedish side.
“The target’s on the back, we’re expected to win and anything less than that is considered a failure in everyone’s eyes. I think it’s really all about just keeping the foot down on the pedal,” said Lloyd, who was at the centre of yet another VAR controversy. The 36-year-old looked beyond the last defender in the build-up to Jonna Andersson’s 50th-minute own goal, but referee Anastasia Pustovoytova somehow allowed Andersson’s own goal to stand despite checking the video footage.
However, the Americans were good value for their win, which puts them in the harder side of the knockout stage draw alongside hosts and potential quarter-final opponents France, England, Norway, Brazil and dark horses Australia. Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson admitted that he “didn’t think in advance that it was important to end up first or second” after making seven changes and giving four players their World Cup debuts.
The USA seemed unconvinced of that strategy, even if it earned the Swedes a last-16 clash against Canada and only Germany and the Netherlands — themselves through as Group E winners after beating the Canadians 2-1 on Thursday — as truly strong opposition should they progress further. “I think if you’re scared to play a team in the World Cup then you don’t deserve to win it,” said midfielder Rose Lavelle.
Veteran Lloyd replaced star player Alex Morgan at half-time after the 29-year-old took a knock in the opening 45 minutes, but USA coach Jill Ellis said her substitution was precautionary while refusing to say if she would be fit for Spain.
– Cameroon joy –
Earlier in Montpellier Ajara Nchout sparked joy for Cameroon just seconds before the end when she curled her team into the next round as one of the best third-placed teams with a superb strike to beat New Zealand 2-1.
Nchout had earlier given Cameroon the lead in the 57th minute, controlling with her shoulder before slotting home, but 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 goal just 10 seconds from the end of the five minutes of added time means Cameroon go through and New Zealand return home without a point.
Their joy was contrasted with heartbreak for Chile meanwhile, who missed a late penalty that would have allowed them to qualify from Group F and pip Nigeria into the knockouts. Contesting their first World Cup, they needed to beat Thailand by three goals to go through and were 2-0 up with five minutes left when they were awarded a penalty via VAR.
History looked to be beckoning for the Chileans, who had laid siege to the Thai goal, but Francisca Lara crashed her spot-kick off the bar and her devastated side was knocked out.
The Netherlands will 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 is just two shy of Abby Wambach’s international goal record after scoring her 182nd goal for her country on the hour mark but it wasn’t enough to beat their opponents to first place.