Both Australia (#6) and Brazil (#10) locked themselves into the knockout stage, meaning that 14 teams of the Round of 16 are decided, although the matchups are very much still up in the air (only 1 determined so far) depending on remaining group games, while Jamaica was eliminated. There are 6 teams fighting for the final two spots: Argentina, Scotland, Cameroon, New Zealand, Chile, and Thailand, with Nigeria hoping that no more than one of these teams makes a strong claim. Interestingly, all of these teams facing elimination in the final three groups are playing matches against each other, which means that, although none of them have a win yet, this is the best possibility for all of them, with three potential wins on offer.
England and Japan were already guaranteed to advance, so they were playing for top of the group, with the winner taking the spoils. England would be on top with a tie, and Japan had the possibility to fall as low as third, depending on the results of the other game. Argentina, the only team with a point left to play that was not already into the knockout stage, nevertheless could assure themselves a spot with a victory; Scotland, on the other hand, would be eliminated immediately unless they win; if they did, they would be placed higher than Nigeria in the third place rankings, but on the bubble pending the results of matches tomorrow.
- England 2
- Japan 0
Allianz Riviera, Nice: Both teams had decent early chances, but England took the lead when Ellen White scored in the 14th minute, and that lead would last into halftime. Late in the second half, White scored another goal, very similar to her first, in the 84th minute, leaving her looking a little surprised, and leaving England in a commanding situation. Despite some good opportunities for Japan, that was the way it ended, with England winning Group D and Japan finishing as runner up.
- Argentina 3
- Scotland 3
Parc des Princes, Paris: Scotland, being in a must-win situation, got themselves on the board first when Kim Little scored a goal in the 19th minute. This would be enough to be in contention to advance, although scoring more could help with the goal differential (if that were to come into play), but that was the extent of the scoring in the first half, with very even possession between the teams. Adding more goals was exactly what Scotland did in the second half, though, with Jenny Beattie scoring a header in the 49th minute and Erin Cuthbert scoring in the 69th minute, giving them a sizable lead with only 20 minutes left in the match. Then it happened…
Facing imminent elimination, Argentina mounted an astounding comeback, starting with a goal by Milagros Menéndez, being the very first goal for Argentina in this World Cup, followed by a scoring shot from Florencia Bonsegundo, officially listed as an own goal by Lee Alexander, the goalkeeper for Scotland, and then Florencia Bonsegundo scored the equalizer on a second penalty kick in the 94th minute in stoppage time (after the first shot, a miss, was reviewed and given again, because Alexander came off her line before the kick was taken). No team had ever lost a 3-goal lead in the World Cup, until today. Argentina has a very slim chance of advancing, but Scotland is eliminated.
- 1st: England 9 (3-0-0, +4) [advances]
- 2nd: Japan 4 (1-1-1, -1) [advances]
- 3rd: Argentina 2 (0-2-1, -1)
- 4th: Scotland 1 (0-1-2, -2) [eliminated]
England will play the winner of the Chile/Thailand (Group F) match if they qualify, or else the winner of the Cameroon/New Zealand (Group E) match if they quality, or China (Group B) otherwise. Japan will play the winner the Netherlands/Canada (Group E) match. If Argentina advances (unlikely), they will play Germany.
Scotland becomes the fourth team eliminated from the World Cup this year, and in the most heartbreaking fashion. Argentina is now on the bubble. The fate of Nigeria still undecided, but they got the draw they needed in Group D, so they are one step closer to advancing.
For Argentina to advance into the knockout stage, the scenario is quite simple: Cameroon and New Zealand must draw, and Chile and Thailand must also draw; any of those four teams getting a victory eliminates Argentina. Nigeria needs only one of the two following scenarios: New Zealand drawing with Cameroon or winning by one goal (Group E) or Chile drawing Thailand, Chile winning by no more than 2 goals, or Thailand winning by fewer than 15 goals (Group F), the latter scenario being more likely. Note that there is a very slim chance that Cameroon could beat New Zealand 1-0 and Nigeria could advance, but that would require Cameroon losing more than 3 fair play points (or exactly 3 for “drawing of lots”), such as with 4 yellow cards, a yellow card becoming an indirect red, or a direct red card.
Group E and Group F finish up the last group stage matches tomorrow, which will determine the complete knockout stage bracket. The results of the first two games (Group E) will make things clearer with the bubble teams: a draw in the lower game eliminates both teams and advances Nigeria, and a victory eliminates Argentina.