This is the final day of the group stage, with all four Group E and F matches being played today. Yesterday, no additional teams advanced to the knockout stage, so there are still 2 places up for grabs. Scotland was eliminated in a heartbreaking manner, while Argentina had a historic comeback only to put themselves on the bubble in a precarious situation (and improve the chances for Nigeria). Of the eight teams playing today, half are already qualified (and playing each other), while these four are fighting to avoid elimination: Cameroon, New Zealand, Chile, and Thailand.
Netherlands and Canada had already advanced, and they were playing for the honors of being top in the group, with the loser being runner up; Netherlands would win the group in the event of a draw. Cameroon and New Zealand both needed to win their game to have any chance of advancing; a tie would eliminate both of them immediately (and advance Nigeria). To guarantee advancement, Cameroon had to win by 2 goals, or by 1 goal with at least 2 goals scored, or by 1-0 with few yellow cards and no red cards; New Zealand needed to win by 2 goals, or by 1 with at least 3 goals scored. A win without meeting these requirements would put the winner on the bubble awaiting the outcome of the final games (but any kind of win would eliminate Argentina).
- Netherlands 2
- Canada 1
Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims: Canada was awarded a penalty kick just a minute into the game, but it was reversed upon review (as the foul was just outside the box), and Netherlands had some good scoring chances, but the match was scoreless through the first half. In the second half, the Netherlands took the lead with a header goal by Anouk Dekker in the 54th minute. Canada soon answered with a goal by Christine Sinclair in the 60th minute. Then Lineth Beerensteyn scored the winning goal for Netherlands in the 75th minute, giving them first place in the group, and relegating Canada to second.
- Cameroon 2
- New Zealand 1
Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier: Cameroon started with more scoring opportunities, but the match remained scoreless at halftime, potentially problematic for teams that needed goals to advance. In the second half, Cameroon opened the scoring with a nice goal by Ajara Nchout in the 57th minute. The score was then leveled when Aurelle Awona made an own goal from a New Zealand service into the box, and it looked like both teams would be eliminated, though the energy ramped up. Finally, with only 12 seconds left in stoppage time, and with a great individual effort and what turned out to be the last touch of the match, Nchout scored in the 95th minute, advancing Cameroon into the knockout stage at the last moment and eliminating both New Zealand and Argentina in one shot.
- 1st: Netherlands 9 (3-0-0, +4) [advances]
- 2nd: Canada 6 (2-0-1, +2) [advances]
- 3rd: Cameroon 3 (1-0-2, -2) [advances]
- 4th: New Zealand 0 (0-0-3, -4) [eliminated]
Netherlands plays Japan in the later match on June 25, in Rennes. Canada plays the runner up of Group F (on June 24 in Paris), which will be either Sweden or the United States. Cameroon will play either France or England.
These results also fixed one additional match elsewhere: Italy plays China in the earlier match on June 25, in Montpellier.
New Zealand and Argentina become the fifth and sixth teams eliminated from the World Cup this year, and Nigeria remains on the bubble, awaiting the result of the Chile/Thailand (Group F) match later today.
If Chile and Thailand tie, they are both eliminated, and Nigeria advances to take the final spot in the knockout stage. If Chile wins by 3 goals, or Thailand wins by 15 goals (not going to happen), then that team advances, otherwise Nigeria advances on goal differential, and that is definitely the most likely outcome, given that Chile has not scored a World Cup goal ever.
In any event, the final two group stage matches, later today, will set the complete bracket for the knockout stage.