Co-host Australia trounced Canada 4-0, advancing to the round of 16, while Nigeria also moved forward despite a 0-0 draw with debutant Ireland at the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Monday.
Australia concluded the group stage at the top of Group B with six points, while Nigeria secured the second place with five points. Olympic champion Canada was eliminated with four points, and Ireland claimed its first-ever World Cup point from the draw.
Rebounding from a surprising 3-2 defeat to Nigeria, Australia delivered a superb performance before an audience of 27,706 fans in Melbourne. The attack-minded Australia, unfazed by the previous setback, saw Hayley Raso score twice in the first half as the Matildas took control.
Striker Mary Fowler and Steph Catley added goals in the second half, ending Canada’s disappointing campaign.
“I’m so proud of the girls. Everybody fought for each other, and to come away with a pretty convincing win is very exciting,” Raso said. “I think we had our backs to the wall after the last game, and we knew that we needed to come out and put in a big performance. We showed that never-say-die attitude and gave it our all tonight.”
The game in Brisbane failed to impress, but the result was enough for Nigeria to reach the round of 16. Nigeria forward Uchenna Kanu thought she had finally broken Ireland’s resistance in the 51st minute, but her powerful header was brilliantly saved by acrobatic goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan.
This was the best opportunity of the game, and Nigeria’s players celebrated after the final whistle knowing they had secured a spot in the knockout stage.
Earlier, Japan thrashed Spain 4-0 in an upset, signaling a strong warning ahead of their clash with Norway in the round of 16. The Asian heavyweight seized the top position of Group C in an aggressive fashion, scoring three goals during a dominant first half.
Playing in front of 20,957 fans in Wellington, Japan was unstoppable on the counter-attack, with Hinata Miyazawa scoring twice either side and a strike from Riko Ueki in the 29th minute. Japan’s rout was complete when substitute Mina Tanaka scored in the 82nd minute.
“Once we recovered the ball we tried to have maximum speed. I thought we were quite effective,” said coach Futoshi Ikeda, despite Japan only having 22 percent of possession for the game.
Spain will now face Group A winner Switzerland in the round of 16.
“We have not seen the best of the Spain team, and I’m sure against Switzerland we will react positively,” said Spain coach Jorge Vilda.
In another event, debutant Zambia celebrated its first-ever World Cup win after defeating Costa Rica 3-1 in Hamilton. Lushomo Mweemba scored after just two minutes and 11 seconds, setting the fastest goal of the tournament and putting Zambia on track in a clash between teams whose hopes of progressing had already ended.
China’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages will be tested against European champion England in one of the four games scheduled for Tuesday.