Thrilling Matches See Australia Secure Top Spot, Nigeria Progress to Knockouts, and Zambia Celebrate Historic Win... Australia vs. Canada Australia displayed urgency and determination in a pivotal game to secure a crucial victory and advance in the Women's World Cup in their home country. With an emphatic 4-0 win over Canada at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Hayley Raso's first-half brace and Mary Fowler's goal, restored after VAR intervention, dealt a devastating blow to Canada, reigning Olympic champions, subsequently knocking them out of the tournament.
Australia's triumph in Group B, earning them six points, ensured their top spot, while Nigeria advanced with five points. Unfortunately, Canada (four points) and Ireland (one point) faced elimination, with Canada becoming the first reigning Olympic champion to miss the knockout round in the Women's World Cup.
The Matildas overcame the absence of superstar striker Sam Kerr, recovering from a calf injury, and kept her availability shrouded in mystery. Despite her declaration of readiness, Kerr remained on the bench as Australia dominated the match.
Raso set the tone early, netting a ninth-minute goal, and Australia maintained the pressure, narrowly missing another goal shortly after. In the 34th minute, Fowler scored, but VAR disallowed it due to an offside infringement. However, Raso quickly responded and restored the lead, putting Australia ahead 2-0 at halftime.
Fowler added to the tally in the 58th minute, seizing an opportunity amidst Canada's attempts to retaliate, but they struggled to find the target. In stoppage time, Steph Catley sealed the victory with a penalty kick, igniting the crowd's jubilation. Nigeria vs. Republic of Ireland
In another compelling match, Nigeria secured a spot in the knockout stage for the third time in their history, after coming out of their game against ROI with a clean sheet - setting up a clash with England of Group C.
Asisat Oshoala's attempts on goal for Nigeria were all thwarted by the Irish keeper, as Ireland also earned their first Women's World Cup point.
Japan vs. Spain Japan battered Spain 4-0, solidifying their top position in Group C. Despite possessing the ball for only 23% of the game, Japan led 3-0 at halftime, courtesy of Hinata Miyazawa's brace and Riko Ueki's deflected goal. Miyazawa added another from the right side, and Mina Tanaka's late goal completed the victory.
Spain's 10 attempts on goal failed to hit the mark, as Japan's efficient play and defensive prowess proved decisive. Japan's outstanding performance saw them score 11 goals in the group stage without conceding any, setting up a Round of 16 clash with Norway, both former World Cup winners.
Spain, on the other hand, faces Switzerland in the Round of 16. In another historic moment, Zambia claimed their first World Cup victory with a 3-1 win against Costa Rica, featuring Lushomo Mweemba's early goal and Barbra Banda's milestone 1,000th Women's World Cup goal from a penalty kick.
Costa Rica vs. Zambia And finally, despite a hgue effort from Costa Rica, Zambia held their ground, securing a significant win for their women, with Rachael Kundananji sealing the win in stoppage time.
These sort of riveting matches encapsulated the excitement and unpredictability of the Women's World Cup, with teams fiercely competing for a place in football history.