Women’s World Cup: USWNT Top Nigeria on Wambach Goal
Abby Wambach scored; the USWNT won. If that sounds familiar, it should. Wambach now has 183 international goals, and her lone goal tonight was enough to lift the USWNT to victory, securing the top finish in Group D. It was also her 12th Women’s World Cup goal as the USWNT hung on to win Group D with seven point.
The team came out in Coach Jill Ellis’s favored 4-4-2 formation, featuring the 2011 flashback pairing of Wambach and Alex Morgan at forward. This was Morgan’s first start of a Women’s World Cup game. They had many chances early that they failed to capitalize upon. Most of the opportunities on set pieces fizzled, which was surprising given Nigeria’s reputation for having trouble defending on those plays.
It seemed as though the score would remain 0-0 going into halftime; this would have provided a significant moral victory for 33rd ranked Nigeria. However, Wambach came up big in the 45th minute.
Megan Rapinoe served a ball into the back post off a corner kick where Wambach was waiting with an outstretched leg. She hammered it home with the inside of her left foot on a volley and placed the ball where the keeper had no chance of a save. The whistle for half blew just moments later.
Nigerian goalkeeper Precious Dede may not have been able to save Wambach’s shot, but she held up well against the USWNT’s attack. Her notable saves in the match included one in the 48th minute where Dede stretched to her full length and grabbed a ball out of the air shot above her head by Morgan.
The majority of the second half was about the same as the first, although things got chippy as the game wore on. Nigeria received two yellow cards in the first half and three in the second, including a yellow in each half to Sarah Nnodim. Her second yellow came in the 68th minute, and Nigeria played a player down for the remainder of the match.
However, the USWNT was unable to take advantage of Nigeria’s short-handed side, and it did not seem like the Americans were playing a player up. Yet, the effort was sufficient to carry them through.
The defense for the Stars and Stripes continued to be a bright spot in the tournament. Over the three group games they did not concede any goals in the run of play. The back four of Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Ali Krieger were solid and well-organized. Veteran defender and team captain, Christie Rampone made a cameo appearance, coming on in the 79th minute for Tobin Heath, which forced Klingberg to move up into the midfield. Even with this change the defense did not lose a step.
Also of note, Shannon Boxx saw her first minutes of the tournament when she replaced Megan Rapine in the 74th minute. Lauren Holiday played higher and Carli Lloyd maintained more of a holding midfielder role, a swap many have been calling for. Wambach was involved in a head to head collision in the 59th minute with Nigeria’s Josephine Chukwunonye coming in late to challenge a header. Chukwunonye received the worse of the collision effects and then was rewarded with a yellow for her trouble.
The USWNT will now wait to find out their opponent for the Round of 16. No matter who they play, the USWNT will next play on Monday night.