This is the last match for the U.S. in the group phase and probably the most important for them so far. This may prove to be the match that either makes or breaks the campaign. As of now, the USWNT is first in the group, however if they tie or lose to Nigeria, there is a chance that Sweden and Australia could surpass them.
Nigeria has actually a very good team, as they tied their first match in a 3-3 against Sweden. Also, two attacking players player to look out for are Asisat Oshoala, who won BBC’s Women’s Footballer of the Year award, and Ngozi Okobi, who was FIFA’s Player of the Match against Sweden, scoring one goal and assisting two. The strength of this Nigerian team is their youthful energy (only 3 players are older than 24 years old).
The U.S. team still has a lot of improvements to make if they want to go far in this competition. The midfield is what needs to most work since Holiday and Lloyd are not performing well together and can’t seem to gel well enough to give the team a measure of control in midield. Coach Jill Ellis should also put a consistent player on the right side, like Tobin Heath for instance, since as of now the wide areas haven’t been used effectively. If the midfield gets better, then the forwards will get the ball more often and be able to create more opportunities.
Because this is such a crucial game, the U.S. won’t be able to rest any star player but instead they will to show have everything they’ve got. This will include giving Alex Morgan more playing time so she can be prepared when the U.S. faces tougher opponents.
The turf controversy is still an issue among the players, and we can actually see that this could have affected some unexpected results. Abby Wambach commented that if they were playing on grass, they could have scored more and would have gotten better results in the first matches. She affirms playing on turf makes her more careful and not so confortable throwing her body to head the ball. Also, the turf does make the ball bounce higher giving more time for goalkeepers to defend. Abby says that the field difference is making the U.S. play a different game than they would be playing if it was grass, and this causes technical difficulties that most fans don’t understand.
After the group phase, there will be eight teams eliminated from the tournament. For the knockout stage, basically whoever finished first in its groups will have a favorable competitor, and this is exactly what every team wants. For example for group D, whoever finishes first will play against a third-placed team, however, the team that finishes second in group D will most likely face Brazil in the knockout round.
Kickoff for the USWNT match against Nigeria is set for 5:00 PST / 8:00 EST.