Another day; another two groups are decided with the USA, Japan, Cameroon, and Australia joining Canada, China, Norway, and Germany – and Brazil - in the knockout bracket.
Beginning in Edmonton and Group C, where Switzerland sought to extend their tournament life against upstarts Cameroon, a match that guaranteed the winner would advance, given Japan had already clinched and Ecuador were unlikely to overturn their dismal goal-difference.
The 19th-ranked Swiss would take the advantage in the 24th minute when Lara Dickenmann played a ball down the left for budding-star Ramona Bachmann, who in turn sent a pull-back to the top of the box. Her pass fell for Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, whose left-footer unsighted the keeper, weaving through the legs of a defender, beating Annette Ngo Ndom to the left-side of goal.
La Nati nearly doubled that lead shortly thereafter when a strong header from Fabienne Humm was parried by the Cameroonian keeper from close range.
But as they had previously in the tournament, Les Liones Indomptablees responded well, equalizing in the 47th minute through Gabrielle Onguene after some good work in the left corner from Raissa Feudjio. Feudigo avoided the attentions of a pair of defenders to pull a ball back to the top of the box, where it squirmed through a crowd, falling to Onguene on the right, who beat the Swiss keeper, Gaelle Thalmann, with a low right-footer across to the far-side of goal.
Cameroon would clinch advancement in the 62nd minute when Madeleine Ngono Mani added a second. Onguene played provider this time, working down the left-side of the area to the end-line before lifting a ball to the near-post, where Ngono Mani met it with a firm header past Thalmann.
The 1-2 win for 53rd ranked Cameroon would see them move on to the second round in their tournament debut, dooming Switzerland to an anxious day spent watching the scoreboard to see if their three points and plus-seven would be good enough for one of the four third-placed spots.
Concurrently in Winnipeg, Japan quickly dispatched Ecuador as they prepare to defend their title in the knockout rounds.
It took just five minutes for the Japanese to take the lead through Yuki Ogimi. A ball in from Captain Aya Miyama on the left was touched by Yuika Sugasawa before the keeper could collect, directing an effort towards goal. Defender Ligia Moreira attempted to clear the goal-bound ball, but pressure from Omigi forced Moreira's touch back towards goal, rebounding off an incoming shin, to sail into the back of the net off the underside of the bar.
Despite their progression having been assured, Nadeshiko Japan, did not take their foot off the gas, drawing a fine save from the Ecuadorean keeper, Shirley Beruz, whose forearm redirected a goal-bound effort off the bar. Sugasawa nearly scored a high-light reel overhead kick that kissed off the top of the bar, and a neat interplay between Sugasawa and Mana Iwabuchi crafted a chance at the right-post, only for Berruz to stay big on the blast from close range.
Japan would end group play with a perfect three wins from three matches record and nine points, the only team thus far to achieve that mark, though Brazil could match that feat on Day Ten. For La Tricolor their first appearance at the Finals comes to an end on a positive note, conceding just once to the defending champions, having let in sixteen through the previous two matches.
The late set of kicks off would determine who from Group D would be moving on. First, in the chronology of this review, was a match between Nigeria, looking to progress for the second time in their history, and the USA, who entered topping the group on four points, but with a cautious eye cast over their shoulders.
An early handball shout dismissed, the US would have to wait until the final minute of the first half to calm any nerves when Abby Wambach finally broke her 2015 duck, meeting a right-sided out-swinging corner kick from Megan Rapinoe at the back-post with a flying left-boot, putting the Stars and Stripes in the lead.
The Super Falcons pressed in search of an equalizer, leaving themselves exposed at the back; were it not for a pair of fine interventions from goalkeeper Precious Dede, Alex Morgan too would have scored her first. Dede got a desperate hand to a Morgan chip after a long ball down the middle and was then quick off her line to close down a later chance.
Any hopes of a Nigerian comeback were squandered in the 69th minute when Sarah Nnodim saw her second yellow for tripping up Sydney Leroux on the charge - her first booking had come in the 38th minute for chopping down Tobin Heath in the midfield – reducing the Nigerians to ten women against a strong US side.
With the 0-1 win the US tops Group D on seven points and a plus-three, hardly what was expected of them heading into the competition, but none of that matters now, as results are erased and it becomes a straight head-to-head contest.
Nigeria's World Cup ends without a victory on one point and a minus-three, not horrible considering how tough of a group they found themselves in.
Meanwhile the group wrapped up in Edmonton with an encounter between Australia and Sweden to see who would join the US in the next stage.
It took just five minutes for the Matildas to take the lead when a long ball from the back spring Lisa De Vanna behind the Swedish defenses, beating keeper Hedvig Lindahl with a low left-footed shot to the left-side of goal.
The Blagut would respond in the 15th minute through Sofia Jakobsson, who cut in from the right on a solo effort, working her way across the top of the box before placing a low, left-footed shot to the bottom right-corner of goal, beating Aussie keeper, Lydia Williams.
Williams would make amends for missing that one, keeping Australian hopes alive with a pair of fine save. She touched a blast from Caroline Seger over the bar and then denied Jakobsson from close range to preserve the draw.
The 1-1 result would be enough to put Australian through at the expense of the Swedes, who could drop out of the tournament in the group stage for just the second time in their World Cup history. It remains to be seen if their three points and zero goal-differential are good enough to move on as a third-place finisher.
Finally, on the twelfth day, the group stage of the 2015 Women's World Cup will come to an end with the final two groups, E and F, wrapping up, completing the field for the knockout rounds.
Four matches remain; the first two of which will kick off at 4 pm (EST) in Group F. Mexico and France take to the pitch in Ottawa, while in Montreal England and Colombia face off. Group F is packed tightly, the Colombians top the group on four points and face England, who collected three with a win over Mexico. France too has three points and face a Mexican side who have one, but should Mexico combine their win with a Colombian one, they could leapfrog the two European sides and move into second.
A few hours later, 7 pm (EST) to be exact, Korea Republic faces Spain in Ottawa, while Costa Rica stares down Brazil in Moncton, barring their path to the second round. With six points, Brazil is assured top spot in Group E. Costa Rica clings to second with two points, so will need a result or a favourable draw in the other match – both Spain and Korea Republic have just a single point and negative goal-differences, so a draw, no matter the score-line, would allow Costa Rica to move on with a zero goal-differential. Should they lose, the math gets a little more complicated.
As well as those two groups, the final third-placed teams that will advance are yet to be sorted. Netherlands tops that assembly with four points and an even goal-differential, followed by Switzerland on three and seven, and then Sweden on three and zero. Thailand, on three and minus-seven, are poised to be the first to drop out of consideration.
Plenty to be decided today; enjoy the matches!