Heavyweights vying for Round of 16 spots on TSN
Group-stage play wraps up in two more groups on Tuesday with Matchday 3 in Groups D and E as the United States, Netherlands and England among those vying for a spot in the knockout round.
Coming off of a game where they were greatly frustrated by the Netherlands in a 1-1 draw, the goal remains simple for the defending champion United States. A draw against Portugal will see them through to the Round of 16 for a ninth straight World Cup. The USWNT has never finished lower than third place at the quadrennial tournament.
You can catch Portugal vs. the United States in Group E action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Auckland with coverage getting underway at 2:45am et/11:45pm pt on TSN1/3/4, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
In a rematch of the 2019 Final, Lindsey Horan's 62nd-minute marker cancelled out Manchester City forward Jill Roord's first-half opener in Thursday's draw.
"It was a very competitive game against a very good team that we saw at the last World Cup do such good things," Lyon's Horan said. "For us, I think the biggest thing to take away is going down a goal and coming up with an answer to that. Also the chances we created. We need to start finishing a few more of those."
While the goal of not losing is straightforward for the US, it might be exceedingly more difficult against a Portugal team looking for all three points. Though there is a scenario where a draw would be enough for Portugal to advance to the knockouts in their first ever World Cup, the only way to ensure a spot there is with a monumental win over the USWNT.
Portugal is coming off of its first ever World Cup victory, a comfortable 2-0 win over Vietnam on goals from Telma Encarnacao and Kika Nazareth.
"It's not a precisely perfect night, as we could have scored more goals," manager Francisco Neto said of the win. "But it's our first victory ever, the first goals ever, it was very offensive football from our part, so there were a lot of good things, as well. Our players were, above all, competent. The [starting XI] changes were a sure bet from our part: everyone here has their role, and today we had a sample of that. We have to celebrate [the win] until training time, and then prepare to face the United States and do our best."
In the group's other match, 2019 finalists Netherlands find themselves in the same boat as the USWNT, knowing that a draw against Vietnam is all that's needed for passage. But while Portugal is playing for victory against the USWNT, Vietnam - losers of their first two matches - are already eliminated and are playing for pride. In their first ever World Cup, Vietnam would love nothing more than to exit the tournament with a famous win over a hugely favoured Netherlands side.
You can catch Vietnam vs. the Netherlands in Group E action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Dunedin with coverage getting underway at 2:45am et/11:45pm pt on TSN2, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
Netherlands manager Andries Jonker believes the kind of opposition that Vietnam will present will be stout.
“These games are battles from the first second to the last," Jonker said. "The only thing you can say is that women’s football has evolved incredibly."
Even with the knowledge that a single point will be enough to advance, the Oranje don't want to leave anything to chance and will do what they can to emerge as group winners.
“If we have guts and dare to play offensive football, then we can do a lot," Paris Saint-Germain forward Lieke Martens said.
Over in Group D, England have one foot in the Round of 16 after wins in their first two matches, but know that nothing is guaranteed against a China side that also has designs on the knockout round.
You can catch China vs. England in Group D action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Adelaide with coverage getting underway at 6:45am et/3:45am pt on TSN1/3/4, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
After wins against Haiti and Denmark, England needs a single point against the Steel Roses to ensure passage into the knockouts for a fifth straight World Cup. But the Lionesses will be without the services of Barcelona midfielder Keira Walsh, who left the 1-0 win over Denmark with a serious knee injury. While Walsh avoided an ACL tear, manager Sarina Wiegman wouldn't offer any guarantees that the 26-year-old Walsh would appear again at the tournament.
"We are only focusing on the game tomorrow," Wiegman said on Monday. "After that we will continue. We have a strong enough team; every game we want to be at our best. We know she’s not available. We have a group of 23 so now we have a group of 22. We have our solutions – and we’ll show that.”
Manchester City veteran Laura Coombs could get the start in Walsh's stead.
City's Chloe Kelly says her team is entering the match with clear heads.
“We know we have players who can make things happen," the 25-year-old forward said. "That’s why we block out the outside noise because we have confidence in our forward line. It’s a really exciting team to play in. Of course, as an attacker you want to score more. But for now, it’s all about getting three points and building momentum as we move through the tournament."
China has never failed to reach the knockouts in seven previous World Cup appearances and face the very real possibility of heading home after the group stage if they don't produce a result against the Lionesses.
Racing Louisville forward Wang Shuang says she's excited for the challenge.
“I’ve already participated in three World Cups and I was able to score in the previous match so I’m very proud of myself," Shuang said. "I’m also very excited about the match with England. I know they are a very strong team and we will prepare ourselves well to face England.”
Zhang Rui will be unavailable for selection against England with the 34-year-old midfielder picking up a straight red in the victory over Haiti.
In the group's other match, the feeling is three points or bust for Denmark. While the Danes can advance without a victory against Haiti, it's the only way to ensure passage into the knockout round. For the Haitian World Cup debutants, the dream of the knockouts is still alive despite two losses in their opening matches, but there is much work to be done for that to come to pass.
You can catch Haiti vs. Denmark in Group D action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Perth with coverage getting underway at 6:45am et/3:45am pt on TSN2, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
Currently sitting at a -2 goal differential from their first two matches, a victory over Denmark by two or more goals, coupled with an England defeat over China would put Haiti into the Round of 16.
“Against Denmark, we only have to do one thing, and that is win," Reims defender Kethna Louis said. "We need to be determined, combative, and stay connected among ourselves. We have to be clear-minded in front of goal, too. That’s what we’ve lacked in the first two matches, we haven’t finished our chances, so we need a bit more on that front in the third game."
Surprisingly enough for a football-mad country like Denmark, the Red and White have not reached the knockouts at a Women's World Cup since 1995.
Manager Lars Sondergaard says his team is well aware of the task at hand.
“The players know that this is a crucial game, I don’t need to tell them that or repeat it," he said. "The most important thing for us is to remain focused on the match and on what happens on the field. The players can’t afford to think of anything else, they need to concentrate on their game and on their duels. We’ll see how far that takes us."
The Round of 16 gets underway on Saturday with an all-European clash between Switzerland and Spain.