In an exciting night of football, Brazil and Australia won to join Italy in the round of 16.
Group C came to a close with plenty of goals as Australia smashed Jamaica 4-1 and Brazil squeezed out a 1-0 win over Italy. Who were the winners and losers?
Marta Vieira da Silva; the greatest goalscorer in the history of World Cups. The brilliant Brazilian who now has an impossible 113 goals in 146 international appearances is nowhere near her best. Hell, she’s barely even fit. Lasting just 45 minutes against Australia and being subbed off tonight as well after a quiet second half was punctuated by her historic goal.
It is that goal which so set the stage for both her and Brazil. She came into the tournament on 15 World Cup goals, level with the great Ronaldo. Her penalty against Australia drew her level with Miroslav Klose and now tonight she moves out on her own; and more importantly she moves on into the knockout rounds, albeit in a third place finish, keeping her dream of finally winning that elusive World Cup alive.
She is an absolute icon, quite possibly the greatest player of all-time – and now we get to watch her at least one more time.
She scored a hat-trick against Jamaica and bagged one against Australia, but today Cristiane was held goalless. She has been subbed off in every game so far, but she had scored in both of those games. Tonight she was taken off without her name on the scoresheet and with Brazil chasing a goal they absolutely needed to ensure qualification.
Cristiane offered nothing in attack for Brazil. The Italian defenders found her far too easy to handle and shut out of the game, and Brazil only really improved once Beatriz came onto the field for Cristiane. Obviously Cristiane is a supreme goalscorer but without the creativity of Andressa Alves, could Brazil benefit more from the rapid movement of Beatriz and the way she links with Debinha? Especially given they will face the might of France or Germany in the next round.
Winner: Sam Kerr
Australia’s captain knew that her side had a great chance to guarantee qualification for the round of 16 with a win over Jamaica. After their dramatic comeback win over Brazil, confidence was high and with Jamaica winless and goalless they just needed someone to score.
That someone was Sam Kerr, Australia’s captain who bagged a massive four goals. The first was a delightful glancing header that looped up and over Nicole McClure and the second was a more orthodox charge into the box followed by a neat downward header.
Kerr’s movement was so precise that Jamaica’s defence genuinely couldn’t track her runs. In fact she arguably should have had a first-half hat-trick, forcing a great save out of McClure with a third great header – but she eventually completed her treble in the second half before a neat finish from close range before making it a quartet when she took advantage of a goalkeeping error to slap home.
A superb captain’s display from Kerr, carrying the goalscoring load for her nation, securing second place in the group and taking herself up to joint-first in this World Cup’s scoring charts.
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Loser: Jamaica’s defence
When they go forward, Jamaica are a whole mess of fun to watch. They dribble with skill and speed, they make great runs and Khadija Shaw is, in particular, a delight to watch. But at the back they are… they’re not good.
In every game they played, Jamaica have let an opposing striker score a hat-trick. Cristiane in the first game, Cristiana Girelli in the second and tonight was Sam Kerr’s turn. Obviously praise belongs to those individuals and Nicole McClure’s blunder for Sam Kerr’s fourth goal was catastrophic, but when opponents are consistently able to find their striker in such vast amounts of space it’s clear that the defence needs addressing. Jamaica leave the tournament having conceded a huge 12 goals.
Winner: Milena Bertolini
Italy vs. Brazil is always going to be box office, that’s just in the rules of FIFA. But with Brazil much more desperate for the win, and with Italy’s status as upstart underdogs you expected the Brazilians to launch wave after wave of attack. And sure enough that’s exactly what happened, except Brazil found Italy almost impossible to break down.
Sure, once Brazil got their defenders in 1v1 duels they got plenty of joy, but Italy’s excellence was that they always had someone running around on the cover. Brazil could never make the most of the 1v1 situations because Italy’s manager Milena Bartolini had organised the defence so magnificently.
Their defensive structure was impeccable, it protected their goal from assault and fed into how well they played on the break. Sure, they lost in the end, but it seems that the C in Group C stands for chaos because Italy ended up topping the table despite defeat. So looking forward, Bertolini’s organisational skills will help immensely in the round of 16.
The top three sides in Group C finished with 6 points, which threw up some amazing potential matches in the knockout rounds. But amidst all the hype, the horrors of Scotland’s struggles will dawn on them. Not only have they lost the first two goals and are desperate for a win against an obdurate Argentina side, but even if they get that win they will be drawn against powerhouses Germany.
That’s if they even manage to qualify. A win against Argentina (far from guaranteed, by the way) would give them three points, but with Chile due to play Thailand there must be a genuine sense of worry that the South American side will rack up a big win and romp their way into that final runners up spot on goal difference. Everything seems to be stacking up against the Scots.