An afternoon of two contrasting halves saw the Netherlands qualify from Group E as winners after a 2-1 victory over Canada.
Cameroon beat New Zealand by the same scoreline in the other game to all but fire themselves into the knockout rounds. However, they had to wait until the 95th minute to seal their win in the most dramatic of climaxes.
Here are five things we learned as Group E was signed off in style.
1. Raining goals
It took quite some time for these Group E clashes to get going but once they did, it really came alive.
In Reims, the Netherlands took the lead in the 54th minute through a first international goal for Anouk Dekker since 2017, giving the Dutch total control of the group. This sparked Canada into life and three minutes later they were level through none other than Christine Sinclair. Leadership of the group was, once again, in the balance.
Meanwhile, in Montpellier, after what felt like a barrage of shots into the stands, Cameroon finally got their aim right. Ajara Nchout did brilliantly to turn two New Zealand defenders before firing an elegant finish into the goalkeeper’s bottom-left corner, putting Cameroon in front.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 20, 2019
The action wasn’t done there, as in the 75th minute, Lineth Beerensteyn turned in from close range to put the Netherlands – who will face Japan in the last 16 – back in front against Canada, while an unfortunate Aurelle Awona own goal levelled things up in Cameroon v New Zealand just five minutes later. Nchout’s 95th-minute winner — setting off crazed celebrations — had all of us in the media scrambling at our keyboards.
It’s safe to say the second 45 minutes were far more entertaining than the first in Thursday’s games.
2. Christine Sinclair, World Cup expert
If anyone was going to draw Canada level with the Dutch it had to be Sinclair.
The 36-year-old got on the end of Jordyn Huitema cross to score her 182nd international goal.
If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, it also puts Sinclair alongside Brazil’s Marta as the only two players to score at five separate Women’s World Cup finals (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019).
Christine Sinclair is the second player in World Cup history to score in five different tournaments:
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 20, 2019
Sinclair was withdrawn as the game wore on in a bid to save her for the games to come and who’d bet against her extending this remarkable goal tally in the knockout rounds.
3. Lack of quality costs New Zealand
Despite controlling 58% possession, New Zealand really struggled to break their African counterparts down on Thursday.
The Football Ferns found themselves level in fortuitous circumstances with Aurelle’s sliced own goal but in terms of chances created themselves, there wasn’t much doing. Sarah Gregorius fired a diving header past the post when she probably should have scored but beyond that, most of New Zealand’s time on the ball was spent passing in front of the Cameroon defence.
The defeat means New Zealand have now played 15 games at the Women’s World Cup and are yet to win any of them. That’s at least six more games without ever winning at the competition than any other side.
4. Late show eliminates Argentina
My word, Cameroon did this the hard way. After taking the lead thanks to a lovely Nchout opener, Aurelle must have feared the worst with her own goal. Fear not, though, as Nchout once again stepped up in the 95th minute to spare the blushes of her teammate.
Incredible scenes. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/PYV2Y6ViNI
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) June 20, 2019
Not only does that goal breathe life back into Cameroon’s World Cup campaign, but it also ends Argentina’s who now cannot finish as one of the best third-placed teams.
On the one hand, it seems cruel to see a team that fought back from 3-0 down so late into the game on Wednesday to draw 3-3, having not even had FA funding two years ago, crash out of the World Cup in this way. On the other hand, though, there is something strangely poetic as this tournament continues to spin itself full circle on a day-to-day basis.
5. Disaster class
This World Cup has everything: the good, the bad, the ugly and the outright ridiculous. Even discounting the ever-widening spectrum of crazy VAR decisions, it’s been bonkers and Thursday was no exception.
The flurry of second-half goals was enough for us all to sink our teeth into but, in a dark sense, the pick of the bunch was Aurelle’s own goal to very nearly send Cameroon out of the tournament, which was as hilarious as it was potentially costly.
That was already this tournament’s sixth own goal, as many as we saw in the whole of the previous 2015 tournament. Heck, even the mighty Wendie Renard, who has been one of the most imposing players at France 2019 so far hasn’t been immune to poking the ball into her own net when it seemed impossible to get things wrong.
For those involved and the fans of the respective nations, there isn’t a worse way to concede a goal. But for neutrals, it makes for wonderful drama.