Ivory Coast 1-3 Norway
As expected, Norway scored early. After Ivory Coast had a decent half chance, Norway's Ada Hegerberg put them ahead with a tough angle shot in the sixth minute. Just when it looked like it would be a blowout, Ivory Coast kept coming up with somewhat threatening attacks. It remained 1-0 through halftime. It took Norway until the 62nd to get their second goal from Hegerberg. Solveig Gulbradsen added the third five minutes later. When it was already over, Koko N'Guessan scored a candidate for goal of the tournament to make it 3-1. She launched a bullet from outside the box that left Norway's Silje Vesterbekkmo helpless in goal.
In general, I was sort of impressed with the effort put forth by Ivory Coast here. They were clear underdogs and truly went down fighting. It wasn't enough in the end, but it could be a building block for the future. While they are eliminated, Norway finishes second in Group B and advances to the knockout rounds.
Thailand 0-4 Germany
Germany took longer to get their first goal than Norway did, but they did score more. The first was a corner headed in by Melanie Leupolz in the 24th minute. Much like their underdog counterparts in the other Group B match, Thailand put up quite the fight. They didn't attack as much as Ivory Coast did, but there were a few chances. They never really did stand a chance against the best team in the world, They did hold Germany off until the 56th minute when Linda Petermann scored the first of her two goals in a three minute span. Sara Dabritz added the fourth in the 73rd minute.
Germany wins Group B on goal difference over Norway. Thailand, meanwhile, awaits the results of the rest of the group stage matches. They have a chance to advance as one of the four best third place teams. The three points they earned over Ivory Coast will help, but their -7 goal difference could be their undoing.
China 2-2 New Zealand
Chain earns a draw with two goals from Shanshan Wang between New Zealand goals from Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson. The Stott goal was off a corner in the 28th minute and it was the first goal in World Cup history for the Football Ferns. Things got really chippy between the managers as time wound down. China's Hao Wei was even ejected, ultimately for interfering with a New Zealand player taking a throw in, but he was being sort of a snot for most of the second half. He left the pitch with a taunt at the New Zealand bench.
Regardless of the tomfoolery, China advances to the round of 16 on a goals scored tiebreaker of the Netherlands. New Zealand is eliminated with only two points.
Netherlands 1-1 Canada
All Canada needed was a point to secure first place in Group A, and they got it. Ashley Lawrence scored Canada's first run of play goal of the tournament nine minutes in. Their lead would last for almost the duration of the match. The Dutch didn't equalize until the 876th minute when they created a midfield turnover and took it all the way for the score. Kristen Van De Ven was the finisher.
The draw is enough for Canada to win the group with five points. The Netherlands fall below China on goals scored, but they sit in a good spot to advance as one of the better third place teams with four points.
Two more groups conclude Thursday, beginning with Group C. Japan, who is already through to the group stage, gets to beat up on Ecuador. They should win big. I'll throw out a 6-0 score. At the same time, Switzerland and Cameroon battle with second place on the line. Both teams sit with three points, so the winner earns automatic qualification and the loser awaits to the landing point of other third place teams. It should be close, but I think the Swiss will emerge victorious by a 2-1 score. Cameroon should advance due to their favorable goal difference, though. Both matches kick off at 5pm.
Group D comes to a close with a pair of matches kicking off at 8pm. Australia and Sweden are fighting for second place against each other. Both have looked pretty strong at times, but I give the slight nod to the Swedes here. I think they should squeak by with a 2-1 win. Australia will have to wait and see if they move on.
Finally, the USA goes for first place in Group D against Nigeria. Nigeria need a win to have any hope of advancing, so expect them to give the American ladies quite a fight, The USA should have what it takes to see them off though, I call for them to win 2-0. They need to be careful to avoid a draw. Should they stay level with Nigeria and Australia take down Sweden, the USA will fall to second place and have a date with the highly talented Brazil in the round of 16.