?We’re into the business end of the group stage now, as eight sides played out their final matches before either heading home, or heading through to the knockout stages.
Monday saw Groups A and B come to their conclusions, dramatic and otherwise, so without further ado, here’s your lowdown on another action-packed day of football.
South Korea 1-2 Norway
Having lost their first two matches to France and Nigeria, South Korea knew that they needed several pieces to fall into place throughout the other groups in the days to come, in order to stand a chance of progressing as one of the best third-placed sides.
Before anything else, however, they had to win their last game and claw back as much of their increasingly poor goal difference as possible. Standing in their way was a Norway side with their own progress on the line. For them, the remit was simple: win, make sure of second place, dust themselves down for the next round.
Within five minutes, it was pretty clear which way it was going. Caroline Graham Hansen was the hero on the night – she converted a penalty after five minutes, then won another at the start of the second half. Isabell Herlovsen would convert that one, with Hansen withdrawn shortly after due to injury.
South Korea, to their credit, made a game of it from there. They didn’t want to go out with a whimper, and after dominating much of the second half, found a goal through Min-Ji Yeo to give Norway something to think about in the last ten minutes.
In the end, however, the Norwegians were able to see it out, and ended what has been a successful group campaign on a high with a hard-fought victory. We’ll find out who they’ll face on Tuesday, with the tree pitting them against whoever finishes second in Group C – likely one of Brazil or Australia, with Italy needing just a point to win that one.
Nigeria 0-1 France
?The hosts came into their final game in cruise control, looking to end their campaign with maximum points and take as much momentum with them into the last 16 as possible.
Nigeria, meanwhile, were hoping for a point that would book their passage into the last 16, while not too hopeful of a win against one of the tournament’s favourites. The game, then, could have been something of a damp squib, with a point effectively suiting both sides.
It looked as if it might have been going that way, as well, until VAR reared its head 15 minutes from time. Awarding France a penalty – and Ngozi Ebere a red card – for a foul on on Viviane Asseyi, Wendie Renard initially fluffed the opportunity, but was given a reprieve when the referee ruled that Chiamaka Nnadozie had stepped off her line – after once again consulting the technology.
Upon the re-take, Renard did not repeat her mistake, emphatically sending it into the top corner with minimal fuss, and France’s 100% record rolled on.
As the winners of Group A, the hosts will face one of the third-placed sides who advance, while Nigeria – should other results mean they make the cut, which is still a distinct possibility on three points – will face one of the group winners.
China 0-0 Spain
The final Group B matches kicked off at 5pm, with both Spain and China fully aware that a point would be enough to move them into the knockout phase, despite Germany leading the group.
In truth, it seemed like both sides were fully aware of this fact. Neither was prepared to throw caution to the wind to get the goal that would make sure of their progress, with risk outweighing reward in this instance, although Lucia Garcia could have put her side ahead when she got on the end of Mariona Caldentey’s cross, only to send an effort wide.
As the game wore on, Spain dominated in virtually every respect, not conceding as much as a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes, but China showed exactly why they have never qualified for a World Cup and failed to progress through the group stages as they limited their more esteemed opponents to half-chances and speculative efforts.
In the end, neither side will put too much stock into the result, as finishing on four points each means Spain qualify in second place, while China are guaranteed to be one of the best third-placed sides.
South Africa 0-4 Germany
If the other match in Group B resembled a closely fought chess match, then this one was more like a Formula One race. Unfortunately, South Africa’s engine packed in after 14 minutes, leaving Germany to race ahead and pick up an easy victory.
The South Africans knew heading in that a victory was a must to salvage any sort of back door into the knockout phases, but any lingering hopes that they might have come up with something special, against a Germany side who were already sure of their progress, found themselves soundly and methodically taken to bits by half time.
First half strikes from Melanie Leupolz, Sara Dabritz and Alexandra Popp all-but ensured the Germans finished as group winners on a 100% record, before Lina Magull added a fourth to put the gloss on things just before the hour mark. 4-0 it finished, but it could have been far more in a scintillating performance from Die Nationalelf.
Germany are into the last 16 and a game in Grenoble on 22 June, opponents tbc.
Spain finish runners-up – and will have a knockout tie against the United States or Sweden on 24 June.
China also go through as one of the best third-placed finishers. pic.twitter.com/7bTvnyLSeG
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 17, 2019
For their efforts, they will face one of the third placed sides, while South Africa head home battered, bruised and pointless after a third straight defeat.