What we learned from the United States’ latest 3-1 win over Scotland

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A severe step back from their Saturday form was still good enough for the U.S. Women’s National Team to cruise to a 3-1 victory over Scotland, but if Tom Sermanni is looking for Christen Press-esque positives from Wednesday’s match in Nashville, the team’s new head coach will be hard pressed. A flat performance against inferior opposition left the U.S. with few lessons learned as they closed out a two-match set with Scotland.

A choppy beginning to the match saw the U.S. fail to establish any rhythm against a Scottish defense that was quick to collapse into its own end. With Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan all missing from Sermanni’s starting XI, the U.S. lacked fluidity going forward, single-touches throughout their team failing to generate any meaningful scoring chances. Without somebody willing to assume a creative presence, the U.S. had initial difficulty creating opportunities against a Scottish defense content to keep the world’s No. 1-ranked team at arm’s length.

The U.S.’s opening goal came in the 21st minute after the Scots turned off on a cross from the U.S.’s left. Megan Rapinoe, having switch flanks with Heather O’Reilly five minutes earlier, was allowed to collect the pass and wait for it to drop toward her right foot before curling a shot inside the left post with the outside of her boot. Taking advantage of a moment’s indecisiveness, the U.S. was up 1-0.

After playing out the rest of a choppy first half, the U.S. looked sharper in the second. Thanks in large part to the effort of forward Sydney Leroux, the U.S. was finally able to open up the Scottish defense. In the 51st minute, that running finally paid off when Leroux cut under defender Jennifer Beattie and onto a pass from O’Reilly before crossing for Abby Wambach. Heading home the 153rd goal of her career, Wambach gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead.

Thirteen minutes later Christen Press, who had just come on for Wambach, slid a 10-yard shot inside the right post to make it 3-0. For Press, it was her third-goal of the week, but with no defender within eight yards of her as she raced into the right side of the box, it was clear the Scots had finally worn down.

The scoring ended in the 81st with a consolation strike, Scottish striker Suzanne Grant one-timing a Emma Mitchell cross past Hope Solo to score in her 100th international appearance.

At 3-1, the final score ultimately mirrored Saturday night’s in Jacksonville, but the performance wasn’t as strong. Over the first half, little separated two teams who are miles apart on the international ladder.

Here are some of the other takeaways from Wednesday’s match:

source: Getty ImagesLauren Cheney, midfielder, is still a question mark – She has all the skills to be a great forward, but on a team that has Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leroux being great is no guarantee of playing time. So Lauren Cheney, who also has the intelligence and technical quality to play in midfield, has been slowly adapting to a middle-of-the-park role since post-2011 World Cup.

On Wednesday, that learning curve was exposed. Cheney was competent and mistake-free paired with Shannon Boxx in the middle, but for a team at the U.S.’s level, being competent is not enough. One-touch passes into defense and wide to O’Reilly and Rapinoe need to be complemented by a threat going forward. When Scotland’s midfield gave her time to turn and look upfield, Cheney demurred. Until Sydney Leroux started dropping back and to take the ball high in midfield, the U.S. had no threat coming through the middle.

That lack of creativity is a problem when Carli Lloyd is in the team, too. Tonight, however, Cheney failed to show she can be an improvement.

It’s almost an unfair challenge to give somebody – asking a player so close to becoming a world-class striker to, in her mid-20s, become a world-class midfielder. And when, in the second half, Cheney was near the penalty area and put a nice touch on a ball hit out of the back, we saw that forward’s skill set still rests in her. And yet she’s being put in position to be judged against players who’ve trained most of their lives to be midfielders.

Wednesday’s was only one game, but it’s a game that’s consistent with a larger body of work. It’s still unclear Cheney is an answer in midfield.

Wide play dropped off – Sermanni changed both of his outside midfielders, electing to start Rapinoe and O’Reilly over Press and Heath. Despite Rapinoe’s goal, neither player had standout games. Aside from some nice service on dead balls, Rapinoe failed to provide a needed spark. O’Reilly was a non-factor partly do to a mid-first half switch that put her on the left side, where she was ineffective.

The trouble on the wings ended up inhibiting fullbacks Kelley O’Hara and Ali Krieger. Both defenders had strong performances on Saturday, but the combination play between them and their corresponding wingers just wasn’t there on Wednesday. O’Hara, so vital on the U.S.’s second goal in Jacksonville, was never a factor, while Krieger was kept from getting forward by a Scotland attack that tended to throw a forward at her while breaking out of their end.

Mixed reviews for central defenders – Sermanni also swapped out both central defenders, replacing Christie Rampone and Becky Sauerbrunn with Whitney Engen and Rachel Buehler.

Engen, making her first start for the national team, looked capable but unsteady, at one point arching her back while attempting to head a ball after being caught turning her back to the field of play. She’ll need better performances than this one if she’s going to challenge for a regular spot.

Not surprisingly, Buehler was more solid, but her tendency to get caught out of position on forays into the midfield was on display in the first half. Multiple times the veteran came out of defense to challenge for possession only to pull up short and end up trailing the play as the ball moved past her.

It’s the type of play Christie Rampone’s capable of covering for, but it’s also the opposite of what we saw from her replacement on Saturday. While Sauerbrunn was far from mistake-free in Jacksonville, she was better at making decisions on when to jump into midfield, memorably coming forward to head the ball off a throw-in out of the Scottish end in the first half.

Buehler is probably still the first choice at left-center half, but the reality of the U.S. central defense remains unchanged. The back four still depends on Christie Rampone.

Abby Wambach looked better – It still wasn’t vintage Wambach, but more active and less mistake-prone than Saturday, the FIFA World Player of the Year bounced back from a bad game in Jacksonville. Her early second half energy helped produce a goal that leaves her five short of Mia Hamm’s all-time record.

Costa Rica stuns Japan to blow Group E wide open

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Costa Rica scored a late winner to stun Japan and blow Group E wide open as the Samurai Blue will be kicking themselves.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

Keysher Fuller scored a chipped effort in the final 10 minutes to grab Costa Rica and an unexpected win as Japan dominated the game but couldn’t create clear-cut chances and they were made to pay.

After beating Germany in their group stage opener, Japan knew a win in this game would basically send them in to the last 16. Now they face Spain in their final Group E game needing to dig deep.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Following their 7-0 defeat to Spain in their World Cup opener, Costa Rica dug deep and have given themselves a chance of getting out of the group as they face Germany in their final game and are level on points with Japan.


Los Ticos put in perfect underdog display

After being battered by Spain this was a heroic display from Costa Rica. They let Japan have most of the ball and play but late on took their one big chance and that was all they needed. This was almost like watching a lower league team play against a Premier League opponent in an FA Cup game. Costa Rica were solid defensively in a back five and snapped into challenges and did whatever they could to put off a very talented and technical Japan side. Yes, Japan had an off day and just never looked comfortable on the ball but don’t underestimate the incredible work Costa Rica did off the ball to unsettle their opponents. Los Ticos have restored pride in their team and they now face a showdown with Germany knowing they have to put in exactly the same kind of display.


Stars of the show

Japan vs Costa Rica
Graphic via FotMob.com

Kendall Waston: Came into the team and delivered a brilliant defensive display. The veteran led by example and cleared everything.

Maya Yoshida: Japan’s captain did everything to hold off Costa Rica and tried to drive his team on from the back.


How to watch Japan vs Costa Rica live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 5am ET – Sunday, November 27
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Japan will now look to build on their first-ever win against Germany and they will be full of confidence after a resolute team display. Manager Hajime Moriyasu makes five changes to the team which beat Germany as the the strength of his squad is incredible and he will once again look to the bench and aim to blow opponents away in the final 30 minutes. It is all about the team first and his players totally buy into that model.

As for Costa Rica, they have to forget the hammering to Spain. That can happen when you play Spain who have so many great attacking players and when it clicks, they can pummel teams. They simply have to win this game and Kendall Waston and Gerson Torres are the only two changes from the defeat to Spain.


Japan quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada

Costa Rica quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 31
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from CONCACAF via interconfederation playoffs
Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez
Key players: Keylor Navas, Joel Campbell, Celso Borges, Bryan Ruiz


Australia vs Denmark: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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This will be an epic battle in Group D as Australia and Denmark can both reach the last 16 of the World Cup heading into their final group game.

STREAM LIVE AUSTRALIA v DENMARK

After their superb win against Tunisia last time out, Australia know a win against Denmark puts them in the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time in their history. Graham Arnold has had plenty of criticism for the way his team play but they were totally committed against Tunisia and always carried a threat on the counter. They will have to put in a very similar display against the talented Danes but a point could well be enough as Tunisia would have to beat France in the other game in Group D to complicate matters further for Australia and Denmark.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

As for Denmark, they have had a very poor tournament so far. They were woeful in attack against Tunisia in an opening game stalemate, while they were beaten by France last time out and Kasper Hjulmand has failed to get his team going in attack. Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are trying to drive Denmark on from midfield but they just haven’t look dangerous going forward. They have to win against Australia and then hope Tunisia doesn’t beat France and it goes down to goal difference. 

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

Here is everything you need for Australia vs Denmark.


How to watch Australia vs Denmark live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Australia will set up exactly the same as they did against Tunisia as they will whip in balls to Mitchell Duke who was the hero with his superb flicked header. Both Duke and Arnold pointed to the ‘Aussie Spirit’ getting them the win against Tunisia and there is a real grit and determination about this team.

Denmark know they have to win, so they will go for a more attack-minded lineup and they have the quality to beat Australia. They will likely start Braithwaite and Dolberg as they try to get something going in attack and this is basically a knockout game in the group stage.


Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Denmark quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 10
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group F)
Coach: Kasper Hjulmand
Key players: Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen


Tunisia vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Tunisia need a win and help as they clash with reigning World Cup champions France in their Group D finale.

STREAM LIVE TUNISIA v FRANCE

With France already through to the last 16 of the World Cup courtesy of their two wins so far against Australia and Denmark, Didier Deschamps may rest a few key players for this game. That will give Tunisia hope and after their 0-0 draw against Denmark and their narrow 1-0 defeat to Australia, they’ve been in both games but just can’t find that finishing touch in the final third.

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

France have an abundance of talent, and that’s just on their bench. Despite losing Nkunku, Benzema, Pogba and Kante to injury before the tournament kicked off, it hasn’t really impacted them as they’ve made light work of their opening two group games. Kylian Mbappe was the difference against Denmark and he already has three goals at this tournament to be the joint top scorer.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Tunisia vs France.


How to watch Tunisia vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Tunisia need to take more risks in attack and this is all or nothing for them now. They need to win and hope that Australia against Denmark ends in a draw as they have the upperhand over Australia when it comes to goal difference. If they win and Denmark win it will also go down to goal difference to see if they reach the last 16. Surely Khazri and Khenissi will start this game to give them extra quality in attack.

France now have the luxury of resting some of their key players ahead of the last 16 but Deschamps will be keen to make it three wins from three in the group stage to keep momentum going. Expect to see the likes of Camavinga, Saliba, Guendouzi and Thuram from the start. France just need a point to guarantee top spot in the group but in reality their huge advantage in goal difference over Australia (6 goals better off) means they’ve already won the group.


Tunisia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 30
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified via CAF playoffs (Beat Mali)
Coach: Jalel Kadri
Key players: Ferjani Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema


Wales vs England: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Being dubbed as ‘The Battle of Britain’ this clash in the Group B finale between Wales and England has plenty on the line.

There is no love lost between these bitter rivals.

STREAM LIVE WALES v ENGLAND

England know anything other than a four-goal or more defeat to Wales means they are in the last 16, while a win for the Three Lions would guarantee them top spot in Group B ahead of Wales, Iran and the USA. Gareth Southgate’s side need an impressive performance to go with any win as their fanbase was far from happy with their lackluster display in the 0-0 draw against the USA last Friday.

[ MORE: Group B standings, schedule, results ]

As for Wales, their situation is clear: they have to win to have a chance of reaching the last 16 and then they will hope that Iran vs USA in their other Group B game ends in a draw. That could happen but Wales need to improve drastically on their two showings so far as their star players have looked off the pace and they deservedly lost against Iran last time out.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Wales vs England.


How to watch Wales vs England live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Welsh have not made the most of their second trip to the World Cup in their history. They were dominated in the first half of their opener against the U.S. but showed good spirit to battle back for a point late on. Against Iran they were second best throughout and a late red card to Wayne Hennessey was followed by two late Iranian goals and Robert Page could have no complaints as his team failed to show up. Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have had superb careers but injuries have hit them hard in recent years and this looks like a tournament too far for Wales’ star duo.

As for England, the vultures are circling back home as Gareth Southgate is under pressure once again for what many believe are overly cautious tactics. Against the U.S. they huffed and puffed without really creating clear-cut chances and were pretty lucky to escape with a draw. Even though England are all but guaranteed a spot in the last 16, the Three Lions fans expect more from Harry Kane and Co. after they reached the World Cup semifinals four years ago and were runners up in the European Championships just over a year ago. Southgate is expected to make quite a few changes to his lineup as the likes of Phil Foden, Kalvin Phillips and Marcus Rashford could feature from the start.


Wales quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 19
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 1
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs, Path B
Coach: Rob Page
Key players: Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies

England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Pickford