WATCH LIVE: Women’s World Cup – Day 7

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It seems like an awful lot has already happened at this World Cup, but Friday marks just the end of the first week.  Four teams entered Thursday with a chance to advance and none of them did (three of them are extremely likely but not official).  Three more teams—the United States, Japan and Cameroon—can advance with wins on Friday though, Japan play Cameroon so only one of the two can get it done.

Group D – Australia (0-1-0) vs Nigeria (0-0-1)
Friday, 5 pm EDT
Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg
WATCH LIVE ON NBCDEPORTES.COM

A fascinating match between two sides that were extremely impressive at times in their opening matches but wound up with a draw and a loss.  Both teams can attack, and both have some things to prove defensively.  Nigeria in particular, struggled on defensive set pieces and were generally disorganized in front of maligned keeper Precious Dede.

[KASSOUF: Australia, Nigeria oozing confidence despite results]

Most observers thought Nigeria were better than Sweden during Monday’s 3-3 draw and there was little dispute that Australia carried the first hour against the United States.  The dynamics of the group after one round are such that even a draw could be okay for both if the United States beats Sweden.

Group C – Switzerland (0-1-0) vs Ecuador (0-1-0)
Friday, 7 pm EDT
BC Place, Vancouver
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Both sides played their first-ever World Cup match earlier this week, and both suffered shutout losses.  Thus ends the similarities.  Switzerland outplayed Japan for long stretches and lost 1-0 on a penalty that at best was not universally supported as the correct call.  Ecuador played Cameroon, conceded three penalties, three other goals, and basically got run off the pitch.

[ MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup ]

Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann was not able to get Switzerland on the scoreboard but she did show off her skills with several dynamic moments, including one breathtaking weave through several Japanese defenders that ended only when a last-ditch defensive effort caused her to take a heavy touch and lose her balance.  She figures to have more space against Ecuador who are an early candidate to be viewed as the weakest team at this World Cup.

Group D – United States (1-0-0) vs Sweden (0-0-1)
Friday, 8 pm EDT
Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg
WATCH LIVE ON NBCDEPORTES.COM (also on NBC Universo)

This one was among the handful of group matches most people circled after the draw six months ago, and the relative stakes went up earlier this week after Sweden coach Pia Sundhage spoke out about some of her former United States players in the New York Times.  But Sundhage has more to worry about than her coaching past.  Her Swedish side had few answers for Nigeria’s attack and fewer ideas about how to see out a match while leading by multiple goals in the second half.

[KASSOUF: Sundhage doubles down on USWNT insight — not trash-talk]

The United States’ was not exactly in peak form against Australia, but they walked away 3-1 winners and so they have control of the group and will officially advance with another win in this one.  It will be interesting to see how Jill Ellis strategizes the flanks.  The U.S.’ best against Australia came during the rare times they utilized width and Nigeria pulverized Sweden on the flanks the same day.

Group C – Japan (1-0-0) vs Cameroon (1-0-0)
Friday, 10 pm EDT
BC Place, Vancouver
WATCH LIVE ON NBCDEPORTES.COM

The world champions were among the powers to win while underwhelming, while Cameroon made a smashing debut, hammering Ecuador 6-0.  The star of that show was Gaelle Enganamouit who became the first African woman to record a World Cup hat trick.  Unfortunately most of that match happened opposite the U.S. playing so not many in the states saw Cameroon.  But it does make for some intrigue as we will get to see how they measure up against a quality side.

Japan are without Kozue Ando, whose tournament ended on an ankle injury suffered against Switzerland.  If either team wins, it secures passage to the knockout rounds.  A draw all but assures it for both.