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The Big Story 13: USWNT escapes group stage, Netherlands finishes first, England dominates China

Day 13 of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup opened with the Netherlands dominating Vietnam while the United States escaped Group E in second place with a scoreless draw against Portugal. The next set of simultaneous matches concluded Group D play with England defeating China and Haiti falling to Denmark.

Couldn’t watch and need to know what the big story is? This is what happened on the 13th day of the World Cup.

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Your bite-sized recap of Day 13 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup

Portugal 0, United States 0

The Big Story: The U.S. women’s national team did just enough to make it through to the knockout stage of the World Cup in an altogether unimpressive scoreless draw against Portugal.

The Big Moment: Late in the match Portugal was looking dangerous and in stoppage time Ana Capeta found space between the United States centerbacks and narrowly missed advancing her team to the knockout stage, hitting the post.

What it means: The United States went into the match even with the Netherlands on points but ahead on goal differential, needing a win and superior goal differential to take first in the group or just a tie in order to advance. Portugal was looking for their second win of the group stage and attempting to make it out of the group stage in their first World Cup appearance. 

For Portugal it was a terrific performance. They shutout the top ranked team in the world and even controlled large portions of the match, they perhaps even deserved to win the game and advance. The Portuguese controlled 56% of the possession and frustrated the United States, not giving them easy chances and disrupting any sense of rhythm.

The United States looked discombobulated, the players did not appear to be on the same page as far as controlling the ball and building a cohesive attack. That’s not to say that the US didn’t have chances, with 17 shots on the day and 6 on frame, the opportunities were there but, as Rose Lavelle said postgame, the team was missing ruthelessness in front of the net. Lynn Williams made her World Cup debut and created the most dangerous chances for the US, which begs the question, where was she in the first two group matches?

It was a highly physical match and the referee was letting a lot of things slide in the first half without blowing the whistle. But as the match progressed they started calling more and the game ended with 26 fouls and 6 yellow cards between the two teams. The most impactful of these was Rose Lavelle’s yellow card early, which in combination with her card against the Netherlands means that she will not be available to play in the Round of 16.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski did use substitutes in this match, although not as anyone really expected. After an abysmal first half, no subs were made until Megan Rapinoe replaced Sophia Smith in the 61st minute. No more changes were made until the 84th minute when Trinity Rodman came in for Lynn Williams in a like for like substitution and Emily Sonnett went in for Lindsey Horan to give the US the ability to play a five back.  With just a minute left in stoppage, Kelley O’Hara and Alyssa Thompson made their way into the match to waste some time and close out the result. Andonovski waited as long as possible to make the substitutes and even then it felt like the subs were put in to make sure that the squad didn’t lose, instead of going for the win.

– Taylor Vincent

Vietnam 0, Netherlands 7

The Big Story: The Netherlands came out with their foot on the gas and never took it off, scoring five goals in the first half from five different players and continuing the clinical finishing in the second 45. 

The Big Moment: Netherlands started a bit slow in the first few minutes, but this Lieke Martens chip under pressure was just the beginning of the Netherlands’ scoring.

What it means: As winners of Group E the Dutch will get to avoid likely Group G winners Sweden and put themselves in position to advance further in the tournament. The Netherlands came into the match equal to the United States on points, but behind two in goal differential. Vietnam entered this third group stage match unable to advance but looking for their first World Cup win. 

After Lieke Martens’s 8th minute goal, the shots and the goals kept raining in for the Oranje Leeuwinnen throughout the first half. Their crosses were spot on in the box, they followed through on shots, and Esmee Brugts hit an absolute banger that instantly became one of the best goals of the tournament so far. 

Vietnam brought in two substitutes midway through the first half in hopes that it would jumpstart the momentum in their favor, and although it worked for a bit, the Netherlands eventually broke through again. After the Netherlands scored their sixth goal of the night in the 57th minute, Vietnam brought in their final two subs on the night. Vietnam just didn’t have an answer to the Netherlands’ pervasive attack, who were playing some of their best football of the tournament thus far. 

– Taylor Vincent

China 1, England 6

The Big Story: Simply put – Lauren James. The 21 year-old Chelsea forward had two assists and one goal in the first half alone, and would’ve had two if an extra time goal assisted by right-back Lucy Bronze hadn’t been ruled offside. James’s quick touches, precise positioning, and sharp finishes contributed massively to England’s commanding defeat of China. 

The Big Moment: When Lauren James scored for England in the 66th minute, earning a brace and bringing the score up to 4-1 after China pulled one back, she only further proved what many already knew – England is sharp, confident, and a real team to beat in this tournament, and James may be its most valuable weapon. 

What it Means: Entering the evening’s match, England was almost guaranteed to advance to the knockout round; they were, however, missing core midfielder Kiera Walsh, who suffered a knee injury in the Lionesses’ 1-0 win over Denmark. China entered the match with opportunities to advance still alive, but the Steel Roses would have to fight hard and hope for some other group circumstances to lean in their favor to avoid elimination. 

England scored early and often. The Lionesses’ quick lead was initiated by forward Alessia Russo, who made it 1-0 in the fourth minute off an assist from James. Forward Lauren Hemp extended the lead to 2-0 in the 26th, assisted by – you guessed it – James. James herself made it 3-0 in the 41st, and would’ve made it 4-0 if her extra time goal hadn’t been ruled offside. The Lionesses flourished in the first half because they outran China, found holes in its defense, and executed plays involving careful and tactical teamwork.

China, who got its feet slightly back under itself in the second half, earned a corner in the 57th minute. A messy sequence in front of the goal led to a VAR-determined handball by Bronze and, ultimately, a Wang Shuang goal off a penalty kick. But England swiftly reacted and James landed her second goal of the day, and England’s fourth, in the 66th minute to make it 4-1. And when Chloe Kelly scored England’s fifth in the 76th minute, the game was all but over. Rachel Daly’s sixth in the 84th was just for fun.

– Julie Schreiber

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