Co-hosts Australia rescued their Fifa Women’s World Cup hopes with a 4-0 thumping of Canada to sweep into the Round of 16 at the expense of the Olympic champions on Monday.
The Matildas came into the clash needing victory to ensure they made the knockout round after a stunning 3-2 defeat to Nigeria left them on a knife-edge.
They thrived on the pressure in front of more than 27,000 in Melbourne to resign Canada to an early flight home, with Hayley Raso scoring twice.
Australia top Group B ahead of Nigeria, who drew 0-0 with Ireland, and set them up for a clash against the second-placed team in Group D – likely Denmark or China – in the next round.
The Nigerians, who upset Australia 3-2 on their last visit to Brisbane, recovered from a sloppy first half to get the draw they needed and reach the knockout stage for only the third time in nine attempts.
“I’m so, so proud of this team,” said coach Tony Gustavsson. “The players, there’s something special about this group.
“In the press conference yesterday someone asked if this was legacy-defining, a crossroads moment for this team, and yes it was. But we didn’t shy away from it,” he added.
“The way the players performed tonight, all the talk about Sam (Kerr), they just went out and played their game, stayed true to who they are.”
Talismanic striker Kerr remained on the bench as a precaution despite declaring herself available after a calf injury that had ruled her out of Australia’s first two games.
Raso put them ahead in the ninth minute, firing low into the corner after captain Steph Catley fed a teasing low cross.
They had a goal controversially disallowed 10 minutes before the break, but put it behind them and Raso made sure on their very next attack for her second with a close-range tap-in.
A shellshocked Canada made four changes at half-time, but the comeback never materialised and Mary Fowler bagged Australia’s third from a counter-attack before Catley sealed victory with an injury-time penalty.
“Everybody fought for each other, you could see that out there,” said Raso. “We showed that never-say-die attitude and we’re absolutely delighted.”
But it was the end of the road for Canada, who would have been through with a draw.
“Reality is setting in but all credit to Australia, they were the better team,” coach Bev Priestman said.
“Football is cruel, it wasn’t our night, and that is it.”
Japan thrash Spain
Earlier, Japan sent a World Cup warning with a clinical 4-0 thrashing of Spain.
The 2011 champions Japan were 3-0 up by half-time in Wellington as they romped to a victory that allowed them to finish top of Group C and set up a last-16 tie against Norway.
Hinata Miyazawa scored twice either side of a Riko Ueki goal, with Mina Tanaka wrapping up a stunning win late on.
Their first victory in five attempts over Spain was so comprehensive it suggests that 11th-ranked Japan may be contenders to win the tournament.
They finish the group stage with 11 goals, more than any other team, while they are yet to concede.
Miyazawa, who was substituted at half-time, is also now the tournament’s leading scorer with four goals.
“I never imagined it. All of the goals are because of the other players giving me the right passes. So it’s everybody’s goal, not just me,” she said.
Spain, who like Japan had already qualified for the last 16 before this game, finish as runners-up in their group and now play Switzerland in Auckland on Saturday.
In the other Group C game, Zambia won a Women’s World Cup match for the first time with a 3-1 victory over Costa Rica as they ended their tournament on a high.