USWNT asserts control of “Group of Death” in 3-1 World Cup opener

After a stunning 3-3 tie between Nigeria and Sweden in the opening match of Group D play, the United States knew a win over 10th ranked Australia would mean control of the so-called “Group of Death” from the word go. Thanks to a two-goal performance from midfielder Megan Rapinoe, the United States women’s national team did just that in a 3-1 win in Winnipeg.

It didn’t exactly play out the way the USWNT wanted it to earl on, as Australia attacked relentlessly in first 10 minutes. However, Rapinoe took control and managed to score the opener in the 12th minute thanks to a good effort and one lucky deflection past the Aussie keeper.

The ladies from Australia didn’t give up though, netting the equalizer just 15 minutes later on a nice shot from Lisa De Vanna.

It was a goal brought on by some poor defending and Australia’s continued attack in the face of a 1-0 deficit early on.

However, following that goal the two teams traded mini-spells of possession and seemingly neither side wanted to do much of anything with the ball. That stopped in the final 10 minutes or so, as the USWNT seemed to settle in with each other and began finding pockets to attack against the Aussies.

It didn’t result in a goal though, as the two sides went in to the half knotted up at 1-1. Both USWNT forwards, Abby Wambach and Sidney Leroux were hard pressed to be part of the action in the first 45 minutes, something that had to change for the United States to come out victorious and not stuck in a four-way tie on one point.

Things changed drastically for the United States from the moment of the whistle to start the second half though. Rapinoe began to get more distribution out wide and her link up play with Leroux began to take over.

It eventually all paid off, as Australia’s defense had to back off a bit and absorb some of what Leroux was able to throw at them. It allowed a great run to happen by Christen Press out of the midfield, as she slotted home the game winner in the 61st minute of the match.

Leroux’s running and link-up play with the midfield worked to the advantage of the USWNT the rest of the night too. The space that Australia had to allow her backfired in the form of a great run by Press and only got worse thanks to an individual goal by Rapinoe in the 78th minute.

Her run down the left side of the field and shot in the left corner of the goal proved to be one of the best individual efforts of the tournament, as she took it from just inside the Aussie’s half and just ran right at the defense before taking a decisive shot without a single fake.

From there on the United States seemed to be in complete control of the match, owning big spells of possession and not allowing Australia much in the way of attack.

About the only thing that didn’t go right for the United States were a pair of yellow cards in the opening match. Rapinoe received one for a questionable pull and trip of an Aussie player in the second half, while Lauren Holiday received one for a nasty challenge in the second half as well.

With the rules not resetting yellow card accumulation penalties until the semi-finals, both players will have to be careful to not get another card in the next two matches or face a suspension.

Losing either of those two would be a disaster moment for the United States.

Still, the United States came out victors and with the only three-point day of anyone in the “Group of Death.” That alone makes it a good performance, and with a match against fellow top side Sweden up next, the USWNT has a chance to clinch a berth in the Round of 16 with a win.

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a contributor to The Comeback as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10. He also is a member of the FWAA and has been covering college sports since 2011. Andy is an avid soccer fan and runs the Celtic FC site The Celtic Bhoys. If he's not writing about sports, you can find him enjoying them in front of the TV with a good beer!