Running simultaneously with the United States’ infuriating performance against Portugal was just as disappointing of a game for the Vietnamese. The only difference? The United States are the two-time-defending World Cup champions and little was expected of Vietnam on the global stage. The Netherlands won Group E with a 7-0 win, likely avoiding Sweden in the Round of 16 and earning a matchup with Italy, South Africa or Argentina instead. The Dutch had five different goal-scorers, with a quintet of goals coming by halftime. It’s clear the Netherlands wanted to win the group more than anyone else.
Between Portugal and Vietnam, the USA no doubt had the tougher opponent. But the Dutch gave a shit and had the technical ability to trounce a team into oblivion, something casual American fans have become accustomed to seeing from the Stars and Stripes. It was a complete domination, making the American’s 3-0 victory over Vietnam look like child’s play. The Netherlands scored seven goals and deserved more.
Also claiming first place in a group on Tuesday morning was England, who dispatched and eliminated China with a 6-1 victory. For a Three Lionesses squad that entered the Women’s World Cup with legitimate question marks as to their offensive prowess, boy have they answered those critics. Contributions from the midfield and on the wings have made the British attack look like the team that won the European championships last year, despite the rash of injuries that have taken out four starters. Lauren James is putting in an early case to win the Golden Ball with a two-goal, three-assist performance against the Chinese.
While China was a trendy pick to advance to the knockout stages (including an incorrect selection from yours truly), the strength of the teams that should be in line with the United States in terms of quality truly showed on match day 13. It’s not kicking the USA when it’s down, since the Americans did this to themselves. Sweden, France, and Brazil all have the same chance to secure their places in the Round of 16 in dominant fashion as the tournament reaches a fortnight old. And the identity of the USA’s next opponent will become official, as if anyone truly doubts it’ll be Sweden. England’s Round of 16 opponent will be Nigeria, who got the necessary points to get out of the group stage for the first time, sending Canada home in the process.
Advancing as Group D runners-up are the Danish, who defeated North American upstarts Haiti 2-0, putting themselves on a collision course with Australia for a spot in the quarterfinals. A penalty-kick goal and a second-half stoppage-time marker was the difference, with Denmark having to defeat the co-hosts in Sydney to keep its global dreams alive on Monday morning.
Haiti’s loss also signals an overall trend with North America underperforming throughout the group stage, with the lone exception being Jamaica, who needs a result against Brazil to not be eliminated overnight in Kingston. Canada’s troubles were widespread, the United States have been lethargic, Panama was already eliminated and Haiti couldn’t pull any upsets. Quite a referendum on CONCACAF.