USA beats Nigeria on Wambach's goal, wins Women's World Cup group
Abby Wambach's goal in the dying moments of the first half was enough to lift the U.S. women's national team to a 1-0 win over Nigeria, cementing a first-place finish in Group D.
Wambach, whose recent comments regarding playing on artificial turf have put her back in the spotlight, scored on a one-time volley off a Megan Rapinoe corner kick in the 45th minute. Wambach, whose goal was the 14th World Cup goal in her career (second-most all-time) was restored to the starting lineup, and she began the game next to Alex Morgan, who earned the first World Cup start of her career. Morgan made way for Vancouver-area native Sydney Leroux in the 65th minute.
The USA had a goal from center back Julie Johnston waved off early for an offside call, despite replays showing she was even with Wambach on a squared header.
Johnston then came up big for the USA defense, tracking back and making a potential goal-saving slide tackle by deflecting Asisat Oshoala's attempt from close range. With the shutout, Johnston, Hope Solo & Co. have not conceded a goal in 243 minutes.
Nigeria goalkeeper Precious Dede kept the deficit at one through with a series of saves on her end, none bigger than her stopping Morgan on the doorstep with a sliding stop just into the second half, after Ali Krieger had set Morgan up with a cross from the right.
Nigeria went down to 10 players in the 69th minute, when Sarah Nnodim was sent off for her second yellow card after sliding through Leroux on a tackle.
Late on, U.S. veterans Shannon Boxx and Christie Rampone made their first appearances of the tournament, with Rampone (39) becoming the oldest player to appear in a Women's World Cup match.
With the win, the USA secured first place in its group, avoiding a round-of-16 matchup with Brazil. Instead, the USA will play the third-place finisher from Group B, E or F and is in line to play either China or Cameroon in the quarterfinals, should it advance.
Here's how the match unfolded:
DEFENDERS: Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
GOALKEEPERS: 1-Precious Dede (Ibom Queens), 16-Ibubeleye Whyte (Rivers Angels), 21-Christy Ohiaeriaku (Rivers Angels)
DEFENDERS: 2-Blessing Edoho (Pelican Stars), 3-Osinachi Ohale (Rivers Angels), 5-Onome Ebi (FC Minsk), 6-Josephine Chukwunonye (Rivers Angels), 15-Ugo Njoku (Rivers Angels), 22-Sarah Nnodim (Nasarawa Amazons), 23-Ngozi Ebere (Rivers Angels)
MIDFIELDERS: 12-Halimat Ayinde (Delta Queens), 13-Ngozi Okobi (Delta Queens), 14-Evelyn Nwabuoku (BllK Kazygurt), 19-Martina Ohadugha (Rivers Angels), 20-Cecilia Nku (Rivers Angels)
FORWARDS: 4-Perpetua Nkwocha (Clemensnas IF), 7-Esther Sunday (Sunshine Queens FC), 8-Asisat Oshoala (Liverpool), 9-Desire Oparanozie (En Avant Guingamp), 10-Courtney Dike (Oklahoma State University), 11-Iniabasi Umotong (Portsmouth), 17-Francisca Ordega (Washington Spirit), 18-Loveth Ayila (Rivers Angels)