As we get ready for the knockout rounds of the Women’s World Cup, we’ve already had plenty of major talking points.
The group stage has provided plenty of shocks, plenty of drama and some very stringent applications of VAR.
With eight of the 24 teams preparing to say their goodbyes ahead of the weekend, we’ve taken a look back at some of the highlights.
England’s triple nutmeg against Scotland
While the 2018 men’s World Cup involved a game of roly-poly in the group stage, England’s women opted for an elaborate version of piggy in the middle.
After two defenders forced Erin Cuthbert to get redder and redder as she was embarrassed like Charlie Brown running up to take a place-kick, the Scots might have thought they could relax. They were wrong.
As Nicola Docherty set herself, Nikita Parris wasted no time flicking the ball through the defender’s legs and continuing her run. England were using Scotland as props for their own interpretive dance routine.
Save of the tournament by Christiane Endler – this is amazing. pic.twitter.com/MSo3yoLm0j
— GoalScorer Challenge (@GoalscorerC) June 16, 2019
Christiane Endler’s saves against the United States
The United States scored 13 times against Thailand, and it’s no exaggeration to say they could have threatened to match that tally against Chile were it not for goalkeeper Christiane Endler.
Endler kept out all manner of shots, from long-rangers that moved in the air to efforts which flew through crowds, using every part of her body to stop the onslaught, but the best of the bunch came when she produced physics-defying reflexes to deny Christen Press.
To save even a couple of the best American efforts was impressive, but the South American made enough world-class stops for three games, let alone one. The US had nine shots on target in the match, with Chile recording none at all, and Endler keeping the score down was a minor miracle.
?? Emotional scenes after the goal. pic.twitter.com/qySxApMAiB
— WoSo Viewer ✪ (@WoSoViewer) June 16, 2019
Thailand’s goal celebrations
Feel-good stories are what make major tournaments, whether it’s the Irish fans doing a big clean-up at Euro 2016 or the Swedish and Danish men’s teams working in the spirit of togetherness to play out the 2-2 draw they needed to both go through at the expense of Italy at Euro 2004 (what? Too soon?).
The Asian side were among the lowest-ranked in the World Cup, but made it there on merit and the heavy defeat wasn’t going to stop them from giving their all. They lost their second game too, with Sweden barely getting out of second gear, but the goal they scored meant a huge amount to general manager Nualphan Lamsam.
Lamsam has given many squad members jobs at her insurance company so they can play football to a high level without having to worry about making ends meet. After the unfavourable headlines which followed the first game, you can see how much it meant to her.
Thembi Kgatlana’s goal against Spain
South Africa will be going home early after losing all three of their games in an extremely tough group, but for a moment things were going swimmingly thanks to one of the goals of the tournament.
Banyana Banyana were making their debut at the tournament, and went into the game as the lowest-ranked team bar Jamaica, so it was going to be tough even before they were drawn against three of the top 16 sides in the world.
In the opener against Spain, though, Thembi Kgatlana gave them the lead with a pearler of a finish. That curl. That dip. That celebration. Magnifique!
Oh, and did we mention Kgatlana is still only 23? Keep an eye out for more of the same in 2023.
Phil Neville’s Gareth Southgate cosplay
After watching Diego Simeone reach two Champions League finals, Mauricio Pochettino began wearing all black on the touchline and was rewarded with a final of his own in 2019.
Are you surprised to see Phil Neville decide this is the way to go as he takes charge of England’s women.
Gareth Southgate’s dark waistcoat and blue shirt combo was the undisputed highlight of the 2018 Men’s World Cup – don’t let anyone tell you any different – so it doesn’t even matter if Neville’s effort is a poor imitation: he’s seen something that works and stuck with it.
I know what you’re thinking, England made the semi-finals in 2015 so why bother trying to emulate a semi-finalist manager from the men’s game. To which we say this: does Neville strike you as a man who has thought that far ahead?