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U.S. reaches knockout phase with few surprises

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Soccer

REIMS, France -- The seemingly interminable group stage of the Women's World Cup lasted 14 days, featuring 36 games, 106 goals, 23 shutouts and very few surprises.

New Zealand didn't a win a group-stage game for the fifth time in as many World Cups and the U.S. didn't lose one for the seventh time in eight tournaments. It didn't give up a goal either, something the Americans accomplished for the first time.

The host country -- in this case, France -- advanced as it has in every tournament. So did Germany, whose women have never exited a World Cup in the first round -- a claim the German men can no longer make.

Marta scored twice, extending her World Cup total for goals to 17, most by a player of either gender. And her team, Brazil, moved on as it has in every tournament she's played in.

Canada's Christine Sinclair scored a goal -- she only has 182 of those. In her first two games, American Carli Lloyd scored three, giving her goals in a record six consecutive World Cup games, dating to 2015.

"I don't care," she said when her streak ended in the group-stage final against Sweden. "I just want to win."

 

Mission accomplished: The U.S. has lost just twice in regulation in Lloyd's four World Cups.

So in a lot of ways, this tournament has been deja vu -- which I can use here because it's a French term. (So, interestingly, is cliche.)

But there's also been some new ground broken. Although none of the four World Cup debutantes -- Chile, South Africa, Scotland and Jamaica -- survived the group stage, Africa will see two countries advance in the same tournament for the first time. But it wasn't easy for either Cameroon or Nigeria.

Francisca Lara had a late penalty kick against Thailand that would have sent Chile on to the round of 16, but her try thudded off the crossbar and that spot in the elimination stage went to Nigeria instead, touching off a wild celebration at the hotel where Nigerian players were watching the Chile game on TV.

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