England, hoping for the kind of statement that would let it start to live up to its own lofty expectations for this tournament, picked up its second 1-0 win, this time against Denmark, to put it clearly atop its group.
The Lionesses, who won the European championship on home soil last year, needed a penalty kick to edge Haiti in their opening game. And on Friday, Lauren James scored the only goal early to halt a three-game string in which her team had failed to score in open play.
“We talked about ruthlessness,” Coach Sarina Wiegman said of her team’s lack of goals ahead of the game. “We talked about coming into the final third, the crosses being right, coming into the box at the right time, and we worked on that.”
The Lionesses may have paid a heavy price in the victory, however: Midfielder Keira Walsh injured her knee in the 35th minute and was carried off the field on a stretcher. If she cannot continue in the tournament, she would become the fourth England regular lost to a knee injury.
Walsh went down in the 35th minute, clutching her right leg. She was carried off the field on a stretcher and later returned to the bench on crutches.
“It’s not nice seeing anyone go off like that,” defender Millie Bright said.
When she met reporters after the game, Wiegman said the team’s medical staff had not evaluated Walsh’s injury. But she said the team had little choice to move on, as it had after earlier injuries to fixtures like Beth Mead, Leah Williamson and Fran Kirby.
“You just have to move on,” Wiegman said. “You’re at the World Cup, and you want to win that game. So we really have to adapt to a new situation as quickly as possible, and that’s what we did.”
China vs. Haiti
China, playing short-handed because one of its players had been issued a red card after a hard challenge, edged Haiti, 1-0, with a penalty kick that proved to be just enough.
Zhang Rui was disqualified after planting her right foot on the inner right thigh of Sherly Jeudy of Haiti, a challenge that was quickly ruled as too harsh. The red card left China with 10 players on the pitch for more than 70 minutes of play, which prompted some cautious play through much of the match.
A penalty kick by Wang Shuang gave China its first goal of the tournament.
The Chinese were once a dominant force in women’s soccer — they faced the United States in the 1999 World Cup final — but have faded from the world stage more recently. China’s current world ranking, 14th, is its highest in seven years.
Argentina vs. South Africa
South Africa had shocked Sweden in its opening match of this World Cup by taking the lead against a team that is hoping to contend for the title. But it couldn’t hold the lead, and eventually lost the game.
South Africa’s second group-stage game saw more of the same, with the team taking the lead on goals aided by defensive letdowns by Argentina. But again, South Africa couldn’t hold its lead: Argentina scored twice in five minutes late in the second half to steal a valuable point, leaving South Africa to lament now what it won — the first World Cup point in its team’s history — but what might have been if it had been able to close out the job.
Playing in its fourth World Cup, Argentina is still hunting for its first win. Finding it won’t be any easier in its final game, against Sweden.