Long-time fans who have held concerns about the United States' ability to win the World Cup did not have any of their fears exorcised on Tuesday, nor did any new fans likely walk away impressed. But the USWNT got the job done against Nigeria, winning 1-0 to finish top of Group D on seven points. They now have an easy road to the semifinal, and will face opponents weaker than all of their group stage foes over the next two games.
Julie Johnston appeared to have the U.S. ahead in the eighth minute, but her goal was called back for being a hair offside. Four minutes later, Nigeria nearly took the lead, with Asisat Oshoala forcing an excellent save out of Hope Solo.
The first half was a bit disjointed for both sides, with Oshoala and Megan Rapinoe creating the only big chances for their respective teams. Oshoala barely had a great chance blocked away by Johnston later in the half, while Rapinoe forced Precious Dede to make two saves.
Abby Wambach fired the USWNT ahead in first-half stoppage time, and in typical fashion. She got on the end of a Rapinoe corner, rose above the defense and placed the ball past Dede to give her team the only goal they would need.
Alex Morgan had a good chance saved in the early minutes of the second half, then was denied again on the hour mark, but there wasn't much to write home about after that. Sarah Nnodim picked up a second yellow card in the 69th minute, and the U.S. opted to sit on their lead rather than try to extend it. With 10 players against 11, Nigeria couldn't mount much of an attacking charge.
United States: Solo, Klingenberg, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Krieger, Heath (Rampone 80'), Lloyd, Holiday, Rapinoe (Boxx 74'), Morgan (Leroux 66'), Wambach
Goals: Wambach (45')
Nigeria: Dede, Ebi, Chukwunonye, Nnodim (red 69'), Sunday (Ayinde 50'), Okobi, Nwabuoku, Ordega (Nku 77'), Oshoala, Dike (Oparanozie 50')
1. Abby Wambach deserves her place. Not only did Wambach score the winning goal, but she did more to drop deep, combine with midfielders and continue attacks with her movement off the ball than any American striker had in any performance up to this point. It's possible that a fitter, more in-form Morgan and Amy Rodriguez could be the best American striker pairing, but on the evidence of this match, Wambach should start.
2. The US midfield is still busted. Nigeria's decent chances all came from Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday being absolutely nowhere on counter-attacks. There's no fix for this -- the USWNT left all of their good central midfielders at home. Maybe they could patch it up by playing three in the center -- which is viable if Morgan is at her best -- but there's no chance Jill Ellis goes away from a two-striker formation. This is a permanent problem.
3. Nigeria get out of any other group. Poor Nigeria. They're undoubtedly a top-16 team in this tournament. It just so happens that Australia and Sweden are probably top eight. The draw was mean to them.