With the very real threat of group stage elimination looming over them, New Zealand knew that they’d need at least a point to guarantee their progression. Having recorded a shock win over struggling Norway in the opening game of the tournament, New Zealand looked to establish themselves as somewhat of a dark horse – but defeat to the Philippines left them lingering on the edge of becoming the first-ever Women’s World Cup host to fail to reach the knockout stages.
SUI: Thalmann; Riesen, Stierli, Maritz, Aigbogun; Reuteler, Wälti, Sow; Bachmann, Piubel; Crnogorčević
NZL: Esson; Riley, Bowen, Stott, Bott; Chance, Percival, Steinmetz, Longo; Wilkinson, Hand
Bachmann looked to surge forwards early on in an attempt to net a stunning solo strike, having worked her way down the left flank, but as she neared the edge of the penalty area, she was charged down by a stubborn New Zealand defence.
But despite her promising start, Bachmann’s foul on Hand provided the co-hosts with an opportunity to open the scoring. Bowen stepped up to strike, but her effort was blocked well by the wall – and Longo sent the rebound wide of the target under pressure.
With news filtering through the ground of Norway’s second goal against the Philippines, New Zealand knew that they’d need a win to seal progression – and Hand came painfully close to providing that, penetrating the Swiss defence before thundering an effort against the woodwork.
The opportunities were plentiful for the Football Ferns, as Hand delivered a corner to Wilkinson at the near post. Having bagged the opening goal of the tournament, Wilkinson opted to nod the ball towards goal – but a goalmouth scramble saw Switzerland maintain their clean sheet for just a little while longer.
Yet there would be one major opportunity for the Swiss ahead of the half-time interval, as Piubel darted infield to propel a speculative shot towards goal – though Esson was never troubled, watching the ball the entire way as it flew straight into her hands.
In the concurrent game, Norway’s fifth goal soon after the break ensured that they would be heading through regardless of the result in this match – but New Zealand would still need a win if they wanted to join them.
Piubel looked set to seal Switzerland’s spot in the round-of-sixteen just after the hour mark, dashing through on goal after being played in by Bachmann. Despite finding herself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, she sent her effort wide of the post – with the offside flag raised regardless.
Steinmetz instilled hope in the home crowd momentarily as she connected beautifully with Bowen’s corner, but despite finding a way through a crowded area, her sweet first-time strike was sent straight into the grateful arms of Thalmann.
With desperation evidently growing, Hand attempted an audacious effort from the left flank as she shifted the ball onto her right foot to unleash a shot. The angle was tight though, and Thalmann once again claimed the effort with relative ease.
There would be one final chance for Jitka Klimková’s side in stoppage time though, but Esson’s header from Bowen’s cross lacked direction and flew well wide of the target. New Zealand’s hopes of progression to the round-of-sixteen crumbled as the referee blew the final whistle, with the Football Ferns claiming the unwanted record of becoming the first host nation to fail to reach the knockout stages.
Meanwhile, there were scenes of elation for Switzerland – given the high-scoring nature of Norway’s clash with the Philippines, a loss against New Zealand would have seem them heading home. Resolute defending kept them alive, and they’ve been rewarded with a round-of-sixteen tie against either Japan or Spain.