Women's World Cup update: Morocco in, Germany out
SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
Another day at the Women's World Cup has brought another day of big surprises. Germany, the second best team in the world according to FIFA rankings, has been eliminated. Meanwhile, Morocco's dream run continues. It's one of the 16 teams advancing to the knockout stage, which starts Saturday. Team USA, the reigning World Cup champ, is also going forward despite some growing worries about how the team is playing. Here with details is Alicia Del Gallo. She's a senior editor at USA Today Sports, and she's covering all of this. Hi, Alicia.
ALICIA DEL GALLO: Hi.
PFEIFFER: Start us off with Morocco. This is really one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. And tell us about the country's journey to even get to this point, the team's journey.
DEL GALLO: Morocco is definitely an inspirational story, and they are on a dream run for sure - the first North African country and the first majority-Arab nation to make it to the tournament. They are one of eight first-timers at this World Cup and the only one to advance out of the group stage. Prior to them advancing today, they also already made World Cup history with the first player to compete wearing a hijab...
PFEIFFER: Oh, interesting.
DEL GALLO: ...Yes - since FIFA lifted the ban on religious head coverings in 2014. If you haven't gone back and watched the celebrations and particularly if you can find the replay of the Arabic broadcast call, you can see the joy in everybody's face, the coaches in the center of the players, crying. They're jumping. They're running. This - they won their game but then had to wait an hour to see what would happen in Germany's game before they knew whether they were going through or not.
PFEIFFER: That's great. I haven't seen that video, but I will look it up. So Morocco celebrating, Germany devastated - what happened?
DEL GALLO: Man, so much had to happen for Germany not to go through. So Colombia and Germany were 1 and 2 and expected to go through unless crazy things happened, which was Germany not beating South Korea and Colombia losing to Morocco.
PFEIFFER: And both of those...
DEL GALLO: And that's what happened.
PFEIFFER: Both of those things happened.
DEL GALLO: Yeah.
PFEIFFER: The crazy came true.
DEL GALLO: Yeah.
PFEIFFER: This is why tournaments are so fun to watch.
DEL GALLO: Yes.
PFEIFFER: The unexpected surprises.
DEL GALLO: For sure.
PFEIFFER: So in terms of the teams that are headed to the knockout stage, what else is most surprising to you?
DEL GALLO: So obviously, the United States' performance is surprising. They were one post away from going home. The other surprises - Nigeria beating Australia, Canada getting knocked out after losing to Australia and tying Nigeria. There were so many - Jamaica tying France and sending Brazil home and ending Marta's World Cup career. It's been a roller coaster for sure, and I think it's indicative of how the game is growing around the world that there aren't so many blowouts or lopsided scores this year.
PFEIFFER: Oh, that's an interesting observation. Despite the U.S. team looking shaky, how are you feeling about its likelihood to keep advancing?
DEL GALLO: Shaky.
PFEIFFER: Do you think that's too strong or weak a word?
DEL GALLO: No, I think it's an accurate word. I think everyone's feeling a little shaky watching them and that uncertainty there.
PFEIFFER: Oh, you feel shaky (laughter).
DEL GALLO: Yeah, I feel shaky. There's an uncertainty watching them that hasn't been present in a long time. With the Netherlands game is when it started. I mean, honestly, the first game, even though they won 3-0, it should have been a stronger performance than that. Then they draw Netherlands, and then they barely escaped Portugal. Now we're going off of back-to-back-shaky performances. And you're hitting Sweden, their nemesis. It's going to be an interesting one to watch for sure.
PFEIFFER: Fun and emotionally agonizing for some people but fun if you have some emotional detachment.
DEL GALLO: Yes.
PFEIFFER: That's Alicia Del Gallo, senior editor at USA Today Sports. Thank you.
DEL GALLO: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF A TRIBE CALLED QUEST SONG, "CAN I KICK IT?") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.