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Just eight teams remain in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. As many as 32 started this journey, the biggest in the tournament’s history, but 24 have been sent home.
The United States were the biggest casualties of the last 16. The Americans arrived Down Under as big favourites following titles in 2015 and 2019, but found out the hard way that the rest of the world has caught up and exited via a penalty shootout against Sweden.
The Swedes look strong, as do Japan and Netherlands. Spain also comfortably bypassed the last 16 in an all-European clash with Switzerland. England, however, struggled after being outplayed and outfoxed by Nigeria, but still managed to book their place in the quarter-finals on penalties.
Australia and France have each improved as the tournament has progressed, while Colombia have reached this stage of the competition for the first time.
- When is kick off? Friday 11 August, 02:00 (BST), 13:00 (local), 21:00* (EST)
- Where is the match being played? Wellington Regional Stadium
Spain have had three impressive wins so far at this World Cup, putting three goals past Costa Rica, five past Zambia and another five past Switzerland. What is troubling for the Spanish, however, was their humbling defeat to Japan at the end of the group stage.
Even though both teams had already qualified for the knockout stages, Jorge Vilda named a strong team he hoped would win the game and therefore top the group. The reality was that they were torn to pieces by a smart and technically impressive opponent.
Switzerland are no pushovers, but they only just creep into the top 20 of the world rankings. Netherlands will be a test more like Japan and the Dutch are in good form. They frustrated the United States and earned a more comfortable win over South Africa in the last round than Sweden had done.
The Dutch also have a tendency to score early, netting inside the opening 17 minutes of all four of their game so far, and inside the opening nine minutes in each of the last two. And it was first half goals that killed Spain when they were beaten by Japan
Prediction: Spain 1-3 Netherlands
*Thursday 10 August
- When is kick off? Friday 11 August, 08:30 (BST), 19:30 (local), 03:30 (EST)
- Where is the match being played? Eden Park, Auckland
On current form, the winner of this year’s World Cup is likely to come from this match.
Japan have showcased an outstanding ability to pick teams apart with clever passing moves, utilising two number 10-type players behind a main striker to excellent effect. Their demolition of Spain at the end of the group stage was a particular statement, while Norway were second best last time out.
Futoshi Ikeda’s team have averaged 3.5 goals per game so far and Hinata Miyazawa is the leading the Golden Boot race with five in just four apperances. It will take a real force to stop them.
With European grit, Sweden may just fancy their chances. They weren’t all that convincing against South Africa back at the start of the group stage, but have come into their own more and more since, putting together an outstanding defensive display to keep the United States at bay – Zecira Musovic made 11 saves. That kind of performance could be necessary again.
Prediction: Japan 1-1 Sweden (Japan to win on penalties)
- When is kick off? Saturday 12 August, 08:00 (BST), 17:00 (local), 03:00 (EST)
- Where is the match being played? Lang Park, Brisbane
Australia didn’t start their home World Cup well at all, scraping by the Republic of Ireland and then losing to Nigeria. But things have started to come together since then, racking up convincing back-to-back wins, scoring six goal in the proces and keeping consecutive clean sheets.
What’s more, they have done that without captain and best player Sam Kerr, who finally made her first appearance of the tournament off the bench in the knockout win over Denmark. Australia with Kerr will always be better than Australia without and now, with the opportunity to reach the semi-finals and go further than they have at a World Cup before, is the ideal time to have her back.
France have a history of underachieving at major tournaments. In successive World Cups, they have started well and crumbled at the quarter-final stage. This time, they started slow but have scored ten in their last two games alone, albeit not against high calibre opposition. It is whether they can now take that into a quarter-final in which the other team is also in good form.
This will be another test of France’s resilience only a few months into a new coaching regime, although they showed steel to beat Brazil in the closing stages of a tough group encounter.
Prediction: Australia 2-1 France
- When is kick off? Saturday 12 August,11:30 (BST), 20:30 (local), 06:30 (EST)
- Where is the match being played? Stadium Australia, Sydney
On paper, England have landed the most favourable of all the quarter-final ties. But the Lionesses will be well aware there is no such thing as an easy game, having struggled against Haiti in the group stage and being second best to Nigeria in the last 16 – only the woodwork and penalties saw them prevail. Things are also that bit harder now that Lauren James is suspended.
James was the difference when England beat both Denmark and China in the group stage, while the team looked stunted when she was marked out of the previous game by Nigeria. Now, somebody else has to step up, with the creative onus falling on the likes of Lauren Hemp, Alessia Russo, Chloe Kelly or Ella Toone, should the latter be recalled to the starting XI.
Few will be expecting the Lionesses to burst into life the way they did against China – that was all orchestrated by James – but Colombia, despite springing a shock to beat Germany, showed frailties when they themselves were beaten by Morocco in the group stage.
Linda Caicedo will have most of the pre-game attention from a Colombian perspective, but Catalina Usme, Leicy Santos and Mayra Ramirez will all pose a danger too.
Prediction: England 2-1 Colombia
Girls On The Ball are joined by England legend Fara Williams as she runs through an all-time Lionesses XI of her former international teammates!
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