And then there were eight.
It’s down to the quarterfinals at the Women’s World Cup in Australia and some of the heavy-hitting favorites are gone. The United States, Canada, Brazil, and Germany were sent home in shock knockout or group-stage finishes.
Out of the teams left standing, only Japan had enjoyed World Cup glory, having won the title in 2011 when they defeated the United States in the Final. So ahead of the first game at 9 pm Eastern, let’s see what to look for with each of the following eight teams:
Netherlands vs Spain
The first game of this World Cup quarterfinals is going to see Spain take on the Netherlands. Spain’s win against Switzerland was the first time they have ever won a knockout game at a major senior tournament. Now, they’re facing a tough Dutch squad. A great game that could well turn into a tactical chess match.
Spain is full of players pulled from the Barcelona team (9 out of 23) — who recently claimed their second Champions League title. This is also their first time making the quarterfinals which is a bit of a shock for a favorite. There are going to see potentially the two shakiest defenses at the tournament on the pitch. It will be a game of who can score more and when Spain is up against a weak backline; they will find the net.
The Dutch are starting with a bit of a rough go: midfielder Daniëlle van de Donk is out this quarterfinal after she was handed a one-match suspension for picking up two yellow cards. The Netherlands go into the game unbeaten in their past six outings and, having reached the final in 2019 before losing to the U.S. Midfielder Jill Roord will continue to score goals.
She’s second among all players left in the tournament in goals scored and sets the tone for the Dutch offense. The Netherlands need to control possession like they did against South Africa and they’ll have a chance to move to the semifinals.
Spain faces the Netherlands Friday, August 11th at 1 p.m. local / 9 p.m. ET (Thursday) / 2 a.m. BST
Japan vs Sweden
Japan is undoubtedly the team to beat as we head into the quarterfinals. Their performance in the Round of 16 highlights why they’re a favorite to win the tournament in 2023.
Japan sent Norway home Norway 3-1, setting up a heavyweight bout with Sweden. Despite Norway employing five defenders, Japan’s quick, crisp passing attack still found ways to break down that defensive line. The fabulous incredible through ball from Aoba Fujino to Hinata Miyazawa in the 81st minute sealed the match for Japan.
Japan scored 14 goals so far, more than any other team, while allowing only one goal. Japan has been able to score where other favorites have struggled. In their game against Spain, they shut them down 4-0 despite having just 22% of possession.
Going up against Sweden isn’t going to be an easy feat for the Japanese. The sort of quarterfinal matchup that could have been a final if the brackets had been different. These two have met before back in the 2011 semifinal where Japan won 3-1. Both teams have won all their games so far, except Sweden was held scoreless against the USWNT.
The other half of that game is going to be the Swedish team. Americans know that Sweden isn’t a team to mess with: they lost in penalties in the Round of 16. The hero of that game was goalkeeper Zećira Mušović Funny enough coach Peter Gerhardsson did not know whether to pick her or Jennifer Falk until hours before their first game against South Africa.
This is the seventh time Sweden has made the quarterfinals. Now that Germany and the U.S. have crashed out of the tournament, the No. 3 Swedes are the highest-ranked team remaining. Sweden might be the squad to be able to slow down Japan’s attack. This should really be a World Cup Final game but that’s how the brackets broke down.
Japan faces Sweden on August 11th: 7.30 p.m. local / 3.30 a.m. ET / 8.30 a.m. BST
Australia vs France
The World Cup co-host country still in the tournament is ready to take on France and win it all. The Matildas played face back on July 14th in a friendly. They started the tournament without star striker Sam Kerr but they’ve become unquestionably the Cinderellas of the tournament. With Kerr back after a cautious approach against Denmark, they’re still going to have a conservative approach to integrating her into the attack.
Now we have the best scorer in the tournament joining a squad that’s proven it can beat elite teams.
For Caitlin Foord, it’s going to be her time to shine. After playing more of a sacrificial central role in the Matildas’ first two games against Ireland and Nigeria, her move out wide to the left has unlocked Australia’s attack and she got a much-deserved goal against Denmark. Foord is in the form of her life, combining superbly with Arsenal teammate Steph Catley on the left, and is just as likely to see a goal up as she is to score. And they’re going to need it: Australia is the underdog in this one.
The favorite to win and advance is the French side. Les Bleues are playing a Now they play 4-4-2 instead of 4-3-3; Maëlle Lakrar and Wendie Renard have formed an excellent partnership. Kadidiatou Diani and Eugénie Le Sommer are on fire up front and the French have the attack power they need. They have the edge with their front four but Les Bleues are a team that should be much, much better on paper than they have in practice.
Don’t underestimate the Australian team. As the home team in Brisbane in front of a home crowd, look to them for an upset.
Australia faces off against France on August 12th: 5 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. UK
England vs Colombia
The big news of the day came that the Lionesses are going to be without Lauren James for two matches. Aka she’ll only be available if England makes the World Cup Final.
No James means Sarina Wiegman may shift formation again, having played 3-4-1-2 in the past two matches; she may revert back to the favored 4-2-3-1. England beat Germany to win the European Championship last summer and came into the Women’s World Cup ranked fourth in the world. They have plenty of experience in the quarterfinals, having reached this stage on five previous occasions. They have to be a lot better in possession than they were against Nigeria.
Colombia is the second-ever South American nation ever to reach this point and the first time ever for Las Cafeteras to reach the quarterfinals. Beating Germany was a huge moment for the Colombian side and that means that going against England isn’t going to intimidate them. Linda Caicedo, the 18-year-old headed to Real Madrid, will be key for them.
Her goal to put Colombia ahead of Germany was one of the most incredible pieces of skill produced at this tournament and against Jamaica, she was still able to present a potent threat. There are veterans too on this squad like goalkeeper Diana Ospina Garcia has consistently been good this World Cup, only allowing two goals over four matches. They will not go quietly- they defeated a European finalist after all.
Colombia faces England on August 12th at 8:30 p.m. local / 6:30 a.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. UK
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Francisco Seco