SYDNEY: When the Women’s World Cup began three weeks ago, few could have anticipated the eight teams that are still standing, and more unexpectedly, the teams that are eliminated.
Tuesday night, Colombia and France became the final two teams to earn quarterfinal spots in the most unpredictable Women’s World Cup in history, joining Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Australia, and England in bringing an incredible first two rounds full of delectable twists and turns to a close.
There was concern over whether lower-ranked teams could compete at this level when the tournament’s field was increased to 32 teams. But the complete opposite took place.
In a change of guard, worries about blowouts were completely dispelled. Japan, who stood atop the podium in 2011, is the only former World Cup winner still in existence.
The United States, a four-time winner, is no longer in the competition after being eliminated before the semi-finals for the first time in tournament history while attempting to win three straight games.
Along with them were Brazil, who had not been eliminated in the group round since 1995, reigning Olympic champions Canada, 1995 winners Norway, and two-time champions Germany.
Sarina Wiegman, England’s coach, stated, “Nothing is easy in this tournament,” after her team overcame a scare from Nigeria in the last 16 to advance to a shootout victory.
“That’s thrilling because we can see how much the women’s game has grown. Many of the games on the group stage were competitive; the predicted teams did not always prevail.
The US, Canada, and Brazil’s elimination from the World Cup signified the end of an era for some of the biggest trailblazers in the sport, including Megan Rapinoe, Christine Sinclair, and Marta.
Others have taken the front stage, including the brilliant youngster from Colombia, Linda Caicedo, the crucial midfielder from Spain, Aitana Bonmati, and the dependably outstanding striker from France, Kadidiatou Diani.
Nobody can predict who will win at this point. The “Nadeshiko” of Japan, named after a pink flower that represents Japanese beauty, is determined to forget about their last-16 elimination from four years ago and are the tournament favorites after thrashing Norway 3-1 in the previous round.
They will be put to the test on Friday when they face Sweden, who eliminated the US from the event with a millimeter-long penalty stroke.
With their third consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals, Spain’s La Roja have already made history. They defeated Switzerland 5-1 in the round of 16 after recovering from a humiliating 4-0 setback to Japan.
Friday’s quarterfinal match pits La Roja against the Netherlands, who went unbeaten in their eighth World Cup group stage, including a 7-0 victory against Vietnam for the tournament’s biggest margin of victory.
Despite being without their top scorer, Sam Kerr, Australia’s Matildas have had a fantastic run to the quarterfinals.
She came on as a 78th-minute replacement in the host team’s 2-0 last-16 victory over Denmark, and she’ll undoubtedly start Kerr in Saturday’s quarterfinal match against France.
Coach Herve Renard said the burden as hosts may be particularly difficult for Australia since Les Bleues are eager to put behind them their agonizing last-eight defeat four years ago in France.
After Les Bleues’ 4-0 victory over Morocco on Tuesday, Renard stated, “We’re hoping to put Australia through exactly what France went through when they were the host country in 2019.”
The fourth-ranked England, who are unbeaten in 36 of their last 37 games, would appear to be the favorite against Columbia on Saturday. However, the Lionesses struggled to the quarterfinals and were fortunate to hold off a strong Nigerian team for 120 minutes before winning in a shootout.
As the current European champions, the Lionesses have greater experience playing in major games, but Colombia has had better crowd support than any other sidebar Australia.
In addition, England will be missing their leading scorer, Lauren James, who was dismissed for stamping on Michelle Alozie of Nigeria. Source