And then there were eight.
As giants fell, legends retired, and penalty shootouts proved popular in the 2023 Women’s World Cup Round of 16, the contenders have been whittled down to quarterfinalists.
Five European nations, one Asian, one South American, and co-hosts Australia remain with the quarterfinals kicking off Down Under on Friday.
Spain vs Netherlands
This all-European clash sees the 2019 runners-up take on an in-form Spanish side. It could very well be the decider between two potential winners in Wellington, New Zealand on Friday. The Netherlands topped their group and moved past South Africa with ease in the Round of 16. The Dutch have won every game so far except for a 1-1 tie with the US. While Spain is only reaching the quarterfinals of a Women’s World Cup for the first time, its red-hot attack has tallied 13 goals so far. Aitana Bonmatí, Jennifer Hermoso, and Alba Redondo have racked up the scoresheet for Spain on the biggest stage. Even after a 4-0 loss to Japan in the group stages, Spain bounced back to beat Switzerland 5-1 in the Round of 16.
Japan vs Sweden
Japan are unbeaten, have racked up 14 goals, and remarkably only conceded just once at the Women’s World Cup so far. Their terrific run of form is expected to be challenged by a robust Swedish side in Eden Park on Friday. Sweden is coming off an emphatic penalty shootout win over the US that will only strengthen the spirit of their squad. Swedish goalkeeper Zećira Mušović has been crucial for the Blågult, conceding just three goals and keeping Sweden afloat in its Round of 16 clash with the defending champions.
Australia vs France
Australia has its captain back. Sam Kerr played 18 minutes in Australia’s 2-0 win over Denmark in the Round of 16. Will that be enough to overcome unbeaten France who easily qualified for the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win over Morocco? Les Bleues’ performances have been improving steadily throughout the tournament and they are attempting to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
Australia suffered a loss to Nigeria in the group stages but was buoyed by the attacking excellence of Hayley Raso and Steph Catley. The co-hosts knocked out Canada and Denmark on their way to the quarterfinals and will likely have Kerr back in the starting 11 against France on Saturday. The home crowd should also play a big role in this clash at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
England vs Colombia
European champions England will face Colombia in Sydney on Saturday. The Lionesses made it to the quarterfinals after a penalty shootout victory over Nigeria in which they scored four spot kicks to Nigeria’s two. Colombia also narrowly made the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over Jamaica. The South American side advances to the quarterfinals for the first time, picking up wins against Germany and South Korea along the way. Linda Caicedo and Catalina Usme have two goals each in the tournament with Usme sending Jamaica home with a 51st-minute goal in the Round of 16.
England is unbeaten in the competition, with standout performances from Lauren James — who received a red card in the Round of 16 — and a solid core consisting of Lucy Bronze, Millie Bright, and Kiera Walsh (back from knee injury). James will not feature in the quarterfinal after a stepping incident on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie resulted in her ejection and subsequent suspension.
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