With the group stage over, it’s do-or-die for the remaining 16 teams in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The group stage provided us with great games, including a depth of talent that may have been greater than the 2015 World Cup. But for now, the stakes are even higher, and the best team remaining will need to win out to lift the trophy at the end.
After the group stage, two teams have shown themselves to be able to dominate their opponents and take control of the match. Both USA and France eased through their respective groups, and had the highest goal-differences after three matches (Germany and France both had +6, USA had +18). The USWNT are looking to go back-to-back and should dispose of Spain comfortably.
France, however, have a tougher match with Brazil ahead, although their organisation in defence should be enough to get the job done. Alongside this, their strong attack should be able to overcome an average Brazil defence. Yet if they win, France will then have USA to face in the Quarter-Final. Whoever triumphs in that game could be the eventual winner, and it’s one to keep an eye on.
Hot On Their Tails
On the other half of the draw, the Netherlands and Germany are each making a case to be in the Final. The Netherlands had a lot of shots across their matches, and with their attacking firepower will be tough to handle for everyone. Germany got better with each game after struggling to dispose of China in their opener.
At the time of writing, Germany had already knocked Nigeria out, and will face Sweden or Canada in the Quarter-Final. The Netherlands have an underwhelming Japan squad in their round of 16 match, and they should win that game if they can convert more of their chances than they have been. A Semi-Final between Germany and the Netherlands is on the cards if they can win their matches, and would make for a quality Final, especially if they should come up against USA or Spain.
A handful of teams all need to find another level and be more consistent if they are to truly challenge for the title. Sweden and Canada play each other, and while both teams are talented, neither was convincing during the group stage. They would also have to get past Germany in the Quarter-Final.
Similarly, Italy and China also face off in the round of 16, but neither commanded their group particularly well. China may have surprised some people with their stout defence, and could be troublesome for Italy. But without scoring more frequently, China will find it difficult to get far in the knockout stage.
England should fancy their chances, but have looked vulnerable in each of their three group games. Despite going through undefeated, they couldn’t establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. However, finding form against Cameroon, and then building up against Norway, England could become more threatening if they make the Semi-Final stage.
Brazil has one of the most potent attacks in the competition after USA, but have been porous in defence, including allowing 4 from Sam Kerr in their game against Australia. With France first up, and then potentially the USWNT, Brazil could find it difficult to go much further. They will need to score even more goals and outpace their opponents, and would also probably still need luck to make it to the Semi-Final.
Unlikely To Make The Semi-Finals
Despite knocking off Australia, Norway hasn’t been strong in defence yet this tournament. It took them penalties to win against Australia, and they are also on the tougher side of the draw. Likewise, Spain and Cameroon also have the top teams in the competition coming up, and it would be huge upsets for them to beat England and USA, respectively. Japan scraped through the group stage, and barely resemble their second-place finish from four years ago. It’s hard to see them outscoring the Netherlands.