A bonkers World Cup rolls on and while some big fish have left these shores, the Matildas’s hopes are stronger than ever.
Spain vs Netherlands, Friday 11am (AEST)
A European heavyweight clash to kick off the Quarters. Spain inflicted the biggest ever World Cup defeat (5-1) on Switzerland in the Round of 16, bouncing back strongly after a 4-0 loss to Japan in the final group stage game. Behind the Lionesses, Spain ($4.33) now loom as the second-favourites to win their first ever World Cup. Their squad goes deep, and they surely boast the best midfield in women’s football.
The Netherlands, too, were dominant in the Round of 16 in a professional 2-0 win over South Africa. Unbeaten this tournament, the Dutch will hope to hit the possession-focused Spain on the counter. The pair last met in 2019, a year in which the Netherlands lost to their southern European rivals twice. And while they start as underdogs here, will fancy themselves to get one back in their push for a second straight World Cup Final appearance.
Our predictions for Friday's quarter finals are here! 👀
Spain or Netherlands? Japan or Sweden?
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) August 8, 2023
Japan vs Sweden, Friday 5:30pm (AEST)
No teams has scored more goals this World Cup than Japan (14), who have proven themselves in all four games they’ve played. They start deserved favourites in this one after a series of cohesive, organised performances. Japan have been building to this level of football for a number of years. And the fact they started as tournament underdogs and are now $6.00 third-favourites with Palmerbet speaks to their current form.
Despite bundling out reigning champions the US in perhaps the story of the World Cup to date, Sweden were by no means impressive in their grinding Round of 16 win and relied heavily on star goalkeeper Zecira Musovic to get them over the line. The Swedes do, though, have two key things going for them. They boast an organised defence, which again proved themselves against the US. And they are strong from the setpiece, which could prove invaluable here against the Japanese.
Japan has been nothing short of dominant in its' first four matches at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup 🇯🇵👏
How far will they go? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/VkArCsyXvC
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 5, 2023
Australia vs France, Saturday 5:00pm (AEST)
If momentum is everything in tournament football, then the Matildas are hitting their strides at the right time. While Denmark proved a strong challenge in the Round of 16, Tony Gustavsson’s side showed the mettle need to succeed in knockout matches. That is, they absorbed the Danes’ high-pressure game plan, and struck back with poise and precision on the break. The two players who combined for a dazzling opener — Caitlin Foord and Mary Fowler — loom as the attacking keys if the Aussies can progress even deeper. Superstar Sam Kerr moved well in her long-awaited first home World Cup appearance. It would appear a simple decision for Gustavsson if Kerr is fit: she simply has to start.
Unlike all four prior matches this tournament, though, the Tillies start this one as underdogs. It’s a position they’ve thrived in for years, but doesn’t discount the fact that the French (comfortable 4-0 victors over Morocco in the R16) pose a huge threat of ending the home team’s dream.
Steph Catley returning the armband to Sam Kerr tells you everything you need to know about this Matildas team 💚💛
'𝐒𝐡𝐞'𝐬 𝐚 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫. The armband didn't need to come to me. It was a nice gesture.'
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) August 9, 2023
England vs Colombia, Saturday 8:30pm (AEST)
Tournament favourites after an impressive group stage, England got through by the skin of their teeth against Nigeria in the Round of 16, and live to fight another day. Aside from what was a clinical penalty shootout performance, in the preceding 120 minutes the Lionesses displayed little of what they’d shown earlier in the World Cup. They were at times outmuscled, and often second to the ball. They also lost arguably the tournament’s biggest star to date in Lauren James — for at least one game, and maybe more — for a stomp that earned her a red card.
Despite all this, England (who have made the last two World Cup semi-finals) start as solid favourites. Colombia have already reached where they’ve never previously been, which could see them freed up to express themselves, but could also easily go the other way as we’ve seen with other record-breaking sides this World Cup. England benefit from an extra day’s recovery, too — something that can’t be brushed aside the deeper teams progress into knockout tournaments.
"We're willing to go through absolutely anything to make the country proud" — @Mdawg1bright ❤️
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 8, 2023