After a nervy group stage, the Matildas are into the knockout rounds. Are they bound for the quarters? And what other sides are looking dangerous?
Have the Matildas flicked a switch?
A nervous win to commence, a capitulation at the hands of an underdog, before a dominant win under the most tense of atmospheres. They didn’t do it the easy way, but in the end the Matildas progressed on top of Group B. First World Cup assignment: tick. So now, after the national breathed a collective sigh of relief following a 4-0 drubbing of Canada, have the Matildas flicked a switch?
Victory against the reigning Olympic gold medalists was important on a number of fronts, not least that it — after Nigeria’s draw with Ireland — allowed the Aussies to avoid facing a rampant England outfit. It also provided coach Tony Gustavsson with a formula that can work going forward. Arsenal duo Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley combined dangerously on the left wing throughout the clash in Melbourne, while key attacking threats Hayley Raso and Mary Fowler would have gathered hug confidence from getting on the scoresheet before the knockout rounds. While superstar Sam Kerr’s return remains uncertain, what is clear is that a starting berth seems unlikely. As such, Foord, Raso and Fowler’s attacking prowess again looms as crucial. While the goals flowed in Melbourne, expect sides to tighten up defensively in the tense World Cup knockout rounds.
From Denmark to Perth to Sydney, then back to Perth and now back to Sydney for the Round of 16 🇩🇰
Denmark have been putting wins on the board and miles in the air.
— Optus Sport (@OptusSport) August 3, 2023
Are James-led England the team to beat?
After an uninspiring start to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USA have been knocked off as tournament favourites. The stars and stripes (one win, two draws) kicked off the campaign as $3.50 fancies to lift the cup for a third straight time with Palmerbet. But they’ve managed just four goals in three games, finishing second (!) in their group and are now out to $5.50. Overtaking them is reigning European champions England, who have proven the team to beat. From $5.00 prior to the tournament kicking off, the three lions are into $3.70 and looking the team to beat.
Not only that, but they’ve now got real X-factor. Lauren James has burst onto the scene this World Cup, scoring a winner for England against Denmark before running rings around China (two goals, three assists). The 21-year-old is now $5.50 to win the World Cup Golden Boot, and also looms as crucial in England’s ($1.25 H2H) Round of 16 clash against Nigeria ($13).
Reece James on his sister Lauren James 💙 pic.twitter.com/4bGyvbOPNl
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 1, 2023
Japan emerge as genuine contenders
If England are the early pace-setters, then surprise-packet Japan are hot on their heels. Why? Their dismantling of Spain (third favourites pre-tournament) made the world sit up. Not only did Japan prevail in that clash as $4.41 underdogs, they completely dominated one of the world’s best sides. To give you an indication of the gravity of that result, the Japanese side were $40 pre-match at -2.0. Japan scored more goals (11) that any other side in the group stages, and have shortened into fifth favourites for the World Cup at $8.00 with Palmerbet.
The victory over Spain, however, has made their run tougher. Not only do they face a tougher prospect in Norway for the Round of 16 (which they start as $1.80), but victory could see them face the USA in the quarter finals. But it’s all eyes on the Norwegians, first.
Japan in the Women’s World Cup:
✅ 3 out of 3 wins in Group C
✅ No goals conceded
✅ Hinata Miyazawa leading the Golden Boot Race
Flying into the Round of 16 📈🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/o2TnGywGma
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 31, 2023
Can first-timers continue dream run?
Jamaica and South Africa have reached the round of 16 for the first time in their respective histories, in two of the stories of the World Cup to date. So how will they far in the knockout rounds? Well, one is considered a chance, the other a huge underdog. South Africa, who went in as $6.30 outsiders in their first ever World Cup victory over Italy during the group stages, now go in as $11.50 chances to upset the Dutch. For Jamaica, though, they’re considered a better hope of continuing their dream run. After surviving an exceedingly tough group with two fighting draws Brazil and France, and being one of only three sides to concede no goals in the group stage, Jamaica ($4.20) have the defensive pedigree to get it done over Colombia ($2.00).
From @TheAthleticFC: Nigeria, Jamaica and South Africa's World Cup success owes nothing to the federations that failed them.
The journey of these three underdogs represents extraordinary stories of glory over adversity. https://t.co/b2g3yqfla2
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 2, 2023