FIFA: Women’s World Cup looks ahead to last eight stage
The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup reaches its knockout stage this weekend with two potential classic match-ups standing out from the rest of the draw.
Group D winners Brazil, arguably the best team never to won this tournament to date, will face-off against two-time winners United States who finished second in Group C behind Sweden. Brazil, complete with five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta, are highly fancied to go all the way to the final, a feeling cemented having completed their group with a 100% record over Australia, 1995 tournament champions Norway and Equatorial Guinea whose infamous “handball” moment will forever live with those who saw it on TV or in the stadium. The United States, though not as dominant as in the tournament’s early years when they won it in 1991 and 1999, are still a tough hurdle for anybody to get over and have a good team ethic having shared all of their six goals in this tournament amongst the squad with no one player having scored more than one goal.
In the other stand out clash Group B winners England will face cross-channel rivals France. The English were naturally delighted to avoid being paired with tournament hosts and stand out favourites Germany but their relief will have been short-lived having been paired against the French whose team contains ten players from the victorious Olympique Lyonnais squad which won the 2010-11 UEFA Women’s Champions League. Hope Powell’s England, who remained unbeaten in Group B with two wins and a draw, will have to be at their very best if they are to get past the quarter-final stages of this tournament for the very first time. France, whose only reverse in the group stage came at the hands of Germany, have already achieved a tournament best in getting this far.
In the other two quarter-final matches defending champions Germany, who won Group A with a 100% record, are expected to get past the challenge of Japan (second in Group B) whilst Sweden (Group C winners) meet Australia (Group D runner-up) in which could prove to be the tightest match to call in the last eight stage.