Let’s Play Footie: Women’s Soccer Quarterfinals

Fans of women’s soccer have a full day ahead of them tomorrow when the tournament goes from the friendly confines of the round robin group stage to the win or go home quarterfinals. Eight of the twelve teams that started the tournament have moved on and will meet to determine who will remain the in the running toward becoming the Olympics Next Top Model a semifinalist with a chance to take home some seriously sparkly hardware. Here’s what to watch for in the all you can eat soccer buffet.

Sweden v. France (7 AM ET)

France had defensive struggles against the United States but did surprise Hope Solo and Co. by scoring two goals before fifteen minutes had elapsed in the match. If they want to beat Sweden they need to tighten up their defense and hope that their explosive, speedy forwards, Marie-Laure Delie, Gaetane Thiney, Eugenie Le Sommer, and Elodie Thomis.

Sweden had a weird group stage in which it beat South Africa handily and then earning draws against Japan and Canada. It has a size advantage over France and the advantage of three out ladies Hedvig LindahlLisa Dahlkvist, and Jessica Landstrom, but are hard to peg after such up and down results.

United States v. New Zealand (9:30 AM ET)

The U.S. finished up an impressive group stage with three victories, a first for the team.  It has not allowed a goal since the second goal it gave up to France in the fourteenth minute of its first game. Megan Rapinoe has found another gear and looks like a possible star of the tournament, Alex Morgan has figured out how to use her speed to score, Abby Wambach got sucker punched in the face, shook it off, and has scored in every match for the U.S. The team has had some shaky moments on defense but I think they look better than they did at the World Cup last summer where they lost on PK’s to Japan.

Rapinoe and Wambach

Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images

New Zealand

The U.S. leads the series between the two countries 8-1-0 and most expect the U.S. to cruise to victory in this one. However, New Zealand has to be heartened by what France was able to do to the U.S. which was score early, before the U.S. really got its feet under itself. If New Zealand can make a quick strike it may be able to sit back for the rest of the match and upset the heavily favored U.S. side.

Brazil v. Japan (12:00 PM ET)

Brazil has Marta and Christiane and you don’t. That’s what it comes down to for Brazil. Marta can be the most electrifying player on the field any time she has the ball at her feet but Brazil lacks some depth and has not been able to live up to the promise of Marta in the past. 

Japan won last year’s Women’s World Cup with an incredible display of ball control that allowed the team to wear their opponents out. This tournament has been a little less impressive for Japan with draws to both Sweden and South Africa but it has two incredibly skilled players in Homare Sawa (last year’s winner of the Ballon D’Or as the top player in the world) and midfielder Aya Miyama.

Homare Sawa

Photo by Francis Bompard/Getty Images

Great Britain v. Canada (2:30 PM ET)

Great Britain boasts one of the legends in women’s soccer Kelly Smith and they would love nothing more than to give her, and the rest of the country, a Gold Medal. Jill Scott, Stephanie Houghton, and Eniola Aluko have all been impressive and will be keys to the team advancing. The team is solid but it has been bolstered a great deal by the home field advantage.  It played in front of 70,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in its final group game and should ride a wave of support. The only question is how far can that wave carry the team?

Team Great Britain

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Canada sports one of the best goal scores in the world in Christine Sinclair who resides in the Abby Wambach neighborhood of all time scorers in women’s soccer. She has gotten great help from midfielders Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt as well as forward Melissa Tancredi, proving that Canada can rely on players not named Sinclair. Canada showed some grit in earning a draw with Sweden after going down 2-0 and may have a bit more in store for the home team.

Are you looking forward to the matches tomorrow?  Who are you pulling for and who do you think will advance to the Semifinals?