Photo Credit: Maja Hitij – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
Following a breathtaking first knockout stage, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 kicks back into gear this afternoon as the quarter-finals get underway.
With favourites and four-time champions United States of America heading home following a penalty shoot-out defeat to Sweden, and Germany, Canada and Brazil all falling at the group stage, the field is more open than ever before as the tournament approaches its’ final week.
Friday afternoon sees Spain take on Netherlands in Wellington in the first of the last eight fixtures. Spain cruised past Switzerland 5-1 at Eden Park last weekend whilst Netherlands saw off a robust challenge from South Africa to book their place.
Coach Jorge Vilda is aware that both teams already know a lot about one another, whilst highlighting the threat of Paris Saint Germain forward Lieke Martins.
“They know how we play, they know the techniques that we use, they know each other but I have to stress that (Lieke) Martins is playing very well at this World Cup. We had not seen her play at this level for a long time and they are making very good use of her in the new position she’s playing in,” Vilda said.
Their Dutch opponents have impressed so far, topping Group E ahead of the USA and scoring 11 goals across their four games.
One of their star players of the campaign, Lineth Beerensteyn, was keen to stress that her side will stick to the style and system they know, regardless of what may have worked against Spain earlier in the tournament.
“We play our own game, we are the Netherlands, we’re not Japan – we don’t have the same qualities as them and they don’t have our qualities, so we will be playing our game and with the qualities we have, we’ll be able to give Spain a difficult time,” she said.
In the day’s other quarter-final, Japan face Sweden at Eden Park, with the Nadeshiko the only former World Cup winners left in the draw.
Sweden were the stars of the round of 16 stage, eliminating reigning champions USA in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in Melbourne.
Head Coach Peter Gerhardsson was confident in the fitness of his squad but admitted decisions were still to be made regarding his match day line-up.
“The situation is good, in the sense that everyone except from (Caroline) Seger was training today and then as always we’ll be checking when I get back.
“I’ve always said that when we get to the elimination stage that we have that evaluation – who can play 120 minutes, who can play 90 – that will affect our starting eleven. We’ll be telling the players today (Thursday) or tomorrow, when I get back we’ll see,” he explained.
Japan meanwhile have arguably been the form side of the World Cup, scoring fourteen goals and conceding only one in their four victories to this stage – including a resounding 4-0 win over fellow quarter-finalists Spain in their Group C encounter on Match Day 2.
Midfielder Fuka Nagano spoke to media yesterday on the physical challenge they expect to face against Sweden in Auckland.
“They are tall players so we have to be prepared for that and be able to play as we have planned to try and get ahead of them.
“I’m sure their defence will leave us spaces where we can get in, so we have to make sure we get the ball to our players in space and hopefully that will lead to goals for us,” Nagano said.
The winners from today’s two quarter-finals will face one another at Eden Park on Tuesday August 15, as the FIFA Women’s World Cup rolls towards its’ denouement.
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
Spain v Netherlands
Wellington Regional Stadium
Japan v Sweden