FIFA Women’s World Cup – The Last Eight (Specials) Jonathan June 25, 2019 The FIFA Women’s World Cup has been full of controversy, spectacular matches, and all-round edge-of-seat entertainment as we now enter the final stages of the competition. Referees have been questioned, VAR has been nothing less than contentious as have some of the teams’ qualities (13-0!?), but no one can dispute that this has been encouraging for Women’s football, with plenty of enthralling action for everyone to enjoy. Much of the teams fancied before the World Cup are still there, in pole position to create history for their country. Here, are the remainder teams in the competition, along with their odds to win it, and of course my predictions too. Norway Quarter final Opponents: England Potential semi-final Opponents: USA and France Odds to win; 20/1 Norway have won the World Cup once before, back in 1995, but they haven’t reached a final since then, and only appeared in two semi-finals in 1999 and 2007. At the last World Cup, they fell short by losing to England in the 2nd round, who happen to be their next opponents at this World Cup. The key player for Norway is Caroline Graham Hansen, who plays her trade at Barcelona, and is constantly a threat going forward with pace and a direct style of play. Ada Hegerberg, who won the Ballon d’Or Feminin in 2018, is Norwegian but refused to represent her national team due to her unhappiness with how the NFF treat the women’s team. They will miss her quality in the quarter final. Prediction: To be Eliminated in quarter finals England Quarter final opponents: Norway Potential semi-final opponents: USA and France Odds to win; 13/2 At 13/2, England are the fourth favourites to win the tournament, which is deserved as they have built up a great reputation over the years, and have started this competition in terrific fashion. At the 2015 World Cup, and 2017 European Championships, they fell short in the semi-finals, but will hope to go one better this year. They have won all four games so far in 90 minutes, and haven’t conceded a goal in almost 300 minutes, and have yet to fell behind yet. Lucy Bronze, who plays for Champions League winners Lyon, is potentially the best player in the team, and links well on the right-side with Nikita Parris, who also plays for the French club. If England are to win, they’ll hope they are effective down that side, and keep it tight in defence throughout the tournament, but I anticipate them losing to either USA or France further down the line. Prediction: To be eliminated in semi-finals Germany Quarter Final Opponents: Sweden Potential Semi-Final Opponents: Italy or Netherlands Odds to win; 5/1 Germany, two time winners in the past, have been typically efficient in their first four matches of the tournament, with them yet to concede a goal. It appears they are growing in the tournament, as they started with two 1-0 wins, before winning their last two matches by a 4-0 and 3-0 score line. Winger Sara Däbritz, who plays for PSG, has three goals to her name already and is a constant outlet for this German side, and will be pivotal if they are to go far. They are on the easier side of the draw, so a final place is a real possibility. Prediction: To lose in the final France Quarter Final Opponents: USA Potential Semi-Final Opponents: England or Norway Odds to win; 4/1 Hosts France are yet to win the World Cup, but just like the men, they may achieve it for the first time in their own back yard. France have flattered to deceive in many games so far, despite an emphatic victory over South Korea in the opener. Since then, they narrowly beat Norway and Nigeria, largely thanks to contentious VAR decisions, before meeting Brazil in a classic as they overcome them after extra time. Le Sommer and captain Henry are notable players, but so far, Kadidiatou Diani of PSG has really caught the eye with her pace, power and trickery. The big test is about to come though, as they face USA in the quarter finals. It’s going to be a classic, with maybe France finally getting one over their rivals from across the pond. Prediction: To win the World Cup USA Quarter Final Opponents: France Potential Semi-Final Opponents: England or Norway Odds to win; 13/8 USA are gunning for their fourth World Cup crown after winning it in 1991, 1999 and 2015. Germany are the only team to retain the title, but USA look to emulate that feat. In terms of ability, and experience, the USA team cannot be challenged. They have some of the world’s best players, and have unrivalled fitness and physicality. Top scorer Alex Morgan, with wingers Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath pose a dangerous threat up front, with goals galore amongst them – 9 already in this tournament. It’ll be tough to stop them, but signs were there against Spain that this team can be tested, and France will be a difficult obstacle for them to overcome. Can they do it? Prediction: To be eliminated in the quarter finals Sweden Quarter Final Opponents: Germany Potential Semi-Final Opponents: Italy or Netherlands Odds to win; 20/1 Sweden haven’t won the World Cup before, but they did reach the final in 2003 which they lost to their upcoming quarter final opponents, Germany. So far at this World Cup, they were able to beat minnows Chile and Thailand in their opening two games to secure a place in the 2nd round. They were able to take a free shot at USA in their final group game, and lost in a hard-fought game 2-0. Against Canada in the 2nd round, they relied on their goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl to be the first goalkeeper of this tournament to save a penalty to send them through. They are one of the outsiders left in the competition, and any other win recorded would be a huge bonus for them. I don’t anticipate them getting the better of Germany though unfortunately. Prediction: To be eliminated in the quarter finals Italy Quarter Final Opponents: Netherlands Potential Semi-Final Opponents: Germany or Sweden Odds to win; 20/1 Italy haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 1999, but they are really surprising the onlookers here. They have shown plenty of grit, determination, and some top quality finishing to be deservedly placed in the quarter finals. At 20/1, the bookmakers don’t give them a lot of chance, but they have shown in a few games at this World Cup that they can compete with the best. In a tough group, they managed to get wins against Australia and Jamaica to progress, and in the 2nd round they performed a well-rounded game to beat China 2-0. For goals of the tournament, Aurora Galli is certainly contributing by herself, with many long-range stunners. Against Netherlands, I expect a tight match, but it may be heartbreak for the Italians. Prediction: To be eliminated in the quarter finals Netherlands Quarter Final Opponents: Italy Potential Semi-Final Opponents: Germany or Sweden Odds to win; 8/1 The European Champions are only 5th favourites to win, despite their being 7 European teams left in the competition, with them winning the last major tournament two years ago. Not only that, but they are one of the few teams remaining in the tournament with a 100% winning record intact. Nonetheless, Netherlands haven’t reached their full potential as of yet, with three laboured wins in the group stage, but overcoming Japan in the 2nd round despite being outplayed for large parts. They can still raise their game to another gear though, and with individual talents such as Lieke Martins and Daniëlle van de Donk – they cannot be ruled out. Prediction: To be eliminated in the semi-finals Thank you for reading and let’s hope the tournament continues to flourish, and we see more drama and excitement over the next 10 days!