And so, we are down to four.
The quarter finals provided much entertainment for everyone watching, from England’s dominant performance over Norway in a 3-0 win; Sweden producing a shock win over Germany and USA overcoming host’s France in a tight game. To my own end, I managed to predict three out of the four winners (Germany let me down… Again!), so we seem to be well placed for some action packed semi-finals.
Below, I will go through the previews for both matches coming up over the next couple of days, including my predictions for what the results might be.
Game 1: England v USA – Tuesday 2nd July 2019 – 8pm GMT
A case of de ja vu for England here, as they were at this stage at the 2015 World Cup, before falling to eventual runners ups, Japan. As much as The Lionesses have avenged that defeat, they have a much bigger challenge this time around: The USA.
Ranked first in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, as well as the reigning world champions, this is the game that will mark the true progress of Neville’s team since the last World Cup. Yes, England did draw 2-2 with USA on the way to winning the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year, but this is a much grander stage, which America are only too familiar with.
Led by the duo of Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, both on five goals apiece in this tournament, America are still the favourites to retain their trophy. A front line that will test England’s back line will lead to questions about whether they can keep their concentration for the full 90 minutes (or even more). The sloppy chances conceded and sloppy backpasses against Norway are prime examples of this, as surely the USA would prove more clinical in putting them away.
Although America scraped wins over Spain and France, both 2-1, these wins show how the US team can grind out results when needed. England, with successive 3-0 wins over Cameroon and Norway, are yet to show this in the knockout stages.
Prediction: England 2-1 USA. Its either now or never. This is a VERY biased prediction, but the high confidence and feel good factor could be all England need. The standard of defending will need to be raised even further, but I believe we can do it. Expect the USA to be hammering our defence and a lot of nail biting up and down the country.
Game 2: Netherlands v Sweden – Wednesday 3rd July 2019 – 8pm GMT
An interesting tie, as the Swedes come into this game on the back of their shock win over Germany in the Quarter Finals, whereas Netherlands have had a quiet road to the Semi Finals, with wins over Japan in the Last 16 and Italy in the Quarter Finals after winning three from three in their group. Couple this with them being reigning European Champions and the winner of this tie must be considered a dark horse to win the World Cup.
The Swedes have the history at this stage, having reached the World Cup Final in 2003, but they now want to take the next step according to The Official World Cup website: “When we came here, we dreamt about winning gold and we saw the possibility for it as well,” Swedish defender Nilla Fischer said. “Now we have to do everything on Thursday to make it to the final.”
For the Dutch, they may well be looking to Jackie Groenen, a physical midfielder who can dish out a physical challenge when needed, as well as dictate the play across and up the pitch. Seven fouls committed in this tournament may not sound pretty, but it will keep the Swedes on their toes in the battle for midfield dominance.
Prediction: Netherlands 0-2 Sweden. To be honest, it could be a toss up between these two nations, but it feels like the Swedes have more goals within their team than Holland (Asllani and Blackstenius are the leading scorers with 2 goals for Sweden). If the defences are tight in this game, that could prove all the difference, as Sweden can spread the goals around their squad. Another tight game, but could be very dogged defensively.