After an exciting, but ultimately predictable, group stage, the FIFA Women’s World Cup will begin its knockout stage on Saturday. Here is a look at some of the best matchups and how the United States has fared so far.
France vs. Brazil (Sunday, June 23, 3 p.m. EST)
Arguably the most exciting tie of the Round of 16 will be between France and Brazil. The United States, assuming an expected victory over Spain, will face the winner of this match.
The French side will look to play an expansive game — pushing the tempo and getting the ball to wingers with space to dribble. Les Bleues rotate through four wingers: Eugénie Le Sommer, Delphine Cascarino, Kadidiatou Diani and Viviane Asseyi. At 30-years-old, Le Sommer is the most experienced of the group and most likely to earn playing time. The other three all play as natural wingers — looking to use pace and technical dribbling to break through defenses — and are all equally as likely to see time on the field.
Brazil, a more seasoned side, will look to slow the game down and get experienced players involved. Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva, known as Cristiane, and Marta Vieira da Silva, known as Marta, have played in a combined 10 World Cups. The two veterans have yet to lose their step and have been Brazil’s most threatening players. Cristiane is an outstanding goalscorer, often slipping out of defenders’ sights before making clever runs into dangerous areas. Marta, playing either as a true midfielder or just under Cristiane, was the world’s best player for quite some time. While not at the level she used to be, Marta is still the creative force in the Brazillian midfield.
Norway vs. Australia (Saturday, June 22, 3 p.m. EST
In another anticipated matchup, Norway will face Australia. Norway was one of the most well organized sides in the group stage. Dropping into a compact 4-4-2 formation in defense, the Norwegian side is difficult to play through. Australia came into the tournament as a highly touted challenger to the for the trophy, due in large part to star striker Samanta Kerr. Kerr has five goals so far, and she has the ability required to beat the Norwegian defence. Australia’s main point of attack has been to serve balls into the box for Kerr to win. Kerr, who stands at roughly 5’5”, is not an aerial presence, and is often visibly shorter than those defending her. However, her work to lose her defenders and attack the ball outshines her lack of size. Australia should look to find Kerr, whether with crosses or combination play, at every opportunity as she attempts to break down the compact Norwegian lines.
The USWNT continues to dominate
Pushing the tempo of every game, the tournament favorites have shown no signs of slowing down.
The Americans like to play as quickly as possible and tend to overwhelm opponents. The midfield is essential to the USWNT’s play. Samantha Mewis sprays passes across the field to start attacks. Rose Lavelle, playing on the right side of the midfield triangle, has been a crucial part of the American attack. Lavelle often takes players on, looking to beat them with her pace and dribbling. However, Lindsey Horan is the driving force of the midfield three. The 25-year-old plays as a traditional holding midfielder. She stays back, just in front of the central defenders, when the USWNT is in attack, and she plays simple passes, often receiving the ball from the defense, turning in the midfield and playing to the other side of the field. When she is on the ball, Horan dictates how fast the United States will attack, and where they will attack from, a responsibility that requires a composed style of play and high game awareness.
Most times, the midfield of the United States looks to attack open spaces as quickly as possible. This could be a problem if the USWNT faces a side that is organized and compact. As of now, whether by choice or circumstance, the United States has not shown whether it is capable of using combination to break defences down.