Women’s soccer quarterfinal preview

USA vs. Sweden 12 p.m.
The U.S. women entered the Olympics as favorites to top the podium and their play in the group stage did little to change that. Despite a hiccup in its 2-2 draw with Colombia, the U.S. has looked the part as the top ranked team in the world, especially in its win over France when the team rebounded from a poor first half.

Captain Carli Lloyd leads the team in scoring with two goals, while Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh have each chipped in with one.

Every player on the U.S. roster has played at the Olympics expect for backup goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, which is important for the team since it came into the tournament with 11 players making their Olympic debut.

Two questions for the U.S. going into the knockout stage are the health of center back Julie Johnston and the play of Hope Solo.

Johnston missed the U.S.’s second group stage match against France due to a groin strain and sat out the team’s third match as well. Her health is essential for the U.S. backline that has played so well since she was inserted into the starting lineup over a year ago.

Hope Solo, widely recognized as the best goalkeeper in the world, had one of her worst games in recent memory against Colombia. On Colombia’s first goal she made an uncharacteristic mistake as she mishandled a free kick that went right through her legs. Colombia’s second goal was beautifully placed in the top corner, but was taken from a sharp angle and could have been dealt with better by Solo.

Solo has been in the news since arriving in Brazil as she has been booed by fans whenever she touches the ball. While she has said the jeers do not bother her, Solo is in need of a bounce-back game against Sweden to right the ship.

Although Sweden is the sixth ranked team in the world, the team struggled in the group stage and only advanced as the third place finisher in Group E. Sweden’s offense has not found a rhythm in Brazil as the team only has two goals through three matches.

Sweden is led by former U.S. women’s coach Pia Sundhage. Sundhage coached the U.S. at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, winning two gold medals. The last time these two teams met, at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Sundhage had some critical comments about her time coaching Lloyd and Solo.

This is likely to be a hotly-contested match between familiar foes with a spot in the semifinals at stake.

Germany and China finished second in their groups, each earning one win, one loss and one draw.

Germany, ranked second in the world, has not been at its best at the Olympics with the exception of its rout of Zimbabwe. Against Canada and Australia, two top 10 teams in the world, Germany’s defense struggled allowing two goals in each match.

China, on the other hand, cannot find its form on the offensive end. The team has been held to a clean sheet in two of its three matches.

Whichever team can overcome its respective struggles will be in great shape to advance to the semifinals.

Canada vs. France 6 p.m.
Canada is the only team in the women’s tournament to have won all three of its group stage matches, including wins over Germany and Australia, which were ranked higher than Canada in the world rankings going into the Olympics.

Canada has scored multiple goals in each of its matches and has gotten big contributions from captain Christine Sinclair. After scoring six goals at the 2012 Olympics, Sinclair has added two more in 2016.

Despite Canada’s strong play, the team faces a tough draw as it takes on France in the quarterfinals. France was the better team in the first half of its group stage loss to the U.S. and made easy work of Colombia and New Zealand in its other matches.

Based off these teams’ performances in Brazil, both have the quality to make it to the medal rounds.

Brazil vs. Australia 9 p.m.
Brazil was arguably the most impressive team in the tournament two matches into group play. The team only needed a point from its final group stage match so it sat many of its regular starters resulting in a 0-0 draw with South Africa.

Brazil has been strong on both sides of the field at the Olympics as the team is tied for the second most goals scored and tied for the least amount of goals allowed. Marta, Cristiane and Beatriz each have two goals while the team has earned two clean sheets.

Australia finished third in Group F, advancing as one of the top two third place teams in the tournament. Coming into the tournament ranked in the top five in the world, Australia has not lived up to expectations yet. With the opportunity to eliminate the host nation in the quarterfinals, the Matildas will have the chance to get on track.

Comments are closed.