As soon as the groups were drawn, experts feared the two teams most favored to win the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, France and the United States, would face each other in the quarterfinals. Sure enough, the defending champions (+125) will square off Friday against the fourth-ranked hosts in Paris. The second round of the knockout stage begins the day before, with England (+100) against Norway in La Havre. Saturday features a pair of games, Italy against the Netherlands (+350) in Valenciennes, then Germany (9-2) against Sweden in Rennes. The winners face off in the semifinals, beginning July 2.
The USWNT breezed through their group stage matches, running up a record-setting (men’s or women’s) 18-0 goal difference in three easy wins. They needed two VAR-assisted penalties by Megan Rapinoe, however, to get past Spain in the round of 16. France, too, have been perfect, grinding out three consecutive one-goal wins. That included Sunday’s 2-1 extra-time thriller against Brazil, featuring the save of the tournament from defender Griedge Mbock Bathy.
Thursday’s meeting will be a rematch of a 2015 first round game, in which England defeated Norway, 2-1. England did not drop points in the group stage, and flew past Cameroon, in controversial fashion, 3-0. Meanwhile, the Grasshoppers lost to France in group stage, and needed penalties to outlast Australia. England’s star defensive duo, Millie Bright and Steph Houghton, are both doubtful. Despite this, the Three Lionesses are favored to make their third straight semifinal, a first for an English side, men’s or women’s, in any tournament.
Both Italy and the Netherlands are football mad countries, so the women can relate to being overshadowed by the boys. Yet, neither men’s team qualified for last year’s World Cup in Russia. By Sunday, one of them will punch their ticket to their first women’s semifinal. Italy topped the “Group of Death,” Group B, on goal difference, before dispatching China, 2-0. The European champions cruised through group stage, but had their problems in the knockout round against Japan. A late, controversial handball proved to be the difference for the Dutch, 2-1.
In another rematch from four years ago, heavily-favored Germany take on surprising Sweden. Germany knocked out the Blue and Yellow in 2015 and 2003. They encountered no resistance in Group B, then blew past Nigeria, 3-0. Sweden, meanwhile, fell to the United States, before a superb goal by Stina Blackstenius— and an even better penalty save by Hedvig Lindahl— saw them through against Canada.
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