Women’s World Cup Daily: Quarterfinal preview, predictions


The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Australia and New Zealand.

The lead: And then there were 8

After 32 teams began their 2023 Women’s World Cup campaigns we’re down to eight, with many of the favourites already sent home including the United States, Canada, Brazil and Germany.

Japan, Colombia, Sweden, France, Spain, Netherlands, European champions England and co-hosts Australia are the ones who made it through.

ESPN’s writers on the ground in Australia and New Zealand take us through each of the quarterfinal fixtures.

Women’s World Cup: Landing page | Bracket | Schedule | News

News of the day

  • USWNT players have now spoken about their round-of-16 elimination to Sweden. Captain Lindsay Horan thanked supporters in an Instagram post but added “football can be won and lost by moments and millimeters” — a reference to the VAR decision that ruled the deciding penalty attempt had crossed the goal line by the thinnest of margins. USWNT forward Lynn Williams wrote that “from the sidelines our performance against Sweden was beautiful to watch, from the field it was a joy to play.”

  • England defender Lucy Bronze has said they must improve their performances if they are to win the Women’s World Cup. England face Colombia on Saturday after the Lionesses booked their spot with a penalty shootout victory over Nigeria. “We can give more,” Bronze said. “We’re a fantastic team with highly talented players.”

  • Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson doesn’t expect to discuss extending his contract with the Jamaican Football Federation until after a CONCACAF playoff with Canada for a spot at the Paris Olympics.

    “That’s a question for when we get to the end of that road,” he told reporters after loss to Colombia in the round of 16. “We work in a country sometimes there’s a lot of chaos, so we need to figure that out and see what we want to do. Maybe … I don’t know. Maybe I have a good run? So after the September games, the Olympic qualifiers, I don’t think anybody’s going to do anything before that. We’ll wait until after that and we’ll see what happens. If I would like to? It’s my country. I think that we need to sit down and sort some stuff out.”

Spain vs. Netherlands, Friday Aug. 11
Sky Stadium, Wellington; 1 p.m. local / 9 p.m. ET (Thursday) / 2 a.m. BST



How Spain’s ‘five-star’ performance booked them a place in the quarterfinals

Sophie Lawson recaps Spain’s 5-1 win over Switzerland in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup.

One thing to know about each team heading into the game

Despite being talked about as one of the favourites, Spain’s win against Switzerland was the first time they have ever won a knockout game at a major senior tournament. There has been plenty of success for La Roja at youth level, but their World Cup and Euros form has rarely matched the promise of the players or the strength of their qualification campaigns. The number of players pulled from the imperious Barcelona team (9 out of 23) — who recently claimed their second Champions League title — will help their mental fortitude and improve their ability to roll with the punches at the highest level. — Sophie Lawson

Netherlands must do without midfielder Danielle van de Donk in this quarterfinal after she was handed a one-match suspension for picking up two yellow cards. Van de Donk was in tears after the South Africa game, with the 32-year-old fearing that she might have played her last World Cup game. But the Dutch go into the game unbeaten in their last six outings and, having reached the final in 2019 before losing to the U.S., will believe they can go one better than four years ago. — Mark Ogden

One player you need to know on each team

Aitana Bonmatí: With Alexia Putellas having returned from her ACL injury, the Ballon d’Or winner was again soaking up the spotlight, but Bonmatí is the player to watch for Spain. One of the best players in the world over the last year, she is the midfield general who helps keep the team balanced as she drops back and forth, spraying pinpoint passes and getting back to help intercept danger before setting up the counter. The 25-year-old’s vision and deft touch have led to her scoring three goals and setting up two more at this tournament. — Lawson

Daphne van Domselaar: Netherlands’ goalkeeper has been one of the stars of the tournament so far and her Player-of-the-Match performance against South Africa in the round of 16 underlined her chances of ending this World Cup in the team of the tournament. According to coach Andries Jonker, the 23-year-old Aston Villa keeper is leading the new waves of No. 1s. “If you compare her with other keepers, I think she’s developed a lot,” Jonker said. “Four years ago, there were goalkeepers that could not deal with the ball just under the bar and now we’ve got a whole generation of very athletic goalkeepers, who don’t let in that kind of ball. Daphne is one of that new generation. They’re athletic, they’re in good shape, they’ve got good positioning, so the developments in that area are incredible and Netherlands are right along there.” — Ogden


Lawson: Spain 3-2 Netherlands — potentially the two shakiest defences at the tournament, it will be a game of who can score more and we know when Spain are up against a weak backline, they *can* score, so I think they’ll take it and it will be a chaotic game.
Laurens: Spain 2-0 Netherlands — Spain have too much for the Dutch who I don’t think can raise their game to compete with the technical ability.
Lordanic: Spain 2-1 Netherlands (AET) — Spain’s best is as beautiful as it is ruthless, whether they can bring that against Netherlands is the major question.
Ogden: Netherlands 2-1 Spain — Spain are the better team, but the Dutch look a more streetwise side and one more likely to get the job done.
Hamilton: Spain 2-2 Netherlands (Netherlands to win on penalties) — Expect this to be very close with neither team giving an inch. I think it’ll go all the way to spot kicks.
Murray: Netherlands 1-0 Spain — I lost confidence in Spain after Japan destroyed them in the group stage. I don’t know if they have it, and Putellas’ return from injury hasn’t been all we’d hoped.
Lynch: Spain 3-1 Netherlands — Both teams are good but Spain feel like they have a higher gear to them than the Oranje. It’ll be 2-1 late, before Spain get one more as the Dutch chase the game.
Marsden: Spain 2-1 Netherlands (AET). Japan showed to how nullify Spain and I think this will go the distance, but expect La Roja to have just enough to squeeze into their first ever semifinal.

Japan vs. Sweden, Friday Aug. 11
Eden Park, Auckland; 7.30 p.m. local / 3.30 a.m. ET / 8.30 a.m. BST



‘Believe the hype!’ – How Japan cruised into the World Cup quarterfinals

Gabriel Tan recaps Japan’s comfortable 3-1 win over Norway at the Women’s World Cup.

One thing to know about each team heading into the game

Of all the teams left in the World Cup, no team has had less possession on average than Japan. Dig a little deeper though, and it’s because Japan held a stunning and paltry 24% of the ball in their 4-0 win over Spain. On the other end of the spectrum, they held 59% possession against Zambia and beat them 5-0. What does that mean? This Japan team is super adaptable and can beat opponents with whatever they give them. — Caitlin Murray

Goalkeeper Zećira Mušović was the star of Sweden’s round-of-16 win against the United States but coach Peter Gerhardsson did not know whether to pick her or Jennifer Falk until hours before their first game against South Africa. The two shared goalkeeping duties in the run up to the tournament and, speaking before the opener against South Africa, Gerhardsson said choosing a No.1 was one of the hardest decisions he had ever faced. “At club level, you have one keeper and a backup, but we have a unique situation here,” he explained. In the end, he went for Chelsea‘s Mušović and the rest, as they say, is history. She made 11 mostly stunning saves to knock out the USWNT and will likely have work to do against Japan, who have scored 14 goals in their four games. — Sam Marsden

One player you need to know on each team

Hinata Miyazawa: She is the Golden Boot leader so far in this World Cup, scoring five goals across three games for Japan. That it’s Miyazawa is remarkable — she hasn’t even scored five goals for Japan in the last three years, and she doesn’t score very much for her club, Vegalta Sendai, either. The forward/attacking midfielder is having the tournament of her life, so she’s the player to watch. — Murray

Fridolina Rolfo: Sweden’s threat from set plays has been well established at this tournament, with defender Amanda Ilestedt nodding in three corners from Jonna Andersson in the group stage. However, that should not distract from the fact the squad is packed with quality players across Europe’s biggest sides. Barcelona’s Fridolina Rolfo, the scorer of the winning goal in the Champions League final, is perhaps the pick of the bunch. A left-back, in name at least, for her club, she is given more freedom for her country and is hard to stop when she gets going on the left wing. — Marsden


Lawson: Japan 3-1 Sweden — Sweden are going to score off a set-piece, but with the intelligence Japan have shown this tournament, unlocking the Sweden defence will just be another show of their depth.
Laurens: Sweden 1-0 Japan — Sweden will frustrate Japan and their amazing strength on set pieces will make the difference.
Lordanic: Japan 3-1 Sweden — Japan are the team who have convinced me the most so far this tournament. Barring Musvoic’s performance against the USWNT, Sweden didn’t look like offering much.
Ogden: Sweden 1-0 Japan — Japan have been the most exciting team of this World Cup and although Sweden will make it tough, Futoshi Ikeda’s side should go through.
Hamilton: Japan 2-1 Sweden — Sweden will score a set piece goal, but Japan will go through despite having minimal possession and territory.
Murray: Japan 1-0 Sweden — Japan will score on a counter-attack after forcing Sweden to keep possession of the ball.
Lynch: Japan 2-0 Sweden — Japan have been playing the best football of any side this tournament and, as they’re still my tip to win it, I have them getting past Sweden.
Marsden: Japan 2-1 Sweden — Even in defeat, Italy and South Africa both showed enough deficiencies in the Sweden defence to suggest Japan, the best team at the finals so far, can find some joy.

Australia vs. France, Saturday Aug. 12
Lang Park, Brisbane; 5 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. UK



How ‘outstanding’ France progressed to the World Cup quarterfinals

Julien Laurens recaps France’s 4-0 win over Morocco in the round-of-16 of the Women’s World Cup.

One thing to know about each team heading into the game

France have a totally different team than the one that lost 1-0 against Australia on July 14 in their last friendly before the World Cup started. Now they play 4-4-2 instead of 4-3-3; Maëlle Lakrar and Wendie Renard have formed an excellent centre-back partnership; Kadidiatou Diani and Eugénie Le Sommer are on fire up front; Kenza Dali offers balance on the right; while the duo of Selma Bacha and Sakina Karchaoui on the left is next level. Fitness wise, the players have gone from strength to strength after a slow start in the competition. — Julien Laurens

Not much can be tangibly gained from that friendly, for either side, thanks to personnel and formation changes since. But the Aussies take something. “It was a friendly … but we learned a lot from that game and now we have images of us versing them in our formation and what we can improve on,” Cortnee Vine told media on Wednesday. “We look inwards before we look outwards and we’ll be going back and analysing our own game against them and just picking apart what we can expose.” The Matildas’ focus on themselves has been working well so far. The team appear to have a steely resolve and a joy that they can hold simultaneously. It could be just the intangible which boosts their mature performances on the field to get them to a maiden World Cup semifinal. — Marissa Lordanic

One player you need to know on each team

Grace Geyoro: One of the stars of the tournament so far, she is the playmaker of this France team and, in the new 4-4-2 formation, she dictates the pace and triggers the pressing from her central midfield position. With Sandy Toletti next to her, she controls the game, while her wonderful technical ability and in-game intelligence mean that she can cope with pressure. She recovers the ball a lot, doesn’t lose it much, and feeds the front two of Diani and Le Sommer. — Laurens

Caitlin Foord: It’s her time to shine. And considering she’s already shone pretty brightly, particularly in these last two games, she’s about to become blindingly bright. After playing more of a sacrificial central role in the Matildas’ first two games against Ireland and Nigeria, her move out wide to the left has unlocked Australia’s attack and she got a much deserved goal against Denmark to go along with her assist in the Canada game. Foord is in the form of her life, combining superbly with Arsenal teammate Steph Catley on the left, and is just as likely to tee a goal up as she is to score. — Lordanic


Lawson: Australia 2-1 France — Even with overwhelming crowd support, the co-hosts will still see themselves as enough of an underdog to play their best and strike on the counter; Diani will score but it will only be a conciliation.
Laurens: France 2-1 Australia — France will edge it because of their front four and control in midfield; Australia will go for it which will suit the French too.
Lordanic: Australia 2-1 France — A strong France team won’t intimidate the Matildas in what is their toughest test of the tournament so far. The Aussies look and feel ready to create some more history.
Ogden: Australia 2-1 France — This is all about the host nation being driven on by the home crowd in Brisbane. France are stronger, but don’t bet against the Matildas on home soil.
Hamilton: Australia 2-1 France — Sam Kerr‘s return and the home support will drive the Matildas through to the semifinal.
Murray: France 2-2 Australia (Australia win on penalties) — While I think France are the better side, the home crowd will lift the Matildas to a thrilling shootout win. Classic.
Lynch: France 3-3 Australia (France win on penalties) — I have a nagging feeling France break Aussie hearts in the game of the tournament.
Marsden: France 2-1 Australia. Both these sides are packed with talent but, for me, France have a little bit more. The only doubt is how much of a factor the home crowd can be.

England vs. Colombia, Saturday Aug, 12
Stadium Australia, Sydney; 8:30 p.m. local / 6:30 a.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. UK



Ogden: England’s World Cup hopes in jeopardy after James red card

Mark Ogden believes England’s World Cup hopes could be “hanging by a thread” after Lauren James received a red card against Nigeria.

One thing to know about each team heading into the game

England will be without star forward Lauren James for this match after she was shown a red card in their round-of-16 win over Nigeria. England needed penalties to get past the Super Falcons and, bar the 6-1 walloping of China in the group stages, have struggled in front of goal. James’ absence means Sarina Wiegman may shift formation again, having played 3-4-1-2 in the past two matches; she may revert back to the favored 4-2-3-1. It’ll be fascinating to see how they manage without James, but will look to the likes of Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly for goals. But James’ absence robs them of some key X-Factor — she was the difference for England in their 1-0 win over Denmark and was exceptional against China, as she scored twice and contributed three assists. England are waiting to see if FIFA will extend her one-match ban, but first up, they have to get the job done against Colombia. — Tom Hamilton

Having already beaten Euro 2022 runners-up Germany in the group stage, Colombia won’t be intimidated by the prospect of facing off with England. Coach Nelson Abadia has a side that he says is built not just of 23 of Colombia’s best footballers but of humans with strong maturity and mentality. Every game throughout this tournament has been treated as a final by Las Cafeteras, with even the 1-0 loss to Morocco in the group stage being framed as an important lesson and building block heading into this moment. The side will also be reinforced by the return of the suspended Manuela Vanegas for the game but given that her 18-year-old replacement Ana María Guzmán provided the assist for the goal that beat Jamaica, Abadia certainly has options. — Joey Lynch

One player you need to know on each team

Alex Greenwood: England are packed with stars and the crux of the group that won them Euro 2022 is still there. But their most consistent performer at this World Cup has been Alex Greenwood. She lined up left-back against Haiti, but moved to centre-back for the Denmark match, then played on the left of the back three against China and Nigeria. Her versatility is a wonderful luxury for Wiegman, but it’s her passing and distribution which is so valuable — alongside her defensive skills. She has made the most successful passes out of any player at the World Cup (370) and is top of the charts for forward passes (178). She’s also a dead-ball expert, so expect to see a few in-swinging corners from her. But she’s at the heart of the England defence that is yet to concede from open play at this World Cup and is essential to everything they do. — Hamilton

Linda Caicedo: It’s not an imaginative selection whatsoever, but the teenage sensation, who is Real Madrid-bound, was widely tipped to star at this tournament during the build-up and despite that massive weight of expectation has not disappointed. Her goal to put Colombia ahead of Germany was one of the most incredible pieces of skill produced at this tournament and, despite being well marshalled early and often against Jamaica, she was still able to present a potent threat to the Reggae Girlz. Having undergone an ovarian cancer experience as a 15-year-old, the teenager has overcome far more intimidating circumstances than anything that might await in the England squad. And besides, she’s already played a pivotal role in knocking one European finalist out of this tournament. — Lynch


Lawson: Colombia 2-1 England (AET) — We’re into the quarterfinals and I still don’t know where England’s goals are supposed to come from. Colombia will see themselves as underdogs (even if the stadium is packed with yellow) and find enough against the tide, just as they did against Germany.
Laurens: England 1-0 Colombia — The more one-sided quarterfinal. Even if Colombia defend well, England will find a way to get a narrow win.
Lordanic: England 1-1 Colombia (England win on penalties) — Colombia won’t go down without a fight and England will be saying ‘phew’ for the second game in a row.
Ogden: England 2-0 Colombia — It won’t be pretty, but England’s experience will get them over the line.
Hamilton: England 1-0 Colombia — There will be nervous moments, but England will grind this out.
Murray: England 2-1 Colombia — Caicedo will dazzle again, but England will prove the better side.
Lynch: England 1-0 Colombia (AET) — England will scrape through with an unconvincing win in front of a partisan crowd of Colombians and Aussies eager to see them knocked out.
Marsden: England 1-0 Colombia — Colombia have surprised at the tournament and are capable of producing another shock but, for all their injuries and flaws, the Lionesses will be too solid for them on this occasion.

Features of the day

Does the 2023 World Cup signal the end of USWNT dominance?
Is the all-time worst Women’s World Cup finish a sign that the U.S. is losing its grip at the top of the sport? Or is this all overblown?

Musovic mentality key vs. USWNT and in Sweden’s World Cup run
Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic put in a match-winning performance against the United States. This is what drives her and makes her special.

And, finally …

New Zealand‘s World Cup ended 10 days ago when the co-hosts suffered a group stage exit following a 0-0 draw against Switzerland in Dunedin, but time has not proven to be a healer for the Football Ferns.

Having beaten Norway in their opening game, New Zealand had been expected to reach the Round of 16 before a shock defeat against the Philippines rocked their chances. And coach Jitka Klimkova has said that the disappointment of being knocked out so early was so tough for many of her squad to take that they remained in the team hotel for days after being eliminated.

“We couldn’t go home,” Klimkova told the NZ Herald. “I was not ready to go home, so we stayed there (team hotel), just recovering, a lot of the players and staff. We were walking with our New Zealand football gear — we didn’t have any other clothes — and people just loved us.

“Not just at the stadium, but in the city, everywhere. I was going grocery shopping and people were stopping me and they are saying, “Oh my gosh, guys, you’ve done so well, you guys are awesome” and I was like ‘Wow, thank you.’ We were so close and our performance was actually still inspiring.” — Mark Ogden


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