Of the quarterfinalists, who is most likely to win the Women's World Cup? Liviu Bird ranks the remaining teams in Canada.
In a tournament that saw several debutant nations turn heads for the first time at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the last eight teams look remarkably familiar. Three of the quarterfinalists have won the title, including the United States, and six have placed in the top four.
Still, there has been a reshuffling of the world order in women’s soccer recently. The U.S. isn’t playing like the powerhouse we've become accustomed to seeing, with other nations beginning to invest more heavily in the sport and give their women’s teams a considerable amount of support to qualify for and do well in big tournaments.
As it stands right now, the U.S. might not even be favored to make the final, especially being on the tougher side of the knockout bracket. Certainly, the team’s sudden pressure to evolve after dominating the sport for the last two and a half decades means that it will need to be at the top of its game to make it past Germany or France, should it reach the semifinals.
On the other side, Australia started the tournament with a loss to the U.S. but showed plenty of promise since then. Japan has played some of the best team soccer in the tournament, and host nation Canada would like nothing more than winning it all on its own turf in Vancouver.
Here’s how the eight remaining teams in the 2015 Women’s World Cup stack up:
Despite a rash of high-profile injuries before the tournament, including to World Player of the Year Nadine Kessler, the Germans still have the best chance to become the first team to win the tournament for a third time. Like the men a year ago, the German women have been the steadiest team throughout the competition despite a 1-1 draw with Norway in the group stage, hardly breaking a sweat in any other match.
It’s tough to call France much of an underdog in its quarterfinal, even compared to Germany, and Les Bleues will become the new favorite to lift the trophy if they can knock off the Germans. A combination of silky possession football and stellar individual ability in attack make this the best France team yet, and one with a serious chance to win its first World Cup.
It’s not quite the team it was four years ago, but Japan showed in its round-of-16 win over the Netherlands that it can still play. The combination that led to Mizuho Sakaguchi’s winning goal was proof of that, but Australia’s defensive pressure will likely be higher in the upcoming quarterfinal, and Japan hasn’t won a match all too convincingly yet.
Australia certainly felt confident heading into the World Cup, as evidenced by the federation’s salty response to a 3-1 loss to the U.S. in group play. Its best feature has been an ability to pressure and change defense into attack very quickly, which any of its potential remaining opponents would find difficult to handle.
Canada won its group while only scoring two goals, then defeated Switzerland with just one more in the round of 16. The Canadians are riding the momentum of hosting a World Cup into the last eight and possibly into the semifinals, but it will take a little something more to go much farther than it already has.
England won every match so far by one goal, except for its tournament-opening 1-0 loss to France, so the Three Lionesses have been good enough to make it this far. The match against Canada will be a close one, although neither team will likely get past Australia or Japan in the semifinal.
The lowest-ranked team left in the tournament, China’s best moment remains making the 1999 final. Beating the U.S. in a rematch of the game would be one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far, but a quarterfinal finish would at least be progress over failing to qualify at all in 2011.