The Round of 16 Knock Out phase of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France is history with seven of the eight advancing team into the quarter final stage from Europe with defending champions USA as the only outlier.
The advancing teams are Germany, which defeated Nigeria 3-0, and Norway, which needed penalty kicks to defeat Australia after the game was tied at one apiece. Norway was perfect from the spot while Australia missed regularly to be on the short end of a 4-1 final on penalty kicks
England advanced to the quarter final by virtue of its 3-0 victory over Cameroons while host France needed extra time to gain a close 2-1 victory over Brazil in one of the best played games of the tournament.
USA on the other hand needed VAR assistance to defeat Spain 2-1 while Italy advanced after defeating China 2-1. Netherlands eliminated the last Asian hope when they defeated Japan 2-1 on a penalty scored in the 90th minute.
The game that affected Canadian fans was played at Parc de Prince Stadium in Paris last Monday where Sweden managed to advance when Canada failed to convert a penalty awarded via VAR late in the match that would have tied the game; Sweden held on for a 1-0 score at the final whistle.
The bizarre twist to Canada elimination game was that Christine Sinclair as Canada’s all-time leading goal scorers and captain of the team did not kick the penalty. She had scored in the previous game and entered the contest just two goals shy of tying the women’s international scoring record held by former USA forward, Abby Wambach.
Sinclair is tied with Brazil’s forward Martha as the only players who have scored in four FIFA Women’s World Cups. They accomplished the feat when they each scored in their teams’ third group matches at France 2019.
Martha scored the lone goal for Brazil to defeat Italy 1-0 while Sinclair scored in Canada’s 3-1 loss to Netherlands. Sinclair has been the captain of Canada women’s team for as far back as I can recall and her ability to score is a part of her leadership.
Heading into the world cup everyone knew that Sinclair was in pursuit of breaking the international scoring record and had scored in her previous match against Netherlands exactly when the team needed some sort of offensive breakthrough.
Supporters of Canada’s senior women’s team would have automatically picked Sinclair to kick the penalty against Sweden but for some reason Canada Women’s Head Coach, Kenneth Heiner-Møller, fumbled what seemed to be a no brainer of a decision.
Making use of scoring opportunities is needed to advance and the use of the VAR has made a big difference in the outcome of games at this year’s FIFA World Cup in France. It is by no means an unfair process but it certainly has changed the outcome of games to the benefit of some teams that advanced to the quarter finals stage.
While nothing at this stage of the tournament is a given, one would have to go with Germany over Sweden, while the matchup with host France against USA on Thursday seems to be the most intriguing and is too close to call.
The Italy-Netherlands matchup seems to be a toss-up with Netherlands a slight favourite. However, Italy has proven that they are not to be taken lightly. England and Norway have been regular participants at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and they are closely matched. It may require extra time to decide this contest.
The outcome of this tournament may be the hardest to predict because of the large number of European teams playing in the quarter finals. However, the easiest prediction to make will be that the regular use of the VAR will likely influence the outcomes of a number of the games, and may well decide the winner.
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