Italy vs China Preview

Italy vs China Preview: A Tense, Tight Affair To Test The Azzure

Italy will face China in the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup, the clash on Tuesday evening at Montpellier’s Stade de la Mosson marking the first time the two nations have ever met at the game’s showpiece event.

Italy have won three of their last four matches at the tournament after winning just two of their first six games in the competition, while – since they reached the final back in 1999 – China have lost three of their last four knockout-stage games at the World Cup, never emerging further than the quarter-finals.

A place on that same stage is now at stake, with the eventual winners taking on either Netherlands or Japan, but first they will need to get through what should be an extremely difficult challenge for both sides. Read More

Sweden vs Canada

Sweden vs Canada Preview: It’s Not Winter, But Expect Fire

They have history between them, but mostly in winter sports like curling, ice hockey or skiing. Sweden vs Canada will be a particularly interesting clash in Paris, because it brings to the grass a rivalry that is big on ice.

The Swedes lost 2-0 to the top-ranked Americans on Thursday to decide the Group F winner. Canada got a wake-up call, paying for a slow start and some defensive lapses with a 2-1 loss to the European champion Netherlands in their final group stage game.

“I know if we play to our best, we can beat everyone and that includes anyone who we may face in the next rounds,” said Kenneth Heiner-Møller, Canada’s Head Coach. “We were trying to win this match ‎because that is what we do and we do very well. ‎We need to learn from this game, shift quickly and focus on the next task. We are only looking forward.”

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Spain vs USA

Spain vs USA Preview: Will Spanish Chance Quality Prevent An Upset?

By the time the Round of 16 is reached in a knockout tournament, you can usually have a good sense of what to expect from a team in terms of line-up and tactics. Neither Spain nor the USA have given much of an indication what they deem their best XI to be.

Of course, short tournaments require careful squad management and, in the case of the USA, that is likely what we are seeing. For Spain, though, there is more of an uncertainty about how they should set up their team.

We have already talked about the Spanish team’s woes in front of goal. These woes have continued throughout the group stages. According to Michael Caley’s Expected Goals model, Spain have picked up one non-penalty goal from 5.7 xG in their first three games. Read More

England vs Cameroon Preview

England vs Cameroon Preview: Could A Shock Be On The Cards?

England have mostly performed as expected in the World Cup so far, winning all three group games even if none came with a hugely dominant scoreline. Cameroon, meanwhile, have surprised people already by beating a more fancied New Zealand side to make it out of a tough group. Could they pull off an upset again?

Tactically, Cameroon play a very fluid and interchanging system. The official FIFA listings have generally had it down as a back three, and it does appear as such at times, but will often find itself becoming a back three as a “centre back” pushes into midfield or a full back rushes on.

There seems to be a greater than usual emphasis on marking individuals in open play over a zonal structure, which will occasionally cause the side problems as opposition players can escape their markers and find themselves free. In attack, things are similarly loose, with the passmaps often turning into something of a blur as players constantly move around during the game. This might be their best chance of scoring here, to play a predominantly counter attack based style of interchanging players that disrupts England’s shape. Read More

Germany vs Nigeria Preview

Germany vs Nigeria Preview: Die Nationalelf peaking at the right time?

The Germans will certainly be the first to admit the way they started the 2019 World Cup is mis-representative of the kind of team they are known to be. They kicked off their campaign against a fellow powerhouse in the 1999 finalists China and then followed that up with a meeting against Spain. So they can be forgiven for not being at their sharpest, but their handling of those encounters proved why they are two-time champions.

They made sure to show their true colours against tournament debutantes and relatively easy opposition, South Africa, in their final group match, sending a warning shot to those who may have dared to think they are anything like what their male counterparts were in Russia last year. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side sought to seal passage to the round of 16 in emphatic style and so they did with a 4-0 win over Banyana Banyana.

In true German style, the result was not owed to a select few players, the whole team made sure to play their parts effectively, with the proof showing in there being four different goal scorers in that match. Read More

Norway vs Australia

Norway vs Australia Preview: Will Sam Kerr prove the difference?

When Ada Hegerberg announced she wouldn’t be taking to the biggest stage in women’s football this summer, Norway’s slim chances of success in France took a huge and potentially fatal hit. Winner of the first Women’s Ballon d’Or last year, the Lyon striker scored a hat-trick in the Champions League final against Barcelona, and her country was expected to really struggle without her. So far, so good, though, as they prepare for a clash with Australia in the last 16.

Both of these sides have won two of three games at the World Cup so far. Norway beat Nigeria and South Korea, but lost narrowly to France, while Australia bounced back from an opening game defeat to Italy with six points, and seven goals scored, against Brazil and Jamaica. The different styles of these sides have been evident throughout the tournament; though Norway put a rather poor Nigeria side to the sword, winning 3-0, both their other games were tight and decided by the odd goal in three. Read More

Sweden vs USA

Sweden vs USA Preview: Two Powerhouses Collide

Both the United States and Sweden are among the group of favourites that could realistically win the World Cup. And both are quite similar in their general style of football, which became obvious on the first two matchdays.

Since the discrepancies in terms of physicality are still somewhat significant at this year’s tournament, teams such as the United States and Sweden seem to have a huge advantage over “smaller” sides. Both are able to bully those who cannot keep up with them in terms height, speed and athleticism in general. Read More

Netherlands vs Canada

Netherlands vs Canada Preview: First Test For Outside Chancers

The Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims will witness a meeting between two teams in very similar positions, both in terms of their standing in world football and their position in Group E.

Netherlands vs Canada could easily be a quarter or semi-final, and could well be the latter if both are still in the tournament come July, but the two teams will have to continue to improve as they progress for this to happen.

To watch Canada in the early rounds of this tournament is to watch a team doing a job, and little more. This brand of football can be dismissed as functional and not the type which will win a tournament, but in truth functional teams can, and often do, end up winning trophies. The Canadians are one of only three teams in the World Cup to have kept a clean sheet in all of their matches so far, after all.

A big test of Canada’s credentials will come against the Netherlands. It will be the first time they have faced a team on a similar level to themselves, and the same can be said of their opponents. Read More

Japan vs England

Japan vs England Preview: A World Top 10 Clash With History Too

When England faced Japan four years ago in their World Cup semifinal in Canada, the Lionesses lost the tie, heartbreakingly, through an own goal in the 92nd minute. The stakes aren’t quite as high this time around – it is ‘only’ the group stage, and both teams have already progressed into the next round – but it is not a complete dead rubber.

Victory against Japan in the SheBelieves Cup in March, despite it being a friendly tournament, and the manner in which they secured it will no doubt have given Phil Neville’s side confidence ahead of their meeting in Nice. Now, after narrowly defeating Scotland and overcoming Argentina’s attempts to frustrate them, England should be well-prepared for their final test after these two difficult fixtures.

Neville pointed out that “Japan struggled to create chances against Argentina but we didn’t”. The South Americans held the former world champions to a goalless draw, in which Asako Takakura’s side looked every inch the team in transition they were thought to be. A much more composed performance against Scotland served as a timely reminder of their class, encapsulated by Mana Iwabuchi’s fine finish, although they could do with some ruthlessness to match the levels of dominance. Read More

Scotland vs Argentina

Scotland vs Argentina Preview: No Wiggle Room For Kerr

Context, they say, is everything.

On paper, Scotland’s first foray into World Cup football looks encouraging: a couple of two-one defeats against top-ten-in-the-world opposition and the chance to qualify for the Round of 16 with a good result against Argentina on Wednesday.

But scratch the surface and there are worrying tendencies which put something of a dampener on proceedings in France. In both games, Scotland rolled over in the first half, giving up two goals, one of which was a (admittedly soft) penalty. In both games, there were tactical tweaks which saw Scotland come out stronger in the second half.

And in both games, there were late goals: too late to change the course of the result. Going into their final group game, Scotland will have to avoid following the same trajectory if they are to make it into the knock-out stage of this tournament. Read More