Ok so the inaugural Round of 16 at the FIFA Women's World Cup proved to be a bit anti-climatic. For the most part, chalk reigned supreme. Thank you Australia, apologies to Brazil, for providing at least one upset last weekend.
Let's continue our penalty kick shout-out summary of the last round:
Low & Wide: Chalk Talk. Chalk results may be great for organizers but for fans of the sport and growing of the sport, these kind of results can be harmful. People like seeing upsets. People want to see new countries challenge the top nations. Now, being fair, the results will probably (hopefully) showcase some top notch quarterfinal matches but I still wanted to see some upsets. Who didn't want to see a dynamic, fun loving team like Cameroon continue on?
Bottom Corner Goal: Top Associations Reign Supreme. Look at our quarterfinal teams and which associations they represent. The top 3 associations are still fighting for a championship: UEFA, CONCACAF & AFC. UEFA and AFC lead the way with 3 teams remaining. UEFA seems to have the lowest odds of all the confederations here to advance though with two nations facing one another and the third battling the host country. AFC will have the same issue with 2 teams battling one another and the third facing a huge uphill battle against a co-favorite. CONCACAF has only 2 teams left but don't be surprised to see them be the last association standing. Both teams are favorites in their quarterfinal matches and could find themselves battling out for the title. AFC has 3 teams left but only the defending champs are favorites to advance. Overall results so far show AFC leading the way (3/5), CONCACAF close behind (2/4) and UEFA next (3/8).
Over the Net: Offense struggles. Entering the knockout round, fans were excited about the offensive talent we have seen so far in this tournament. We start the Round of 16 and the offense seemed to stutter. Ok Germany came through with 4 goals vs. Sweden and France dominated South Korea with 3 goals but every other game lacked some offensive punch. Perhaps teams were playing it a bit safe being the playoff round, which is understandable, but to win you need to score. Sure I enjoy the one-goal close games but 1-0 games are not exciting enough. Let's see those goals ladies!
Down the Pipe Goal: Die Nationalelf. The National Eleven continue to roll and if they were considered co-favorites entering the tournament, you would be hard pressed not to name them the solo favorites now. The complete domination they showed in their R16 match with Sweden was something to take notice of. Germany cracked home 4 goals against a very good Sweden team. Yes, we knew Sweden would have some defensive struggles but for Germany to completely dominate them is something to take notice of. Remember this is the same Sweden team that held USA to a nil draw in the group stage. The quarterfinal match with France could be considered a championship final. Can Germany continue to dominate?
If we count up the #TwineTime penalty kicks for the Round of 16, it appears we are at a stand-off. 2 goals and 2 saves. The games were enjoyable, the results were ok. Comme ci comme ca.
#TwineTime posted a moderate 5-3 record for the R16 matches. I guess I leaned too heavy on the hope of upset nations Cameroon and Netherlands shocking the world. Oops, oh well. Let's hope for a bit better result this stage. Onto the quarterfinals....
Germany #GER vs. France #FRA
The big match of the quarterfinals and the one all footie fans should be aching to watch. Both teams blew out their R16 opponents. This is also a match of two teams ranked within the top three in the world. Top ranked Germany and 3rd ranked France would have rather seen one another in the semi-final but when FIFA pre-seeded the teams into their groups ahead of the draw, everyone knew this was the expected quarterfinal game so here we are. Germany has won this title twice. France has beaten Germany the past 3 matches they have played. This game is a total toss-up.
#TwineTime pick: #GER 3 - #FRA 2 (a.e.t.)
USA #USA vs. China #CHN
The Stars and Stripes versus The Steel Roses. This is a match up with historical feeling. These two nations met in the 1999 championship final with the USA walking away with their second title after a penalty kick win. This was also the last time the USA won this event. Since 1999, the USA has remained one of the top nations in the world, currently sitting #2 in the world. China has seen an opposite effect, dipping in the rankings (#16) since and trying to reclaim the glory of the past. On paper this seems like a one-sided affair. I would be shocked to see an upset happen here....don't bet the house on it.
#TwineTime pick: #USA 2 - #CHN 0
Australia #AUS vs. Japan #JPN
The defending champs put on a clinic in the R16 game against the Netherlands. Leading into the match, many people (#TwineTime included) felt Japan had perhaps been coasting in the group stage matches and did not look ready to defend their title. Enter playoff mode! The defending champs dominated from start to finish and look poised to keep the title with the "Queens of Asia". Japan entered the World Cup claiming their first AFC Championship in 2014 and have the know all to turn it up when it matters most. Enter The Matildas. Australia has now reached the quarterfinal phase in their past three World Cup appearances. The problem for them is advancing past the Elite 8. If they can play quick and fast like they did against Brazil, Australia could shock the world once again. These teams are very familiar with one another. Japan did win the 2014 Asia Cup but who did they play in the final? Australia!
#TwineTime pick: #JPN 2 - #AUS 1
Canada #CAN vs. England #ENG
The host nation enters as the lower ranked team, #8 compared to England's #6, but have to be considered the favorites. The offense still seems to be struggling, picking up only 1 goal in the R16 win vs. Switzerland. But when your defense is shutting down your opposition and Erin McLeod in goal is becoming the #McLeodWall, what do you really have to complain about? England is not the offensive juggernaut compared to other teams still playing, an advantage for the Canadians I think. The Three Lionesses came away with a spirited 2-1 victory over Norway last round and will look to minimize the home fan noise in BC Place. This will be England's third straight appearance in the quarterfinal round but, similar to Australia above, getting over the Elite 8 hump and into the Final 4 has been a struggle. These teams are quite familiar with one another, having just played in the Cyprus Cup final in March with England pulling off the 1-0 win. In fact England also beat the Canadians in the 2014 Cyprus Cup group stage. They have the confidence and know they can win...but can they do it with 50,000+ fans cheering against them? Expect another low scoring affair in this match as Canada tries to reach the Final 4 for the first time since 2003. Worth noting, if Canada can pull off this win they will advance to the semifinal to be played on Canada Day in Edmonton. How cool would that be?
#TwineTime pick: #CAN 1 - #ENG 0
Alright footie fans, there you have it. A quick review of the inaugural Round of 16 at the FIFA Women's World Cup and a preview of the quarterfinal action this upcoming weekend. If you are in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal or Ottawa, a few tickets are still available. I HIGHLY recommend getting out to the action. I will be in Edmonton tomorrow for the Japan - Australia game. Feel free to say hi if you are there or hit me up on twitter.