The Women’s World Cup moved into the knockout stages this week, and the action reached new levels of excitement as a result. We saw the favorites rattled, a couple of challengers toppled, a legend go home, some bizarre antics and… sigh… VAR controversy.
Here is our overview of the eight Round of 16 matches at the Women’s World Cup.
This round’s winners
Europe: All but one of the sides through to the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals are European. The only non-European side is tournament favourites United States, who were given their toughest challenge yet by Spain – albeit, they only won thanks to two Megan Rapinoe penalties. In contrast, only three European sides reached the quarter-finals in 2015.
Italy: The unfancied Italians once again impressed as they knocked out China. They’re also inspiring young girls back in Italy, with viewing figures
Norway: Potentially the best game of the tournament so far saw Norway knock Australia out on penalties. VAR played its part, by overruling an Australian penalty, but Australia eventually fought back to equalise with seven minutes remaining. However, they then missed their first three penalties to hand victory to Norway.
Netherlands: The Dutch are looking like a decent outside bet to go all the way. They played some great football on the way to beating 2015 runners-up and 2011 Women’s World Cup winners Japan. This time Lieke Martens was the hero scoring twice, including a last-minute penalty.
Stars of the Round
Megan Rapinoe: Her two penalties to beat Spain . She also claimed she’d say ‘no thanks’ to any invite to the White House by Donald Trump, which makes her a bit of a hero. The US’ co=captain is one of 28 players suing the US Soccer Federation over the less successful men’s team earning more than the women.
Caroline Graham Hansen: I pipped the Norwegian winger for success before the tournament, and she really came good in their win over Australia. Hansen has the ability to win a game on her own and showed her ability to work magic against The Matildas. She is the standout player in what has been an impressive Norway team and will be instrumental as they take on England on Thursday.
Ellen White: The England striker has been in great form, bagging four goals so far in the Women’s World Cup. She’s just one goal behind Alex Morgan and Sam Kerr – one of whom scored all their goals in the opening game, and the other has already been knocked out. White took her goal against Cameroon with great confidence, which bodes well for England’s chances.
This week’s losers
Cameroon: This was like stepping into a football time machine back to the men’s World Cups of the 1970s and 80s. Cameroon’s players looked on the verge of boycotting when two VAR decisions went against them in the first-half. Then players were in tears when they got a goal back in the second half only for it to be wiped out by VAR.
Cameroon has claimed the decisions were biased. But that’s total nonsense. Not only were all the VAR goal decisions correct, but they were also lucky not to have three players sent off. Yvonne Deuko blatantly elbowed Nikita Parris in the first half, then Augustine Ejangue spat on Toni Duggan and Alexandra Takounda stamped on Steph Houghton in the second. Furthermore, England was denied a clear penalty by VAR in the second half.
It was a sad day for football, but England did well to overcome the madness. As England manager Phil Neville succinctly put it: “Ellen White was onside – deal with it.”
The quarter-finals get underway on Thursday as England take on Norway. The highlight of the round is a tasty match-up between favourites USA and hosts France. That should be a cracker.
The quarter-final fixtures are as follows:
Thursday (8pm BST / 3pm ET): Norway v England
Friday (8pm BST / 3pm ET): France v USA
Saturday (2pm BST / 9am ET): Italy v Netherlands
Saturday (5.30pm BST / 12.30pm ET): Germany v Sweden