Women's World Cup: Tournament wide open after heavyweights eliminated

England, the European champions, are the betting favourite

england-womens-wc-afp England's players celebrate their victory in a penalty shootout against Nigeria at the Women's World Cup round of 16 match in Brisbane | AFP

The United States' hold on the Women's World Cup is over, and two-time champion Germany, to, have exited the tournament. Olympic gold medallist Canada were bounced, and Marta and her Brazil team were knocked out before she had a chance to become the first player to score in six World Cups.

Yes, the heavyweights of women's football have all been eliminated, and yes, it has created a wide-open World Cup.

The eight teams that advanced to the quarterfinals represent some traditional powers, one previous World Cup winner and two teams making their debut in the final eight.

England, the European champions, are the betting favourite on FanDuel Sportsbook. But a foolish and violent tackle by Lauren James late in England's knockout win over Nigeria means the Lionesses will be without the star forward when they face Colombia. The Superpoderosas are feisty and were led by 18-year-old star Linda Caicedo into their first quarterfinals just four years after Colombia failed to even qualify for the tournament.

Australia, the co-hosts, have been to the quarterfinals three times previously, but now face an experienced France team which has won 16 of 18 matches in 2023. France's only loss? A 1-0 defeat to - surprise, surprise - Australia in a friendly a week before the start of the World Cup.

Spain make their first appearance in the quarterfinals behind 13 goals scored through the four games. They face the Netherlands, the team that lost to the United States in the 2019 finale. The Dutch failed to qualify for the first six editions of the World Cup, but once they made it in, they've been among the best. The Netherlands made it to the knockout round in their 2015 debut and the championship game four years ago, and are now hoping for a second shot at the title.

And finally, Japan, the only team remaining to have a World Cup title. The Japanese last won the championship all the way back in 2011 - they beat the US and the Americans avenged the loss four years later when Japan wound up runner-up. Japan have rolled to four easy wins so far in this tournament and have conceded only one goal.

The Japanese play Sweden, the team that ended America's run toward an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup title. Sweden, who dealt the United States their earliest exit in tournament history, have been to the semifinals three different times, including in 2019.

The third-ranked Swedes are the top-rated team by FIFA still in this World Cup, and Sweden are a three-time tournament bronze medallist. Sweden were runners-up to Germany in 2003.

A look at the final eight teams still playing in the wide-open Women's World Cup:


Sweden play Japan on Friday at Eden Park in Auckland in one of the better pairings of the tournament.

The Swedes have played in all nine editions of the World Cup, and four times they've had the title nearly within reach. Sweden lost to Japan in the 2011 semifinals, their third and most recent World Cup meeting with the Japanese.

Sweden goalie Zecira Musovic was spectacular against the United States; she had 11 saves in the 0-0 draw, helping Sweden advance 5-4 on penalty kicks.


Japan are the only team remaining with a World Cup title and the Japanese have steamrolled their way into the quarterfinals.

Japan blasted past Zambia and Costa Rica, then handed Spain a jarring 4-0 loss. That win over a strong Spain squad made Japan a quiet contender. Japan then knocked off Norway 3-1 to continue their offensive onslaught.


With so many big teams out, this is the Netherlands' chance to finally close out a World Cup title. But the Dutch play Spain in the New Zealand capital of Wellington without star midfielder Danielle van de Donk.

She's the one who tussled with American captain Lindsey Horan earlier in the tournament, and her yellow card in the Netherlands' 2-0 win over South Africa means she won't play in the quarterfinal.


Spain were commanding in wins over Costa Rica and Zambia, but then was stopped cold by Japan in a humbling group play defeat.

La Roja rebounded with a 5-1 rout of Switzerland in the knockout round. Spain coach Jorge Vilda made five changes to the lineup that was embarrassed by Japan, and two of the moves were the players' World Cup debuts.

Aitana Bonmati stepped up and scored twice in the Spain bounceback.


Australia finally got Sam Kerr back on to the field after the Matildas' superstar missed all of group play with a thigh injury. She only came on in the final 10 minutes of Australia's quarterfinal win over Denmark, but she was supposed to be the star of the tournament.

More than 75,000 spectators attended the Matildas' quarterfinal victory and the Sydney Opera House was alit in the yellow and green team colours. The pressure is on for the co-hosts to deliver.


France slid under the early radar with a scoreless draw against Jamaica in the opening round, but Le Bleus have been a force since. The fifth-ranked team has cruised into the quarterfinals. France helped knock off Brazil and Marta, and have outscored their opponents 12-4 in the three games since.

France are coached by Herve Renard, who led Saudi Arabia to a shocking upset of eventual champions Argentina and Lionel Messi at least year's men's World Cup.


England are the enigma. The European champions not winning the World Cup with so many challengers already out would be a bit of an upset.

The Lionesses are fourth in the FIFA rankings, right behind Sweden, but haven't had consistent play. They won a penalty shootout against Nigeria to advance to the quarterfinals.

But they also lost James, who was given a red card for a violent tackle late in the Nigeria game. The Chelsea forward is out at least against Colombia on Saturday in Sydney.


Colombia are new to this big stage and at 25th, are the lowest-ranked team still playing in the tournament.

But Colombia are no pushovers and have been very physical to get to the quarterfinals four years after failing to even qualify for the World Cup. The competition knows to expect a bruising match - one week before the tournament, Ireland abandoned a friendly against Colombia after only 20 minutes because of “overly physical" play.

Colombia are led by Caicedo, a rising star for Real Madrid, and the teenager dazzles on the field and also with her wide smiles that play to the cameras. Caicedo has had health issues; she battled ovarian cancer when she was 15, and during group play had at least two frightening episodes with what Colombia have called exhaustion. The team has insisted Caicedo is fit.


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