The FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16 and Quarter Finals are now wrapped up. The tournament moves quick as the knock-out rounds leave teams either euphoric or in tears.
Spain, Sweden, Australia and England moved on to the semi finals, with the first one between Spain and Sweden taking place on Tuesday, August 15.
Host Australia and European Champion England meet in the second semi final on Wednesday, August 16.
Both semi finals will be nerve-wracking. Sweden and Australia might be underdogs facing favourites like England and Spain. However, the Swedes and Australia’s ‘Matildas’ have shown their will to fight in previous gripping quarter-finals.
Round of 16 Highlights
Looking back, the Round of 16 was characterized by outsiders surprising the public with great ambition and exhausting matches. Two out of eight matches lead to penalty shoot-outs.
The game between Sweden and the United States sure did stand out as ‘the one’, ending in intense suspense. The Swedes did not play their best, unable to find their way to the opponent’s goal at all for most of the 120 minutes played. However, the US did not impress either.
The team from North America seemed sure enough of their gameplay and final win, but as the minutes passed, they could not score a goal. We could watch the team start to panic eventually, still unable to get past the Swedish defense. And even when they did, they could not get the ball in the goal.
Despite the extra time neither of the teams were able to score. Before the move to the penalty shoot-out the US-women still looked sure of their qualification for the quarter finals. However, inexperienced and experienced players alike missed their penalties and ended up giving a final advantage to the Swedes, who send Lina Hurtig for what would be the final penalty-kick.
In an unbelievable scene, US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher touched the ball, sent it straight above her head and was eventually able to push it out of the goal again. Sure of her save, the seconds of not knowing moved slowly.
But then, the referee gives the goal to Sweden and the game leaves the US in utter shock and disbelief while another nation celebrates in excitement.
Another game of suspense was held on August 7, between England and Nigeria. Again, a team sure to move on to the quarter finals – as the current European Champion – the English were overrun by Nigeria and were pushed past extra time to a penalty shoot-out. They persisted and ended up winning the penalty shoot-out 4 – 2, meaning they were saved from elimination and moved on to the quarter finals.
Women’s World Cup: Quarter Finals Highlights
The quarter finals were nothing short of shocking either, pushing the World Cup to new highs of emotion, sending Women’s football into a new era of euphoria.
Outstanding, without a doubt, was the match between host nation Australia and title contender France. After a game of hard work on both sides, zero goals in neither regular nor extra time were scored. The match moved on to another penalty shoot-out.
It took 10 penalty kicks each, to finally decide the game. The Matildas were close to winning, after goal keeper Mackenzie Arnold caught a French ball, giving the Aussies an advantage, needing only one more scored goal to win. Arnold then missed her penalty kick, which meant the shoot-out would continue.
21-year-old Corinne Vine walked to the penalty spot. She could now take the advantage, score her penalty kick and win the game for – essentially – the whole nation. Her kick was what it would come down to.
When she scored, the stadium in Brisbane erupted into screams, hugs and pure happiness. The Matildas enter a World Cup semi final for the first time in history.
They are riding a wave of euphoria and passion backed by the whole country. Really, it feels like the team from Australia is supported worldwide. People all over the globe would love to see a World Cup fairytale taking place for the co-hosts of the tournament.
Sweden eliminated Japan, who was one of the favourite teams for the title. The Swedes played their heart out and ended up winning the match 2 – 1 with fairly early scored goals in minute 32 and 51.
The Japanese did score just before the end of regular time but couldn’t secure another goal to draw the match and make it to extra time. They missed their chance to enter into the semi finals.
Spain moved on to the semi finals after beating the Netherlands in the quarter finals with 2 – 1 in extra time. Stefanie Van der Gragt scored for the Netherlands just a minute before the match would have been over, which set the game to 1 – 1 and meant it would continue into extra time.
Spain’s Salma Paralluelo was then able to score the final goal in minute 111, finishing the match and paving a way for Spain into entering the semi finals.
The Colombians, who presented themselves with a strong group phase, were beaten by the English in an equal match. The game ended with a score of 2 – 1 for the Brits, helping them to advance into the semi finals.
They will play the hosts Australia on August 16, moving into the semi final as favourites. However, the Matildas will not be an easy opponent, considering the advantage of playing at home and riding the wave of joy and high spirits in Down Under.
Spain – Sweden August 15
Australia – England August 16
The final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be played in Sydney on August 20.
You can find the BBC schedule for the World Cup here.
Featured Image Credit: http://www.thepitchherperfect.wordpress.com