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Women's World Cup Daily: Quarterfinal preview, predictions – ESPN – ESPN

The Far Post podcast discuss the realisation for the Matildas and other World Cup contenders that they pose a massive threat with or without Sam Kerr. (1:46)
The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Australia and New Zealand.
After 32 teams began their 2023 Women’s World Cup campaigns, we’re down to six, with many of the favourites already sent home, including the United States, Canada, Brazil and Germany.
Japan, Colombia, Sweden, France, Spain, Netherlands, European champions England and co-hosts Australia are the ones who made it through to the final eight, with Sweden and Spain progressing and Japan and Netherlands now out after the first quarterfinals.
ESPN’s writers on the ground in Australia and New Zealand take us through the other quarterfinal fixtures.
Women’s World Cup: Landing page | Bracket | Schedule | News
One thing to know about each team heading into the game
France have a totally different team than the one that lost 1-0 against Australia on July 14 in their last friendly before the World Cup started. Now they play 4-4-2 instead of 4-3-3; Maëlle Lakrar and Wendie Renard have formed an excellent centre-back partnership; Kadidiatou Diani and Eugénie Le Sommer are on fire up front; Kenza Dali offers balance on the right; while the duo of Selma Bacha and Sakina Karchaoui on the left is next level. Fitness wise, the players have gone from strength to strength after a slow start in the competition. — Julien Laurens
Not much can be tangibly gained from that friendly, for either side, thanks to personnel and formation changes since. But the Aussies take something. “It was a friendly … but we learned a lot from that game and now we have images of us versing them in our formation and what we can improve on,” Cortnee Vine told media on Wednesday. “We look inwards before we look outwards and we’ll be going back and analysing our own game against them and just picking apart what we can expose.” The Matildas’ focus on themselves has been working well so far. The team appear to have a steely resolve and a joy that they can hold simultaneously. It could be just the intangible which boosts their mature performances on the field to get them to a maiden World Cup semifinal. — Marissa Lordanic
One player you need to know on each team
Grace Geyoro: One of the stars of the tournament so far, she is the playmaker of this France team and, in the new 4-4-2 formation, she dictates the pace and triggers the pressing from her central midfield position. With Sandy Toletti next to her, she controls the game, while her wonderful technical ability and in-game intelligence mean that she can cope with pressure. She recovers the ball a lot, doesn’t lose it much, and feeds the front two of Diani and Le Sommer. — Laurens
Caitlin Foord: It’s her time to shine. And considering she’s already shone pretty brightly, particularly in these last two games, she’s about to become blindingly bright. After playing more of a sacrificial central role in the Matildas’ first two games against Ireland and Nigeria, her move out wide to the left has unlocked Australia’s attack and she got a much deserved goal against Denmark to go along with her assist in the Canada game. Foord is in the form of her life, combining superbly with Arsenal teammate Steph Catley on the left, and is just as likely to tee a goal up as she is to score. — Lordanic
Predictions
Lawson: Australia 2-1 France: Even with overwhelming crowd support, the co-hosts will still see themselves as enough of an underdog to play their best and strike on the counter; Diani will score but it will only be a conciliation.
Laurens: France 2-1 Australia: France will edge it because of their front four and control in midfield; Australia will go for it which will suit the French too.
Lordanic: Australia 2-1 France: A strong France team won’t intimidate the Matildas in what is their toughest test of the tournament so far. The Aussies look and feel ready to create some more history.
Ogden: Australia 2-1 France: This is all about the host nation being driven on by the home crowd in Brisbane. France are stronger, but don’t bet against the Matildas on home soil.
Hamilton: Australia 2-1 France: Sam Kerr‘s return and the home support will drive the Matildas through to the semifinal.
Murray: France 2-2 Australia (Australia win on penalties): While I think France are the better side, the home crowd will lift the Matildas to a thrilling shootout win. Classic.
Lynch: France 3-3 Australia (France win on penalties): I have a nagging feeling France break Aussie hearts in the game of the tournament.
Marsden: France 2-1 Australia: Both these sides are packed with talent but, for me, France have a little bit more. The only doubt is how much of a factor the home crowd can be.
Mark Ogden believes England’s World Cup hopes could be “hanging by a thread” after Lauren James received a red card against Nigeria.
One thing to know about each team heading into the game
England will be without star forward Lauren James for this match after she was shown a red card in their round-of-16 win over Nigeria. England needed penalties to get past the Super Falcons and, bar the 6-1 walloping of China in the group stages, have struggled in front of goal. James’ absence means Sarina Wiegman may shift formation again, having played 3-4-1-2 in the past two matches; she may revert back to the favored 4-2-3-1. It’ll be fascinating to see how they manage without James, but will look to the likes of Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly for goals. But James’ absence robs them of some key X-Factor — she was the difference for England in their 1-0 win over Denmark and was exceptional against China, as she scored twice and contributed three assists. England are waiting to see if FIFA will extend her one-match ban, but first up, they have to get the job done against Colombia. — Tom Hamilton
Having already beaten Euro 2022 runners-up Germany in the group stage, Colombia won’t be intimidated by the prospect of facing off with England. Coach Nelson Abadia has a side that he says is built not just of 23 of Colombia’s best footballers but of humans with strong maturity and mentality. Every game throughout this tournament has been treated as a final by Las Cafeteras, with even the 1-0 loss to Morocco in the group stage being framed as an important lesson and building block heading into this moment. The side will also be reinforced by the return of the suspended Manuela Vanegas for the game but given that her 18-year-old replacement Ana María Guzmán provided the assist for the goal that beat Jamaica, Abadia certainly has options. — Joey Lynch
One player you need to know on each team
Alex Greenwood: England are packed with stars and the crux of the group that won them Euro 2022 is still there. But their most consistent performer at this World Cup has been Alex Greenwood. She lined up left-back against Haiti, but moved to centre-back for the Denmark match, then played on the left of the back three against China and Nigeria. Her versatility is a wonderful luxury for Wiegman, but it’s her passing and distribution which is so valuable — alongside her defensive skills. She has made the most successful passes out of any player at the World Cup (370) and is top of the charts for forward passes (178). She’s also a dead-ball expert, so expect to see a few in-swinging corners from her. But she’s at the heart of the England defence that is yet to concede from open play at this World Cup and is essential to everything they do. — Hamilton
Linda Caicedo: It’s not an imaginative selection whatsoever, but the teenage sensation, who is Real Madrid-bound, was widely tipped to star at this tournament during the build-up and despite that massive weight of expectation has not disappointed. Her goal to put Colombia ahead of Germany was one of the most incredible pieces of skill produced at this tournament and, despite being well marshalled early and often against Jamaica, she was still able to present a potent threat to the Reggae Girlz. Having undergone an ovarian cancer experience as a 15-year-old, the teenager has overcome far more intimidating circumstances than anything that might await in the England squad. And besides, she’s already played a pivotal role in knocking one European finalist out of this tournament. — Lynch
Predictions
Lawson: Colombia 2-1 England (AET): We’re into the quarterfinals and I still don’t know where England’s goals are supposed to come from. Colombia will see themselves as underdogs (even if the stadium is packed with yellow) and find enough against the tide, just as they did against Germany.
Laurens: England 1-0 Colombia: The more one-sided quarterfinal. Even if Colombia defend well, England will find a way to get a narrow win.
Lordanic: England 1-1 Colombia (England win on penalties): Colombia won’t go down without a fight and England will be saying ‘phew’ for the second game in a row.
Ogden: England 2-0 Colombia: It won’t be pretty, but England’s experience will get them over the line.
Hamilton: England 1-0 Colombia: There will be nervous moments, but England will grind this out.
Murray: England 2-1 Colombia: Caicedo will dazzle again, but England will prove the better side.
Lynch: England 1-0 Colombia (AET): England will scrape through with an unconvincing win in front of a partisan crowd of Colombians and Aussies eager to see them knocked out.
Marsden: England 1-0 Colombia: Colombia have surprised at the tournament and are capable of producing another shock but, for all their injuries and flaws, the Lionesses will be too solid for them on this occasion.
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New Zealand‘s World Cup ended 10 days ago when the co-hosts suffered a group stage exit following a 0-0 draw against Switzerland in Dunedin, but time has not proved to be a healer for the Football Ferns.
Having beaten Norway in their opening game, New Zealand had been expected to reach the round of 16 before a shock defeat against the Philippines rocked their chances. And coach Jitka Klimkova has said that the disappointment of being knocked out so early was so tough for many of her squad to take that they remained in the team hotel for days after being eliminated.
“We couldn’t go home,” Klimkova told the NZ Herald. “I was not ready to go home, so we stayed there [team hotel], just recovering, a lot of the players and staff. We were walking with our New Zealand football gear — we didn’t have any other clothes — and people just loved us.
“Not just at the stadium, but in the city, everywhere. I was going grocery shopping and people were stopping me and they are saying, “Oh my gosh, guys, you’ve done so well, you guys are awesome” and I was like ‘Wow, thank you.’ We were so close and our performance was actually still inspiring.” — Mark Ogden

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