One last round of games remain before four teams pack their bags and depart Brazil empty-handed. Here’s a quick look at today’s games and some of the storylines to follow.
In Group E, the match to watch will be Sweden vs China. Both come into the match with 3 points and a chance to advance to the knockout round. Sweden, of course, will look to respond after a 5-1 dismantling at the hands of host Brazil Saturday. Due to that result, Sweden must win to finish second in the group.
Sweden has struggled to generate scoring opportunities in the tournament, so an early goal would do wonders for the team’s confidence. For China, on the other hand, a draw would punch their ticket to the next stage of the tournament. Will the Steel Roses play conservatively and look to prevent Sweden from scoring rather than push for a goal themselves?
Elsewhere in Group E, Brazil will take on South Africa. So far in the tournament, the hosts have treated their compatriots to some exciting, attacking, technical soccer. In truth, the last game of the group stage should be the least challenging for Brazil as South Africa is all but eliminated from the tournament.
Strategically, how will Brazil approach the match? Which key players will Vadao rest in preparation of the quarterfinals? For South Africa, the goal Brazil allowed late against Sweden shows that the hosts are still prone to lapses in concentration defensively. Can South Africa capitalize on one of these mistakes and leave Brazil with a goal to their name?
The Aussies were tipped to contend for a medal but so far in the tournament have failed to live up to the expectations borne of their breakout performance in Canada. While they got out to a fast start against Germany, they failed to sustain it. Tuesday, look for the Matildas to take out their frustration on Zimbabwe, who is clearly outclassed in this tournament. Australia should win this one handily and stand a good chance of erasing their negative goal differential.
Perhaps the most talked about game on deck Tuesday, Germany vs. Canada appears full of intrigue. When John Herdman ordered Kadeisha Buchanan to take a second yellow on Saturday forcing her to sit out the last group stage match, it became painfully obvious that Canada fancied finishing behind Germany in the group.
Herdman’s master plan to line up an easier quarterfinal opponent for his team hit a snag when Germany battled to a draw against Australia. Now Canada must lose to Germany to get the second spot in the group. Does that change how Herdman approaches the game? Also, with Buchanan’s suspension, Canada will be on their third different center back pairing in three matches. That’s certainly less than ideal.
The game with real implications as far as standings are concerned is obviously the New Zealand vs. France match. France, given their talent and FIFA World ranking, will go into the match as heavy favorites, but the affair won’t be easy for the European side. Although New Zealand has only scored once so far, they’ve proven difficult to score against. New Zealand get a boost tomorrow as the poorly awarded red card given to Abby Erceg was rescinded and she’s available to play. France, despite ending up on the wrong side of the ledger Saturday, showcased their ability to play make through the middle.
The intrigue in the other game of this group Tuesday, United States vs. Colombia, will stem from the personnel decisions that the respective coaches make. Colombia, who are virtually eliminated, appear likely to clear the bench Tuesday. Fabian Taborda stated in his press conference that many of his players, including Lady Andrade, who briefly played for the Western New York Flash, were exhausted. Will he give his depth a chance against the best side in the world and let them gain valuable experience?
For the Americans, it’s clear that a few players are carrying knocks. Notably, Julie Johnston and Mal Pugh are, according to head coach Jill Ellis, available for this match. But with the match in the harsh conditions and the given short turnaround between games, it seems likely that the team plays it safe and holds those two out. No matter what eleven Ellis places on the field, the defending champions should have no trouble against Colombia, who have yet to score in the tournament.
The other player to watch is Megan Rapinoe. Is she ready to play? If she is, even a 10 or 15 minute run out against Colombia could go a long way in getting the midfielder ready to contribute in the knockout stages when her game-changing ability could be sorely needed. If Rapinoe is absent from the field entirely, it could signal that the 31-year-old is not as far along in the recovery process as previously thought.