Sweden, Australia, Brazil and the United States have their work cut out for them. It seems nearly impossible to top the drama that Saturday’s quarterfinals brought – France defeating England in penalty kicks and Japan shocking the world with a 1-0 defeat of Germany. It was an incredible day for women’s soccer (unless you are English or German) and the fun does not stop.
On Sunday, Australia could become the third surprise semifinalist with a win over Sweden, the No. 5-ranked team in the world. That is of course followed by the highly anticipated match-up between USA and Brazil. With the world still buzzing from Saturday’s action, here is a six pack of Women’s World Cup questions for Sunday’s quarterfinals:
- Who pulls the rabbit out of the hat? U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage has made some interesting (and generally effective) changes to the line-up throughout the tournament thus far. Does she have another trick up her sleeve? And just as interestingly: Will Brazil Head Coach Kleiton Lima make any changes? The latter is doubtful given the consistency in Brazil’s line-up, but with everyone talking about Brazil’s obscure 3-4-3 formation, maybe Lima is listening and has a game plan that throws off Sundhage’s preparation.
- Will Marta strike? If the answer is no than the U.S. defense will have done the bulk of its job. If not, it could be further nightmares for an American team that remembers that 4-0 loss to Brazil in the 2007 semifinal all too well. Even though Marta has been visibly frustrated at times, she is still finding ways to score and create.
- How clutch will Hope Solo be? With Brazil’s firepower up top, Solo is bound to face a stiff test. She is the world’s best goalkeeper, but how much of hero can she be? A couple game-changing saves could be the difference in this match.
- Will Servet Uzunlar start? Without harping on it, Uzunlar has been terrible in the back for Australia but Head Coach Tom Sermanni has stuck with her at center back. If he does so again against Sweden, Uzunlar will need to be far better than she was in the group stage, where she was personally accountable for three of the four goals Australia conceded.
- Will Collette McCallum change the game? She certainly has the ability to with her free kicks. I previously likened her to an Australian-Scottish-left footed-Beckham-like free kick specialist. As long winded as that may be, she strikes one incredible dead ball. And in the knockout stage where games are tight (both of Saturday’s games went to extra time), set pieces change games.
- Is Sweden going to put on its finishing boots? Lotta Schelin and Jessica Landstrom have blown more quality chances this tournament than most other forwards have seen come their way. If Sweden is going to be successful, it will need production up top. Josefine Öqvist should start up top for Sweden. She brought great energy to the team against the United States, a game in which Landstrom did not feature.
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