Team GB v Australia (in Kashima)
Australia qualified for the knockout stage as one of two best third-place teams but their tournament has not been a bad one. Predictably, the Chelsea forward and WSL golden boot winner Sam Kerr has led the way, scoring three of the Matildas’ four goals. She scored an equaliser for Australia against in-form Sweden and then gave her side the lead before they succumbed to a 4-2 defeat. Against the World-Cup winning US women’s national team Australia dominated possession and looked the more likely to make the breakthrough for significant portions of their final game in Group G before both sides settled for the draw that sent them both through.
In Team GB they face the team with the best defensive record in the competition, with only one goal conceded. Kerr is a familiar face to most players in the Team GB squad but who that familiarity favours remains to be seen. In the Manchester City forward Ellen White, Team GB boast a star striker who also has three goals to her name. The manager, Hege Riise, made a number of changes to her starting lineup for the final game in Group E with qualification already secured and will have the benefit of some fresher legs going into the quarter-final.
Sweden v Japan (Saitama)
Sweden are the only team to have won all three games in the group stage and will be one of the favourites to reach the final as a result. The shock 3-0 defeat of the World Cup-winners, USA, was a strong statement. In Fridolina Rolfö, Stina Blackstenius, Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson they boast a potent front line but the defence is just as formidable with Chelsea duo Magda Eriksson and Jonna Andersson and Bayern Munich’s impressive Hanna Glas conceding just twice.
In Japan they face a team that has struggled to score but which has also conceded just two goals. Manager Asako Takakura took a young team to the World Cup in France two years ago to help prepare for the home Games and while there has been moments in matches where the technical, possession-heavy football so characteristic of the team has shone through, they have been fleeting. Takakura’s decision to leave out the new Arsenal signing Mana Iwabuchi against Team GB after she had scored the leveller against Canada in their opening game was a strange one. Reinstated to the starting line-up to play Chile, the forward provided the assist for Mina Tanaka’s second-half winner.
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Netherlands v USA (Yokohama)
There is no argument, this rematch of the 2019 World Cup final is the tastiest tie of the round. Sweden’s stunning 3-0 defeat of the US has cast a shadow over the USA campaign and it raised the spectre of their 2016 quarter-final elimination to Sweden. USA are not infallible. The decision to scale things back against Australia, playing to avoid defeat, rather than the blazing swagger that is so synonymous with the USWNT, has been widely questioned. That said, they escaped into the knockout stage, having finished second in their group.
USA know they can score against the Netherlands, who have conceded eight goals in their three games despite topping Group F. However, even if you discount the 10 goals the Dutch side put past Olympic newcomers Zambia, they have still scored more than any other team in the tournament (11) with the Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema firing herself into the record books with eight goals, the most scored by a female player in a single Games with matches still to play. The US have a point to prove but the reigning European champions will be hungry for revenge.
Canada v Brazil (Rifu)
Denied top spot in Group F because of the Netherlands’ vastly superior goal difference, Brazil ended up with the kinder draw. The Seleção have had five different goalscorers across their three games with six-time world player of the year Marta contributing to a third of their nine goals and becoming the first player to score at five consecutive Olympics.
In Canada, Brazil come up against a much better defensive unit than that posed by their group opponents. The Canadians conceded a goal a game in Group E, with 84th and 85th minute goals conceded to Japan and Team GB respectively, denying them victory in both matches. Sharpen that focus at the close and Bev Priestman’s team have a good chance of progressing past their South American opponents, ranked one place above them in the Fifa world rankings. Priestman made six changes to the team that beat Chile for Canada’s final group game against Team GB, having already secured passage to the knockout stage. She rested the world’s international record goalscorer, Christine Sinclair, entirely and made two half-time substitutions all with an eye on their next game and the tight turnaround. Brazil can be buoyed by the fact that they twice came from behind against the Netherlands and took the lead before the game finished 3-3 in their toughest test to date.