GB team v Australia (at Kashima)
Australia qualified for the knockout stage as one of the top two teams in third place, but their tournament was not bad. As you might expect, Chelsea forward and WSL Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr led the way, scoring three of the Matildas’ four goals. She equalized for Australia against in-form Sweden, then put her team ahead before succumbing to a 4-2 loss. Against the World Cup-winning United States National Team, Australia dominated possession and looked most likely to make the breakthrough for a significant part of their final Group G match before the two teams weren’t satisfied with the draw that sent them both.
In Team GB, they face the team with the best defensive record of the competition, with only one goal conceded. Kerr is a familiar face to most of the players on the Team GB squad, but it remains to be seen who this familiarity fosters. Along with Manchester City forward Ellen White, the GB squad has a star striker who also has three goals to her name. Manager Hege Riise has made a number of changes to her starting XI for the final Group E game with a qualification already secured and will benefit from some fresher legs heading into the quarter-finals.
Sweden v Japan (Saitama)
Sweden are the only team to have won all three group stage matches and will therefore be among the favorites to reach the final. The shocking 3-0 defeat of World Cup winners USA was a strong statement. Fridolina Rolfö, Stina Blackstenius, Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson have a strong frontline, but the defense is equally formidable with Chelsea duo Magda Eriksson and Jonna Andersson and the impressive Hanna Glas of Bayern Munich conceding only twice.
In Japan, they face a team that struggled to score but 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 Games at home and although there were times in matches where technical and possession-heavy football so characteristic of the team shone, they were fleeting. Takakura’s decision to put aside Arsenal’s new signing Mana Iwabuchi against Team GB after scoring the leveler against Canada in their opener was odd. Reintegrated into the starting lineup to face Chile, the striker provided the assist to second-half winner Mina Tanaka.
Netherlands v United States (Yokohama)
There is no argument, this rematch of the 2019 World Cup final is the tastiest game of the round. Sweden’s stunning 3-0 loss to the United States cast a shadow over the United States’ campaign and raised the specter of their 2016 quarterfinal elimination to Sweden. The United States is not infallible. The decision to cut things off 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 in the knockout stage, having finished second in their group.
The United States know they can score against the Netherlands, who have conceded eight goals in their three games as they led Group F. However, even if you ignore the 10 goals that the Dutch scored ahead of Olympic newcomers Zambia, they still scored more than any other team. in the tournament (11) with Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema breaking the record books with eight goals, the most scored by a player in a single game with matches to go. The United States have a point to prove, but the reigning European champions will be thirsty for revenge.
Deprived of first place in Group F due to the Netherlands’ significantly greater goal difference, Brazil ended up with a more favorable draw. La Seleção have scored five different goalscorers in their three matches. Marta, six-time World Player of the Year, contributed a third of her nine goals and became the first player to score at five consecutive Olympics.
In Canada, Brazil faces a much better defensive unit than their group opponents. The Canadians conceded one goal per game in Group E, with goals conceded in the 84th and 85th minutes to Japan and the British team respectively, denying them victory in both matches. Sharpen that focus at the end and Bev Priestman’s side have a good chance of overtaking their South American opponents, ranked one place above them in the Fifa World Rankings. Priestman made six changes to the squad that beat Chile in Canada’s last group game against Team GB, having already secured the move to the knockout stage. She let the world’s top scorer, Christine Sinclair, rest entirely and made two halftime substitutions, all in preparation for their next game and the tight turnaround. Brazil can be supported by the fact that they came back twice from behind against the Netherlands and took the lead before the game ended 3-3 in their toughest test yet.