It’s World Cup knockout time: The challenges going through USWNT

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The World Cup has allotted with the formalities, and now can transfer on to its riveting climax … within the quarterfinals?

The draw for the knockout phases of ladies’s soccer’s marquee match has introduced an interesting, even merciless, twist: a final-worthy showdown between the co-favorites, the defending champion United States and host France, looms within the quarterfinal spherical.

However first every workforce must survive a Spherical of 16 elimination sport, and their opponents ought to not be missed.

The U.S., after an totally dominant waltz via the group stage wherein it scored a record-breaking 18 objectives and allowed none (the cumulative benefit in photographs was a cool 83-9) matches up with an ascendant Spain workforce on Monday.

“Now we’re actually going to see what we’re manufactured from,” U.S. winger Tobin Heath instructed reporters after Thursday’s 2-Zero Group F-clinching win over Sweden.

France, which had an ideal end in Group A regardless of some unconvincing moments, doesn’t have a gimme both: conventional energy Brazil, making one closing run behind the legendary Marta, on Sunday in Le Havre.

Nonetheless, they’re odds-on to arrange a conflict of juggernauts on Friday that might clear the trail towards the trophy for the winner and ship the loser — the preferred workforce within the stands in France, or the best-known workforce globally within the U.S. — to a untimely, TV-ratings-killing exit.

It additionally makes room for different groups to succeed in the medal rounds. In accordance with FiveThirtyEight, three groups — two-time Cup winner Germany (52 p.c), in addition to loaded European squads England (50 p.c) and the Netherlands (47 p.c) — started the Spherical of 16 with higher probabilities of advancing to the semifinals than the U.S. (46 p.c) and France (40 p.c), given the unpredictability of their probably quarterfinal conflict, although they continue to be the highest decisions to win the entire thing.

Listed here are 10 tales and questions for the Spherical of 16:

1. Video assistant referee, higher generally known as VAR, even higher generally known as that P.O.S. VAR, has been a menace via the early phases of the tourney. The replay system has led to prolonged, buzz-killing breaks within the motion to implement the letter however not the spirit of soccer’s legal guidelines: frame-by-frame evaluations of offsides calls and — much more asinine — double-checks of whether or not goalkeepers are millimeters off the purpose line on penalty tries.

On Friday, FIFA acknowledged the penalty-kick mess — which arose a number of occasions within the opening spherical, together with in securing France’s 1-Zero win over Nigeria — by tweaking the principles to not assess yellow playing cards to goalies for stepping off the road. The penalty kick nonetheless will likely be retaken.

Nonetheless, the nightmare prospect of a Zapruder-level parsing of movie at an important second of this World Cup stays.

2. The Golden Boot race is on. American captain Alex Morgan shared the goals-scored lead via the group stage with Australian celebrity Sam Kerr at 5 objectives apiece, and Brazil’s Cristiane (4), England’s Ellen White (3) and the U.S.’ Carli Lloyd (3) weren’t far behind. Morgan tallied 4 within the notorious 13-Zero rout of Thailand, and Kerr had a four-goal sport in opposition to Jamaica. Kerr was shut out in Saturday’s loss to Norway on penalty kicks, after taking part in to a 1-1 attract regulation time. Can Morgan draw back so as to add the person honor to her glittering profession résumé?

3. It relies upon partly on Morgan’s harm standing. The 29-year-old was subbed out at halftime of the Sweden sport because of a leg harm. U.S. coach Jill Ellis was adamant it was a precautionary transfer, terming Morgan’s harm a “knock.” The U.S. is blessed with depth, particularly on the ahead place, however shedding Morgan and even having her compromised can be massive. Her standing should be monitored.

4. Three video games have executed nothing to unravel the glut within the U.S. midfield. Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle every have performed properly — 4 deserving starters for 3 spots. In a must-win sport, with all 4 gamers wholesome, who takes the pine? Determine it’s Mewis or Lavelle. Or maybe Ertz slides to middle again, instead of Abby Dahlkemper, to get all of them on the sector.

5. Can we begin getting an Over/Beneath on Tobin Heath nutmegs? Essentially the most entertaining participant on the earth when she’s on the ball.

Alyssa NaeherAFP/Getty Photographs

6. U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher, after not being examined within the first two video games, was sharper in opposition to Sweden. Nevertheless it stays to be seen whether or not the successor to Hope Solo — who’s retaining an unforgiving eye from the press field in her work for BBC — is prepared for prime time.

7. France’s protection, that includes a core that performs collectively on the membership stage for Olympique Lyonnais, has been probably the most spectacular place group. In three video games, they’ve scored extra objectives on themselves (one, Wendie Renard’s own-goal versus Norway) than they allowed to opponents (zero).

8. It’s becoming Marta, the Babe Ruth of ladies’s soccer and six-time Participant of the 12 months, now owns the World Cup scoring file, male or feminine. However barring a miracle, it’s trying as if she’s going to retire and not using a World Cup title.

9. England is a compelling sleeper decide. What a narrative that might be, if the ladies finish the nation’s World Cup drought that dates to 1966.

10. The alternative for 2011 champion and 2015 runner-up Japan, which appeared out of concepts within the group stage and was lucky to advance.

11. Italy, the shock winner of Group C, is a viable Cinderella, sharing 1 / 4 of the bracket with the Netherlands.