Norway and England get the quarter-finals ball rolling in Le Havre today, where temperatures are expected to reach the high 30’s but cool towards 24C by kick-off time of 2000 hrs.
It’s a game with added incentive. Not only will the winners advance to a semi-final meeting with either France or USA in an incredibly difficult top half of the bracket, but with only the top three European nations qualifying for next year’s Olympics, the dangling carrot is there for all to see.
Should England prevail, they will be represented under the guise of Great Britain next year in Tokyo.
Le Havre is expecting an influx of 20,000 channel crossers today alone for the game, not all of whom will get tickets. Stade Oceane holds only just over 25,000 spectators.
It’s a game that’s certainly captured the imagination in the UK, with the Glastobury Rock Festival televising it live on the big screen. Now there’s a first!
England coach Phil Neville has been talking up the abilities of striker Ellen White. And not without reason. White has already helped herself to four goals in three games at this World Cup.
Neville said, he, “... hadn’t seen anyone better at this World Cup,” adding, “Ellen has taken her game to another level. At the European Championships two years ago, she played left-wing. People thought she was a grafter, a worker. Now she is one of the top centre-forwards in the tournament.”
“We’ve told her to save energy for when the big moments come, when the ball drops in the box, and she has learned the hard way. For six months she’d look at me as if I had a horn in my head, because I’d tell her to stop running. Now she is like a Van Nistelrooy, or an Alan Shearer, or a Michael Owen. She has turned from a hard-working grafter into a predator. That’s been the biggest change.”
If White is England’s potential match-winner, then Norway have their own star in new Barcelona signing Caroline Graham Hansen. She’s the player the Norwegians hope will make them forget about Women’s 2018 Ballon D’Or winner, Ada Hederberg. Hegerberg, has chosen not to represent her country since 2017, after raising concerns over the sport’s governance in her home country.
Hansen has been named player of the match in two of Norway’s four matches and has been their sharpshooter with 11 shots from 16 across all of her team-mates. England will be worried about her pace and drive, particularly if neither first choice centre-back wins their respective fitness battles; Steph Houghton and Millie Bright each remain doubtful.
Despite being ranked lower than England, Norway coach Martin Sjogren is in defiant mood.
“We’re not scared of England. We have a lot of respect for the opponent, but we also have a strong team.”
England will carry the favourites tag into the game as they pursue a third successive semi-final appearance at a major tournament, but the Norwegians are capable and experienced on the world stage and won’t be overawed.
Porto Alegre takes centre-stage for this evening’s business in The Copa, where unlike France, temperatures will plummet into the low teens to coincide with kick-off time.
Brazil have arrived in the south of the country by winning Group A despite a scoreless draw with Venezuela, Paraguay because they benefitted from Ecuador’s 1-1 draw with Japan. Had either side won that game, the Paraguayans would’ve been on the next plane home.
They’ve yet to win at this tournament, with two draws and a defeat to Colombia, and their ‘duck’ is unlikely to be broken tonight. The winners will play either Argentina or Venezuela.
Three second round games today, two in Group C, which run concurrently at the June 30th Stadium in Cairo, and one between the minnows in Group B, Madagascar and Burundi, which kicks-off first. Berea are probably assured of a third-place spot at least and qualification for the knock-out stages should they win, Burundi need at least a point to keep their own particular interest alive.
Top billing today is the contest between Senegal and Algeria. Each have identical records after round one, both are potential champions, and are squaring off to determine the winners of the group. It’s not conceivable should a decisive result emerge from this one, that the team that which prevails, will not advance as group winners.
Kenya and Tanzania meet in the day’s final game, each hoping for three points and an opportunity to reach the knock-out stages as one of the best third-placed teams.
Semi-finals day in Italy, where both games take place in Bologna. Italian neutrals will probably lean towards Spain (v France) and Germany (v Romania) after the perceived result carve-up in the last group game when France and Romania played out a tame 0-0 draw. Both sides knew each would qualify for the semi-finals (and Olympics), at Italy’s expense, should the game end in stalemate.
The Germans are the only country to remain unbeaten in a thrilling tournament that’s produced lots of goals, that last group match excepted.
In Romania, they face the surprise package of the competition. Little was expected, despite the presence of a Hagi (Gheorghe’s son, Ianis), but they saw off England and Croatia, scoring 8 goals, conceding only 3 in the process.
Old foes France and Spain meet in the second game in Bologna. Both have exceptionally strong squads. Spain hit top form in despatching a Polish side (5-0) which had previously won both their games, and while France have been less prolific, they look to have the strongest and most solid squad of all (with the possible exception of England who are already eliminated).
Moussa Dembele, Matteo Guendouzi and Olivier Ntcham, all regulars with Lyon, Arsenal and Celtic respectively are included, although there is a slight injury doubt around Dembele.
Kylian Mbappe, also eligible for this tournament but decided not to play, has just this week made noises about playing for France at the Tokyo Olympics next year. Reaching the last four of this competition has enabled that to happen, although much discussion is likely before Mbappe’s wish is confirmed.
Today’s Games & Where to Watch Them (all EST) -
1030 - Madagascar v Burundi - African Cup of Nations - BeIN Sports Canada
1200 - Germany u21 v Romania u21 - UEFA u21 Semi-final - UEFA TV, YouTube
1300 - Senegal v Algeria - African Cup of Nations - BeIN Sports Canada, DAZN
1500 - Norway v England - Women’s World Cup Quarter-Final - TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, TSN5, TSN GO, RDS, RDS GO
1500 - Spain u21 v France u21 - UEFA u21 Semi-final - UEFA TV, YouTube
1600 - Kenya v Tanzania - African Cup of Nations - BeIN Sports Canada
2030 - Brazil v Paraguay - Copa America Quarter-final - TSN2, TSN Go