Heated local rivalries dominate the slate of 15 August quarter-final clashes at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament at China 2008. China and Japan will cross swords in an all-Asia grudge-match in Qinhuangdao while close neighbours USA and Canada square off in Shanghai and Northern European rivals Germany and Sweden do battle in Shenyang. Rounding out the contests, and breaking the trend, is an intriguing meeting between lone South American survivors Brazil and Norway.
The big game
The Japanese turned on the heat in their final Group G match, hammering the Norwegians 5-1 to book passage as the section's third-place finishers. Hosts China, on the other hand, topped their pool and have been drawing massive support from the local fans and looking like one of the finals true entertainers with their appealing attacking style and raft of standout strikers like Han Duan, Xu Yuan and Lou Juihui. Japan, for their part, will be relying on the creative spark of veteran Homare Sawa as they hunt what would only be their fourth win over China in 23 tries in a first-ever meeting of Asian senior women's sides at a FIFA world finals.
The other games
The United States meet Canada in the latest in a long line of heated contests in Shanghai. The Canadians have been slowly emerging from their northern neighbours' long shadow and the Canucks will be keen to get the better of the US for the first time at a major world finals. "Meeting the US at the Olympics is awesome for us," said defender Candace Chapman. "We'll give it everything to get a result off them."
Germany failed to hit the high notes in their three group games, ensuring passage to the quarters only after a tense, last-second winner from Anja Mittag to beat Korea DPR. Sweden, who finished runners-up in Group E, have also yet to offer up the highly technical football they are renowned for. But Lotta Schelin has been banging in the goals, with three so far (tied for tops with Brazil's Cristiane), and meetings between these two European women's giants always seems to produce fireworks. This re-match of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup finals, promises to be no exception.
Brazil and Norway meet up in Tianjin in a classic clash of styles. The Brazilians, who won their section above Germany on goal difference, are known for an individualistic and improvisational approach hinging on the dynamic duo of Cristiane and Marta, while the Norwegians, hammered 5-1 in their last game with Japan, will rely on a coherent team game and tactical acumen. The all-time series is spilt between the sides with a pair of wins for each and two draws.
Players to watch
Cristiane will be high as a kite following her hat-trick in Brazil's final group win over Nigeria, and she is likely to spearhead the South Americans' attack - along with the incomparable Marta - against Norway. The USA will be relying on Heather O'Reilly who has been ably filling the shoes of injured Abby Wambach and scored the fastest goal in Olympic Football history in her last outing against New Zealand. China strikers Han Duan and Xu Yuan have three goals between them and Sweden's Lotta Schelin has been flying since arriving in China. One can never count out Germany's big Birgit Prinz to deliver the goods when everything is on the line.
The numbers game
4 - the number of times Canada have beaten the USA in head-to-head competition out of 43 meetings. The Canucks have never beaten the USA in international competition and this will be their first meeting at an Olympic finals.
"We have played the Americans so many times, and they always manage to beat us in the important matches. But they have some injury problems right now so this could be our time," Canada striker Christine Sinclair.
"We have yet to play our best football. We are hoping that this will come in the knockout stages, starting with our game against Japan," China coach Shang Ruihua.
Brazil-Norway, Friday 15 August, Tianjin 18:00 (local time)
USA-Canada, Friday, 15, August, Shanghai 18:00 (local time)
Sweden-Germany, Friday August, Shenyang 21:00 (local time)
China PR-Japan, Friday August 15, Qinhuangdao 21:00 (local time)