As London 2012 moves into the knockout stages there is a distinctly global feel about the quarter-final ties to be played over the upcoming two days, with five confederations represented in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. With just one win needed to be guaranteed a shot at a medal, the next round of games takes on a particular level of importance.
New Zealand’s historic qualification beyond the group stage in the women’s competition, the nation’s first at any FIFA tournament, ensures that they fly the flag for the OFC and will face USA, while sole CONMEBOL and AFC representatives Brazil and Japan are pitted together. There is also particular pride for those from the CONCACAF region as all of their men's and women's teams qualified for the last eight.
Before those games tomorrow’s action will kick-off with an all UEFA showing between Sweden and France – a rematch of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup third-placed play-off – before climaxing as host Great Britain face Canada in Coventry.
Five of the sides competing in the Beijing 2008 quarter-finals find themselves here again, with Canada and Sweden hoping to go a step further than they managed four years ago. The heavyweight tie between 2008 finalists Brazil and FIFA Women’s World Cup winners Japan will see one of them fall short of their achievements in Asia, with both having reached the semi-finals.
Old guard outnumbered
The men’s line-up is equally eclectic as the women’s and, after a number of shocks in the group stage. It also sees the two most successful confederations thoroughly outnumbered. There has never before been a tournament where both Europe and South America have only had one representative in the knockout rounds each but, despite the continents sharing 22 of the 24 gold medals between them, only Great Britain and Brazil remain in the hunt this time.
The hosts will face Korea Republic on Saturday night, while A Seleção take on Honduras. Both the Asian and Central Americans sides are kept company by fellow competitors Japan and Mexico, who will be facing the London 2012’s remaining two CAF sides in Egypt and Senegal respectively.
Brazil are the only participating side who reached the quarters in Beijing, ultimately claiming bronze, but with only them, Great Britain and Japan having previously won a medal at the Olympics, it is a great chance for one of the other five nations to break new ground.
Mexico, Egypt, Brazil, Japan and Korea Republic are all the most experienced Olympic sides from their respective confederations, but Saturday’s action will show whether those previous outings count for anything in the hunt for medals.
*To read all the previews for the quarter finals, please click on the news links to the right.