Hosts and holders keen to party on
** **On the second and final day of quarter-finals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, the hosts will be keen to prolong the party atmosphere across their homeland, while holders Japan will do everything in their power to keep their title defence hopes alive. Meanwhile England and Australia will battle for every ball as they seek to prove they are much more than just sparring partners for their opponents.
Match of the day* England-Canada, Vancouver, 16.30 (local time) *With a packed crowd behind them, the Canadians will undoubtedly want to sustain their dreams of lifting the Women’s World Cup trophy on home soil – and the BC Place Stadium is the perfect place to do just that. The Canucks spent much of their time preparing for the tournament at the Vancouver arena, with their most recent performance against Switzerland making it clear how comfortable they feel there. Cheered on by a crowd of more than 55,000 – a record for any Canadian men’s or women’s football match – the hosts performed strongly to reach the last eight. Canada’s play is built on a defensive foundation and relies particularly on the efforts of 19-year-old Kadeisha Buchanan. Her strong positioning and rearguard play is one of the main reasons why coach John Herdman’s side have only conceded once on their route to the last-eight – although they have scored just three goals in their last four matches.
Thus far, England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley has had to pick the ball out of the net once in each game in Canada, underlining her importance to a Three Lionesses team whose steadfast mental approach has been one of their most impressive attributes. Although coach Mark Sampson’s side were not deterred by either their opening match defeat at the hands of France nor by falling behind to Norway in the Round of 16, the stadium atmosphere in Vancouver will be their biggest challenge yet, with practically an entire arena cheering on the home team. Despite this daunting prospect, England are Canada’s first opponents at this tournament to be ranked above them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, occupying sixth and eighth place respectively.
The other match Australia-Japan, Edmonton, 14.00 (local time) Japan’s progress this far has been steady yet relatively unspectacular, the team winning each of their first four matches by just one goal. Coach Norio Sasaki’s charges have been entertaining crowds with their compact play and assurance in possession, just as they did when becoming champions four years ago. The only criticism that could be levelled at the Nadeshiko – and the reason why all of their games have been so closely contested – is their profligacy in front of goal.
Australia are arguably the biggest surprise package to make it to the last eight, continuing their North American adventure after accounting for Brazil and five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta. Having made history as the first Australian men’s or women’s team to win a knockout match at a World Cup, the Matildas will now be seeking to extend their stay by beating Japan. They proved in the Round of 16 that they are not intimidated by the sport’s biggest names and know their quarter-final opponents well, having come up against them many times in fixtures within their confederation, the AFC.
Player to watch Although Kyah Simon only came on as a substitute in the Round of 16, her contribution proved to be decisive as she slotted home the winner from Lisa de Vanna’s rebounded shot to spark ecstasy among the team from Down Under. It was her third strike of the tournament so far, making her the Matildas’ leading scorer. The Japanese would be well advised to keep an eye on both Simon and de Vanna, who has netted Australia’s other two goals in Canada.
The stat 23 – This is the number of players each country could name in their squad before the start of the Women’s World Cup and is exactly the number deployed by Japan’s coach in Canada so far. Each and every one of Norio Sasaki’s charges have made at least one appearance and experienced the exhilaration of playing at a World Cup. The coach selected a different goalkeeper for each of the Nadeshiko’s three group matches while also diligently rotating his personnel in other areas of the pitch. No other team at this year’s Women’s World Cup has used every single player in their squad.
The words "They're (the players) not meant to have fun. I mean you climb Everest, it hurts, it's painful. We're now in the death zone where the oxygen's thinner. It's not meant to be fun. But when we look back, that's when we'll reflect and go 'Wow, what an achievement, what we've done for our country.'" Canada Coach John Herdman
Match schedule *Quarter-finals *Saturday 27 June England-Canada (BC Place Stadium, Vancouver, 16.30) Australia-Japan (Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, 14.00) (All times local)