Women's World Cup: Germany Favourites vs Nigeria, Norway vs Australia Set to be a Cracker
Women's World Cup 2019: Germany will play Nigeria while Norway and Australia will lock horns as knockout stage kickstarts on Saturday.
Women's World Cup: Germany (L) and Australia are the favourites in their respective last 16 matches. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Women's World Cup 2019 France has now entered its knockout stage and the Round of 16 is all set to begin on Saturday with Germany, Nigeria, Norway and Australia taking the field.
After an exhilarating group stage, which saw a number of records being broken and some edgy and exciting games, the knockout stage promises much more. With the best 16 teams now left in the fray, the competition is expected to be more stiff and the teams are expected to level up.
Germany, who take on Nigeria on Saturday, are easily the favourites to advance to the quarter-finals though. Norway and Australia, who will take on each other in the second last 16 match of the day, are expected to put up a more equal contest.
Here we take a look at what tactics the teams might apply, the odds favour which team and who are the major players to watch out for in each of the four teams:
GERMANY VS NIGERIA
Germany, the toppers of Group B, take on Group A third-place finishers Nigeria in the first last 16 match of the Women's World Cup on Saturday. Evidently, this match favours the Europeans heavily.
Germany have so far displayed a clinical edge against all the teams they have played - Spain, China and South Africa - and accumulated all the available nine points from their group matches.
Nigeria, on the other hand, won only three points from the three group matches. The only team they managed to beat was South Korea, who finished bottom of the group. In fact, Nigeria qualified for the last 16 only on the final day of the group stage after Chile failed to get the desired goal difference.
Germany have played as a very compact unit so far in the competition. They have shown great defensive character and are yet to concede a single goal in the competition.
Germany had to grind out 1-0 victories against China and Spain before they opened their feet and thrashed South Africa 4-0. So far Germany have shown their ability to defend deep and hard and carve spaces up front to find the required goals.
South Africa of course were easy opponents but against China and Spain, Germany showed they could nullify the passing game very well. Germany, keeping their diamond shape, were able to close out the spaces in the middle and managed to stop the attacks early on.
By closing out the spaces in the middle, Germany forced their opponents to play out wide and there, the central defenders backed their ability to clear out the ball pretty much every time.
With their defensive compactness, Germany managed to frustrate both China and Spain and forced them to take shots from far out enabling their keeper and defenders to cut out the threat.
This is where Nigeria can step up and fit in. Nigeria are not the team that play passing football and in fact, they rely on their wing play and direct football.
If Nigeria are able to use their physical strength and play crosses and long balls threateningly in the middle, they have a good chance against Germany.
However, so far Nigeria have scored only a single goal and their inability to play that defence-splitting cross has been their doom. Nigerians have the speed and the agility to create quick attacks but they desperately lack the final ball, which has cost them so far in the tournament.
Nigeria usually play a very high-risk high-press game but they would do well to gauge the situation better against Germany. With their high-pressing, Nigerians are susceptible to leaving spaces at the back. Germany will be looking to exploit those spaces with their flexible movement up front.
Germany's diamond shape at the back not only allows them to have a compact defence but one turn from a midfielder can immediately transform defence into attack and one splitting pass is enough to do the damage.
Players to Watch Out For:
Germany - They have not been spectacular so far and but their ability to grind out results has worked in their favour. Alexandra Popp is of course a hugely valuable player for Germany with 47 international goals from 99 appearances. If Popp plays against Nigeria, it will be milestone 100 for her and she would be eager to make it a spectacular one.
Apart from Popp, Sara Deabritz and Lina Magull have stood out for Germany. Magull is a crucial thread for Die Nationalelf in the midfield. Her movement and incisive passing has so far got Germany out of trouble many times and has helped them build attacks.
For Deabritz, she has scored two goals in three games so far and is Germany's leading scorer in the World Cup. Deabritz is the perfect partner to Popp up front. While the teams look to contain Popp, Deabritz gets into the right positions to make a difference.
Nigeria - For the Super Falcons, Asisat Oshoala is the most potent threat. She is the only one in the Nigerian team who has been able to score a goal in the tournament so far and it will be important for Nigeria to have her at her clinical best.
It is Oshoala's excellent movement, sharpness in front of the goal and her speed that makes her such a valuable asset for Nigeria. At Barcelona, she plays the role of a poacher but with Nigeria, she pretty much does it all in the final third.
Apart from Oshoala, Nigeria would need their goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie to be at her best. The 18-year-old put up an extremely spirited show against one of the tournament favourites France and if not for the new infraction rule and the penalty, she had almost managed two straight clean sheets.
Nnadozie has so far shown excellent decisiveness at the goal and her anticipation has shone through as well.
NORWAY VS AUSTRALIA
Norway and Australia both finished second in Group A and C, respectively, to set up an exciting clash against each other. The most interesting part of their group stage performances is that they finished with the exact same points and goal difference.
However, despite some tight numbers for both teams, Australia go into the match as favourites due to their world No.6 rank compared to 12th spot that Norway occupy in the FIFA Women's Team rankings.
Apart from the difference of rankings, Australia has so far shown better scoring prowess than Norway.
“Our goal was to reach the Final and win the #FIFAWWC… we’re in the right direction” #AUS @CarpenterEllie ahead of #NORAUSTV listings https://t.co/t64sDOmQGs@FIFAWWC_AUS | #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/o1I3h7IotN— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 22, 2019
Norway is a unit that is defined by its systematic approach. As a team, Norway like to defend deep and build from behind as and when they get the opportunity. Against Australia, it will be important for Norway to keep Australia at bay and attempt to frustrate them with their compact defence before trying to hit them up front.
So far in the tournament, Norway have struggled to find the back of the net with the consistency that they would like. Despite having six goals to their name, two of them have been own goals and two penalties.
Norway usually look to build from behind and then rely on their pace in the final third to split defences. They then look to find those incisive crosses in order to give themselves a chance to score.
However, against Australia, Norway might have to improvise a little and look to attack a bit quicker because Australia are likely to have a few holes in the back.
Australia play an extremely aggressive and attacking brand of football. Such is their attacking intent that they don't shy away from pushing almost their entire line-up up front on the attack.
The Matildas have a variety of tricks up their sleeve to threaten their opposition. Be it the usage of full-backs, quick transitional play or incessant changes in their movement, Australia play ultra-aggressive.
So far in the tournament, Australia have scored eight goals and conceded five and that defines their system. They are very prone to conceding but have the firepower up front to more than make up for that.
With Australia's attacking style to Norway's cautious approach, it is expected to be an interesting tussle.
Players to Watch Out For:
Norway - Caroline Graham-Hansen and Ingrid Syrstad Engen will be the two most important players for Norway. It is Graham-Hansen's attacking brilliance that gives Norway the ability to find spaces and the back of the net.
Graham-Hansen is brilliant at winning the ball back, she can split defences through a single pass and she can astoutly hold the midfield - Norway would need her to be at her absolute best against Australia.
With Engen, she is responsible for keeping Norway's solidity in the midfield. If Graham-Hansen is their attacking outlet, Engen plays a more defensive role and is responsbile for cutting out attacks against Norway and put the team back on attack.
Australia - Samm Kerr, having scored 28 goals in her last 29 appearances for Australia is crucial to say the least. In their last group match against Jamaica, Kerr scored all the four goals that Australia put on board and became only the 10th player to ever score four goals in a single match.
Sam Kerr Appreciation Tweet pic.twitter.com/zttj9VirXG— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 18, 2019
Kerr's movement and finishing is a delight to watch and if Australia are to break through Norway, they will need Kerr to be smart with her movements and apply the finishing touch.
Apart from Kerr, Emily Gielnik is likely to play an important role for Australia on the right wing and her crosses will be the ones to watch out for.
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