China PR vs United States | Saturday 27 June | Lansdowne Stadium, Ottawa | 01:30
Team USA have disappointed their fervent supporters so far but that could all disappear in an instant as the FIFA Women’s World Cup reaches the pointy end. The United States are a well-drilled tournament side and the most successful team at FIFA’s showpiece along with Germany. They’ve also collected seven other major international trophies in their history. China will feel lucky to have made it this far and will need to break a long-standing tradition if they are to advance to the semi-finals.
To Win (90mins)
China PR 8/1
United States 4/10
China PR 38/10
United States 1/7
China reached the last eight for the sixth time in their history with a 1-0 win over Africa’s final hope, Cameroon. It will, however, be their first quarter-final appearance in eight years after failing to qualify for the 2011 tournament. China’s road to the World Cup was fraught with disaster as they had recorded only one win in fourteen fixtures leading up to the tournament. China went down 1-0 to hosts Canada in their opening match but managed to extricate themselves from Group A in second place. A 1-0 win over the Netherlands was followed by a 2-2 draw with New Zealand, seeing China through to the Round of 16 by virtue of having scored a goal more than the Dutch, both sides locked on points and goal difference. The Steel Roses appeared in their Round of 16 clash with Cameroon without coach Hao Wei, who was sent off in the side’s final group game. Nevertheless, an early goal from Wang Shanshan gifted China the advantage and they held on to stay alive at Women’s World Cup. China have never made it to the final and based on their current form, face a massive task in getting the better of the USA.
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The two-time Women’s World Cup champions and 2011 runners-up advanced to the quarter-finals on Monday night without having impressed in the tournament so far. In an action-packed Round of 16 match against Colombia in Edmonton, the USA squeaked by 2-0 after Colombian shot-stopper Catalina Perez was sent off for bringing down Alex Morgan in the box. Abby Wambach - all-time leading scorer in the women’s game - missed the ensuing penalty, but the damage was done. Morgan fired in from an acute angle shortly thereafter before Carli Lloyd converted a spot kick to put the game beyond doubt. Critically, however, USA midfielders Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament and will miss this clash with China. Perhaps a change in personnel will inject some urgency into the Stars and Stripes, who despite being drawn in a veritable Group of Death, have been underwhelming to date. They began the tournament with a decent 3-1 win over surprise package Australia before playing out a goalless draw with Sweden and scraping past an inferior Nigerian side 1-0. Ranked number two in the world, the USA have currently gone thirteen matches unbeaten.
VERDICT: United States 4/10
The Americans may not be at their best of late but they’ve done enough to not only remain unbeaten, but come up with the goods when it matters most. Coach Jill Ellis has a few headaches in the middle of the park to contend with but China should be no match for the Stars and Stripes. The USA have remained unbeaten against China in 24 consecutive fixtures and I’m tipping them to get the win in normal time.