While there were a few surprises to kick off the 2016 Summer Olympics, the knockout stage is where the results really matter.
Top contenders like the United States, Brazil and Germany had setbacks in the preliminary round, while Sweden and Australia were fortunate just to advance as the third-place teams in their group. However, few should actually be surprised by the eight teams remaining in the field.
The reality is it doesn't matter what a team did to get to this point, just what happens going forward. One loss in the quarterfinals ends any chance of medaling, a horrifying thought for many top contenders.
There is obviously a lot on the line, so make sure you don't miss a second of the action.
|Women's Quarterfinals Schedule|
|8/12||United States vs. Sweden||12 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|8/12||China vs. Germany||3 p.m.||MSNBC|
|8/12||Canada vs. France||6 p.m.||CNBC|
|8/12||Brazil vs. Australia||9 p.m.||NBC Sports|
|Source: NBC Olympics|
United States vs. Sweden
The most interesting thing in this game is the presence of Pia Sundhage, the former USA coach who is now leading Sweden. However, the coach will not be on the pitch and won't be able to pass, score or block shots.
Based on the talent of the players, the United States has a clear advantage.
In fact, the only question mark at this point is goalkeeper Hope Solo, who is usually solid but struggled in the last match while conceding two goals against Colombia. She took full responsibility after the draw, per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated:
It’s part of the position, and I don’t wish it on anybody. Being a goalkeeper is extremely difficult mentally. But I’ve been around long enough to know that these things do happen. They’ve happened to me before. You just hope they happen few and far between.
I have learned to have a short-term memory, so I’m just going to put this game behind me and move on.
It's tough to believe Solo will let too many easy ones through her hands for the rest of the tournament. This is good, because the offense can do enough to take care of business between Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and the return of Megan Rapinoe.
Sweden does have talent, but not quite enough to keep this game close.
Prediction: USA 3, Sweden 0
China vs. Germany
After a dominant 6-1 win over Zimbabwe, Germany has looked very average in the last couple of games. The squad finished with a 2-2 draw against Australia and then suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Canada.
Still, there is a lot of talent on this squad, especially on the attack with veterans like Melanie Behringer and youngsters like Sara Dabritz. The defense has been questionable, but the biggest issue might have just been some tough competition.
On the other hand, China has succeeded against relatively weak opponents so far in Rio. A win against South Africa and a draw against Sweden helped the team advance to the quarterfinals, but the 3-0 loss to Brazil might be more indicative of this squad's true ability.
It has been a great run to this point for the Chinese, but Germany should get back on track with a victory.
Prediction: Germany 2, China 1
Canada vs. France
The most pleasant surprise of this tournament has clearly been Canada, which is the only team with three wins in three contests.
Sid Seixeiro of Sportsnet noted the impressive factors of the latest win:
After earning the bronze medal in the Olympic games four years ago in London, it's clear this squad is a legitimate contender for a medal.
However, the same could be said about France. The French are one of the best teams in this field and simply had the unfortunate draw of facing the United States early in the tournament. Otherwise, the squad has an impressive 4-0 win over Colombia and a 3-0 win over New Zealand.
Even in the loss to the Americans, the team showed great poise and defensive ability before giving up one goal in the 64th minute.
This will likely be the best match of the quarterfinals, but look for France to narrowly escape with a win.
Prediction: France 1, Canada 0
Brazil vs. Australia
After outscoring its opponents 8-1 in its first two wins, Brazil chose to rest its top players in the final match of the group stage, which was enough to win Group A.
With Marta, Beatriz and Christiane in the lineup against Australia, this will be a tough attack to stop.
Australia has done as much as it could in a tough group, drawing against Germany and beating up on Zimbabwe. However, it will be a tall order to try to contain this Brazil attack on its home soil.
Although the Brazil men haven't been as good as anticipated, the women should be able to take care of business with a strong quarterfinals performance.
Prediction: Brazil 3, Australia 1
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