On Friday evening, a Sky News commentator on the news of the day told the anchor that FIFA Women’s World Cup day’s matches and women’s football was saving the day despite Manchester City scoring a treble in the Premier League’s season opening match. And what a week for football it was!
The FIFA Women’s World Cup has seen four different champions across its eight editions. In this ninth instalment, a fifth champion is guaranteed. With Japan’s elimination, all past World Cup winners have now been knocked out. The sole remaining team that has previously made it to the final is Sweden, who suffered a 2-1 defeat to Germany in 2003 after extra time. Following their impressive performance against Japan at Eden Park, Sweden appears to be favoured to avenge that loss from a decade ago.
In all five matches at this World Cup, Sweden has successfully prevented the opposition from scoring in the first half, a feat no other team has matched. Although it took Japan 63 minutes into the match to muster their first shot on goal, luck also went Sweden’s way – Riko Ueki’s penalty struck the crossbar. Shortly afterward, Aoba Fujino’s free kick hit the crossbar, struck Zećira Mušović on the back of the head, hit the post again, and then rolled along the goal line before moving away. While Japan did manage to score soon after, this series of events highlighted how formidable Sweden’s defence was.
The star player in this tournament has been Swedish centre back Amanda Ilestedt who netted her fourth goal in the first half. Her previous three goals were all scored through headers, however, this time, she showcased her skill as a goal poacher, seizing a loose ball in the penalty area and striking it powerfully into the top corner after Japan failed to clear their lines. As of now, she holds the second position on the tournament’s goalscoring leader board with two matches still left to play.
The Spain-Netherlands match didn’t disappoint. Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt, who had announced her retirement at the tender age of 30, was taunted that her career might conclude on a sour note, as her handball in the 81st minute handed Spain a penalty and a 1-0 lead. But she pushed forward as a last-resort option by coach Andries Jonker, expertly timing her run to connect with Victoria Pelova’s through ball, scoring a goal that levelled the scores and led the game into extra time.
Before the Spain-Netherlands match in Wellington began, some 32,000 fans felt an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 shook the area about an hour prior to kick-off. The quake’s epicentre was situated northwest of the country’s capital at a depth of 170 kilometres. This event could potentially be seen as a positive omen for Spain, who were headed to Auckland for a semi-final against Sweden.
As ABC News put it, “According to Māori tradition, earthquakes occur due to the movement of the god Rūaumoko beneath the Earth, which perhaps implying that he was preparing to watch the match as well”.
If you don’t want to miss out on the action, tune into the quarter-finals of Australia vs France happening now, and England vs Colombia at 11.30 GMT.