Excitement mounts as FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 reaches final 16 stage

by Lorraine Williamson
Spain first to progress from the final 16

As the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 enters the final 16 knockout stage, fans around the globe are witnessing an exhilarating display of women’s football talent. Hosted by Australia and New Zealand, this year’s tournament has already proven to be a spectacular showcase of skill, determination, and sportsmanship.

The final 16 teams have emerged from the group stage, and the knockout battles are now underway.

The knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup marks a crucial juncture in the tournament, where teams compete in single-elimination matches, striving to advance to the next round. The final 16 teams represent a diverse mix of nations, each with their unique strengths and styles of play. Let’s take a closer look at the knockout stage and the matches that have begun the thrilling journey to the coveted championship.

Switzerland v Spain

The first of the matches kicked off this morning. Switzerland qualified after winning 5 points from their 3 games in the group stages. Spain qualified as second place in their group after losing to Japan in their final game. The last time Spain were in the final 16, they lost to the USA who went on to win the title. Neither side had ever gone through to the quarter-finals of the Women´s World Cup.

The first goal came within the first 5 minutes of the match. Paralluelo ran down the left and send a cross into the middle of the box. Redondo was well placed, but Riesen reached it first and almost sent the ball into her own net as the goalkeeper barely got a touch, Risen ran to save it and somehow managed to scramble it off the line. However, the ball only went as far as Redondo who had two touches as she passed it to Bonmatí who sent it home.

Next up, from just inside her own half, Codina decided to pass back a long ball to her goalkeeper. But Coll was on the edge of the box and didn´t manage to get to it. Codina´s own goal after just 11 minutes, made it all square at 1-1.

But 6 minutes later, another goal came. This time it was Redonda of Spain who got her head to the ball and sent it into the bottom corner of the net. Spain once again were in the lead.

The game was being played at a frantic pace, however Spain were very much in control. The next 20 minutes of the match saw chances for both sides, but Spain still retained dominance.

Then, there was some excellent play between Paralluelo, Redondo, and Bonmatí. Paralluelo took the ball down the left before sending the cross to Redondo who headed it on to Bonmatí. Surrounded by Swiss defence, Bonmatí kept her cool and turned wrong-footing two, before she slammed the ball into the net. It was Bonmatí´s second of the match. It was now 1-3 after only 36 minutes. 

By this stage, Spain were all over the Swiss ladies. On the 45-minute mark, Codina redeemed herself when Abelleira sent the ball into the box from a corner kick. There was confusion as the ball seemed all over the place until Codina got her foot on the end of it, and sliced it into the goal. Four minutes were added for stoppage time in the first half. When the half-time whistle blew, it was 1-4 for Spain.

Second half

Spain came out for the second half looking very much in control of the game. However 10 minutes in, a chance came for Switzerland. Cmogorcevic had possession on the edge of the box. She looped the ball behind the Spanish defence to Terchoun who shot at goal. But the ball went directly into the arms of Coll.

A series of attempts on goal followed for Spain, but none paid off until the 70th minute when Bonmatí picked up a loose pass and sent it towards Hermoso who sent it bottom left. With 20 minutes of normal time remaining, Spain were leading 1-5.

The remainder of the game was fairly uneventful. Although there were chances for Spain, none of them really threatened the Swiss side. Spain had already done the job they came to do. The game ended with Spain progressing for the first time in this women´s competition into the quarter-finals. They will play the winner of Netherlands v South Africa.

Japan v Norway

The second of today´s games saw Norway take on Japan. Japan qualified as top of their group after their 4-0 victory over Spain. This was the second meeting between Japan and Norway in this competition. The last time was in 1999 when Norway won 4-0. Both sides were previous winners in this competition.

Cogesa Expats

After just 15 minutes, the first goal came for Japan by way of an own goal from Engen as she attempted to clear the ball, but instead it deflected off her foot, and went forward into the bottom left of the net. 1-0 for Japan.

Five minutes later, Norway pulled it back. The game up until this point was very much in Japan´s favour. But when a cross came in from the right, Reiten got her head to the ball and sent it top left. With a goal apiece, that was the first goal of the competition that Japan have conceded. The first half remained 1-1 with Japan appearing to have a slight edge over Norway.

Second half

The second half had hardly begun, when a mistake by Risa, allowed Japan to score.  A sloppy ball from Risa was picked up by Shimizu who took full advantage, and struck with her right food to send the ball into the corner of the net. Two mistakes from Norway meant Japan were now leading 2-1. Norway´s star striker was on the bench after recovering from a groin strain, but with the prospect of their World Cup dreams ending soon, with 20 minutes left to play, Hegerberg was brought on.

The next 10 minutes saw a few chances for Norway with efforts from Hansen, but into the 80th minute, and Japan were still in the lead. Then, just one minute later, and Miyazawa of Japan made it 3-1. Fujino sent the pass ahead of Miyazawa as she powered down the field and finished it off beautifully.

One minute into stoppage time, and Saevik was denied the chance at goal when her close-range header was saved on the line. Five minutes were added, but nothing changed the 3-1 score for Japan. Norway go home, and Japan will face the winner between Sweden and the United States.

Sunday August 6

Tomorrow´s matches promise to be intense with match favourites, Netherlands facing off against South Africa and Sweden taking on title holders, United States. The Netherlands have only conceded one goal so far, with South Africa having qualified in second place only having won one game, scoring 6 goals, and conceding 6. Sweden won all three games in their group, whereas the United States only managed one win, and 2 draws. Football enthusiasts can expect a showcase of strategic gameplay and fierce competition as these top-tier teams vie for advancement.

Monday August 7

Two unmissable showdowns as Monday´s lineup features England v Nigeria and host side, Australia v Denmark.

Both Earps of England and Nnadozie of Nigeria go into the final 16 with 2 clean sheets each out of their 3 games in the group stages.  The lionesses, however, are odds on favourites to win.

The Matildas will be looking for a repeat perfomance of the last time these sides met. This will be the second meeting in under a year between the two sides. The last time, Australia came from behind to win 3-1.

Tuesday August 8

The final day of the last 16 will determine the last of the final 8 countries progressing to the quarter-finals. On Tuesday, the spotlight will be on Colombia as they take on Jamaica, and as France square off against Morocco.

Both Colombia and Jamaica progressed into the final 16 against the odds when Columbia won against Germany and Jamaica drew 0-0 against Brazil sending both sides home

With every match, the tournament inches closer to its grand conclusion, and viewers can expect a rollercoaster of emotions as the tension and excitement will only intensify as the world watches these elite teams battle it out for a chance to lift the prestigious Women’s World Cup trophy.

Also read: The last of the group stages

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