The quarterfinal stage of the Women’s World Cup begins later on Thursday with Norway and England meeting in Le Havre.
England is the favorite to repeat the result of the last time these two teams played each other at a World Cup. England came out 2-1 winners in the round of 16 at the 2015 tournament in Canada.
The Lionesses have won all four matches in France and sport an 8-1 goal differential. But manager Phil Neville says team captain Steph Houghton (ankle) and fellow defender Millie Bright (virus) are both “major doubts” for the match.
Norway, which advanced to the quarters on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw with Australia, has made it this far without the best player in the world. Ada Hegerberg is sitting out the showpiece event in protest to what she considers a lack of respect for women’s football in Norway. Her stance has not changed even though the Norwegian federation has agreed to pay the men’s and women’s senior teams equally and hired a woman as director for both teams.
The marquee match of the quarterfinal round features what should be the final, according to the oddsmakers. France and the defending champion United States, the two favorites to win it all coming in, square off at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Friday. France defeated the USA 3-1 at Le Havre in January, the only loss the Americans have suffered since 2017.
The winners of these two games play each other in the semifinals, with the two games to be played on Saturday determining the other final four matchup.
Italy and the Netherlands play in the early match in Valenciennes followed by Germany and Sweden in Rennes.
Italy has reached the quarters for the first time since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991. The Dutch have made the last eight for the first time ever, in only their second appearance.
A record seven European teams made the quarterfinals. Asia was shut out of the quarters for the first time in the history of the Women’s World Cup. The Dutch knocked out 2011 champions and 2015 finalists Japan in the round of 16.
Photo: England’s defender Steph Houghton (C) celebrates after scoring a goal during round of 16 match between England and Cameroon (Getty Images)