Trying to predict winners in the final 8? Good luck.
By Rory Smith
By the time Colombia left the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Australia on Tuesday, it was cold. Not quite bitterly cold, but further along the line than merely chilly. The players were rubbing their hands together, bouncing up and down, all just to take the edge off. Still, they were happy to stop and talk. Some nights are worth prolonging.
Those players also had a consistent message. They have already made history. They know that, and they are rightly and joyously proud of it. Colombia has never before reached the quarterfinals of a Women’s World Cup. Now it has, thanks to a narrow but composed win against Jamaica. But that does not mean it is finished. One bit of history is not enough.
A logic will take hold in the next couple of days that fate has smiled on England. The European champion thought it had lost Keira Walsh to long-term injury, but it had not. It saw Lauren James, its best player in this tournament, sent off against Nigeria, and then it squeezed through on penalties anyway. Now it finds itself against Colombia on Saturday (6:30 a.m. ET, FOX), the last of the outsiders standing.
That is all true, but it does somewhat ignore the overall timbre of this tournament. “We have seen in this World Cup that surprises happen,” said Jorelyn Carabalí, the Colombia defender. “Teams that are very important have gone home. The games have all been … different.”
England is, as Linda Caicedo noted, a “world power,” in other words, but this does not appear to be a great tournament at which to be a world power. Perhaps the natural order will reassert itself now that the World Cup is in its final thrashings. Nobody who has been paying attention would bet the house on it.
The same sense of uncertainty pervades the other quarterfinals.
There is the host nation, Australia, backed by a whole landmass, against a French team that has simultaneously given the impression that it is learning as it goes and that it is a remarkably quick study (Saturday at 3 a.m. ET, FOX).
These games will be decided, as Carabalí said, by “small details.” What they have done already, what has gone before, will not matter. “We will celebrate tonight,” Caicedo said before she headed off into the warmth. “But then tomorrow it will be the past.”
The outcomes of the two other quarterfinals, Spain vs. the Netherlands and Japan vs. Sweden, will be known by the time this edition hits the newsstands on Friday morning.
FIFA Women’s World Cup
Quarterfinals (all times Eastern Standard Time)
Spain vs. Netherlands (9 p.m., FOX)
Japan vs. Sweden (3:30 a.m., FOX)
Australia vs. France (3 a.m., FOX)
England vs. Colombia (6:30 a.m., FOX)