Olympics: Friday’s Schedule – Quarterfinals

Friday’s Schedule, With NBC “Live Extra” Links

(all times EDT)
7:00 a.m. – Sweden vs. France (Glasgow)
9:30 a.m. – United States vs. New Zealand (Newcastle)
12:00 p.m. – Brazil vs. Japan (Cardiff)
2:30 p.m. – Great Britain vs. Canada (Coventry)

Matches will air on NBC Sports Network and NBC’s Specialty Olympic Soccer Channel.

Also: NBCSN Simulcast (August 3).

For quick previews of the quarterfinals, see the rest of this post…

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7:00 a.m. – SWEDEN vs. FRANCE

  • Outcome Probabilities: Sweden wins, 40%; France wins, 35%; PSO: 25%.
  • Players with a Yellow Card:
    Sweden – Sara Thunebro, Nilla Fischer, Lina Nilsson
    France – Sonia Bompastor, Louisa Necib, Eugenie Le Sommer
  • Referee: Kari Seitz (USA)
  • Key Match-Up: Sonia Bompastor vs. Kari Seitz
  • Other Key Match-Up: Lotta Schelin vs. Sarah Bouhaddi

The winner of this early clash — a rematch of the Third-Place Match from the 2011 Women’s World Cup –will more than likely be the team from the bottom half of the bracket that makes it to the Gold Medal match.

Sweden has three-straight wins against France*, including that 2011 WWC match, going back to the infamous 2006 match where France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi earned a straight red card for sending Sweden forward Hanna Ljungberg to the hospital with a concussion, in a match that was also refereed by Kari Seitz. (SvFF write-up, in Swedish)

Sweden’s main weakness at the moment is its injury-weakened defense, which France via the likes of Marie-Laure Delie, Elodie Thomis, and Gaetane Thiney could definitely exploit. Not helping Sweden is its lack of recent goal scoring. Except for its two matches against Canada, Sweden has not scored two or more goals versus a top ten team all year (Germany, USA x2, Japan x2). (SvFF, 2012 match results, in Swedish)

For France, as in 2011, goalkeeping is a concern. In the Group G opener, Bouhaddi was caught in no-woman’s-land for the USA’s first two goals. If her teammates can find Schelin in behind the defense — which rarely happened in the Japan and Canada matches — then Sweden should be able to pull out a win.

For a recap of the Sweden-France match at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, see this tracingthetree.wordpress.com post, which also details the incident where Bompastor was able to goad Josefine Oqvist into retaliating, which earned the Sweden forward a red card.

*SvFF PDF document listing Sweden WNT matches by opponent. France is “Frankrike.”

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9:30 a.m. – United States vs. New Zealand

  • Outcome Probabilities: USA wins, 85%; New Zealand wins, 10%; PSO, 5%.
  • Players with a Yellow Card:
    United States – Lauren Cheney
    New Zealand – Katie Hoyle
  • Referee: Jessica Salomé di Iorio (Argentina)
  • Key Match-Up: Wambach and Morgan vs. New Zealand’s backline

If they can avoid a slow start, then the United States should be able to pull out a comfortable win without too much trouble, with a much smoother time than the two squad’s friendly in February, which saw Abby Wambach miss an early penalty kick and Kelley O’Hara accidentally assist Hannah Wilkinson with New Zealand’s only goal, before Alex Morgan scored two late goals to turn the match around. (U.S. Soccer match report)

Unfortunately for New Zealand, since that match, Kelley O’Hara has settled in very nicely to her new fullback position, and similarly, Alex Morgan has settled into a starting forward position.

Even if New Zealand keeps it close or even level, the USA will likely pull ahead should the Football Ferns resort to unnecessary fouls as in the Brazil match, which led to Brazil’s only score.

Shannon Boxx’s hamstring injury is still day-to-day, but according to Pia Sundhage, Boxx should be available for at least some minutes. (Twitter.com/soccerwriter)

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12:00 p.m. – BRAZIL vs. JAPAN

  • Outcome Probabilities: Brazil wins, 40%; Japan wins, 40%; PSO: 20%.
  • Players with a Yellow Card:
    Brazil – Andreia, Formiga, Francielle, Bruna, Aline
    Japan – none
  • Referee: Kirsi Heikkinen (Finland)
  • Key Match-Up: Hype vs. Reality
  • Other Key Match-Up: Current FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Homare Sawa vs. immediate past FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Marta.

This, the most-hyped match elsewhere will most likely produce the eventual fourth-placed team. Neither team seems to have the magic it once had, although the Marta/Cristiane goal-scoring duo made a cameo in the final minutes of the Cameroon match. Japan, after earning its first win against the USA in March, has struggled.

Brazil, outside of the Cameroon match, has struggled offensively this year. If Japan can keep its defense organized, then the reigning World Champions should be able to eke out a narrow victory 1:0, with a goal coming via a corner kick or free kick.

Even if Brazil is able to take a lead, their cynical time-wasting tactics may once again come back to bite them in the rear. (And, no 2011 was not a one-time thing, as Andreia earned a yellow card in the New Zealand match for taking too long on a goal kick.)

And, with Japan not having to travel thanks to its controversial “play for a draw” tactic, then the team nor its fans can use the jetlag excuse, which was trotted out after Japan’s loss to the USA in June and France in July.

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2:30 p.m. – GREAT BRITAIN vs. CANADA

  • Outcome Probabilities: Great Britain wins, 40%; Canada wins, 20%; PSO, 40%.
  • Players with a Yellow Card:
    Great Britain – Anita Asante
    Canada – none
  • Referee: Sachiko Yamagishi (Japan)
  • Key Match-Up: Great Britain vs. Itself

Of the four quarterfinals, this feels the most even. Both are coached by English coaches. Both play fairly similar styles, although Great Britain’s style seems a bit more possession-oriented. Both squads have lost defenders in this tournament to injuries. And, both squads are coming off of positive performances — the host’s 1:0 win over Brazil at Wembley, and Canada’s comeback to draw 2:2 with Sweden.

A Great Britain defense without Ifeoma Dieke will have to worry about both Christine Sinclair and tournament leading goal-scorer Melissa Tancredi, and between that on-field offensive pressure and off-the-field pressure of hope and hype as hosts, that could spell another English-like disaster for this not-England squad.

Canada comes in as a slight underdog based on their opponent’s host status, which could help them rise to the occasion and play spoiler to the fairy-tale ending envisioned by women’s football fans in England and Fleet Street headline writers.

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Source for referee info: refereeingworld.blogspot.com

Source for yellow cards: http://www.fifa.com/womensolympic/statistics/players/