Full Time: The quarterfinals kick off


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I’m going to create a game-day playlist exclusively featuring Billie Eilish. I’m also Emily Olsen here with Meg Linehan and Steph Yang — welcome to Full Time!

The Same But Different

Some things are just different in Australia and New Zealand. It’s a myth that the toilet water flows the opposite way (it has nothing to do with the Coriolis effect), but crossing the street is an experience.

Apart from looking right first, which I’m still getting used to, the crossing lights are quite involved … and apparently for good reason. This video Michael Cox shared with me explains that there is a long, labored thought process behind the crossing buttons which make a unique sound when you need to wait and when you need to walk. So unique that Billie Eilish and FINNEAS sampled it in their hit song “Bad Guy.” So basically, the crossing lights in Australia have a Grammy and you don’t.

This has nothing to do with soccer, just something our team here mentioned in a group chat. But we have quarterfinals to get to.

Quarterfinal overview

I don’t think I could pick the best matchup out of this next bunch. There are four genuinely good games and no one is, in theory, outmatched.

Friday, Aug. 11

  • Spain vs. Netherlands at Wellington Regional Stadium (1 p.m. local / 9 p.m. ET [Thursday] / 2 a.m. UK)
  • Japan vs. Sweden at Eden Park (7.30 p.m. local / 3.30 a.m. ET / 8.30 a.m. UK)

Saturday, Aug. 12

  • Australia vs. France at Lang Park (5 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET / 8am UK)
  • England vs. Colombia at Stadium Australia (8.30 p.m. local / 6.30 a.m. ET / 11.30 a.m. UK)

For the Netherlands, the biggest change is the absence of Danielle van De Donk due to yellow card accumulation. She was understandably heartbroken after the win against South Africa. They will face a hot-and-cold Spain side in the early game on Friday. Will we see the Spain that dominated opponents like Zambia or Switzerland with Aitana Bonmati playing a major role? Or will they fall flat, unable to break down the Netherlands defense like they did against Japan? It’s hard to tell. Coach Jorge Vilda benched his goalkeeper along with Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas against the Swiss.

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Photo by Maja Hitij, Getty Images

In the late game, Japan, which is having a fantastic tournament, faces a Sweden team that is coming in with the confidence of having beat the U.S. in penalty kicks. Japan is easily one of the best teams in possession this tournament, but they have also adapted to hit the counterattack effectively. The question is: what changes will coach Peter Gerhardsson make to try to produce a win against Japan?

More on that, and more specific stuff about today’s games, after this.

Steph’s Set Piece

Sweden’s subtle press conference

In contrast to its more forthright press conference before they played the United States, Sweden presented a much cagier front Thursday ahead of the quarterfinal against Japan. Ahead of the U.S. round of 16 game, Sweden head coach Gerhardsson said firmly, several times, that he believed they could beat the Americans. Against Japan, he talked about Japan’s qualities, its ability to play a fast and adaptable game that would require Sweden to be content out of possession.

“Of course, we need to try to stop their passing game,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about if you want to gain possession you can do that very high up on the field or lower. We’re going to have to do both. We’re going to have to be patient. We’re not going to gain possession in the first, second or third situation.”

Gerhardsson and players Eriksson and Amanda Ilestedt all talked about having to be sharp in their one-on-one challenges to disrupt Japan’s possession, not allowing them in behind under any circumstances.

All in all, it felt like a group that didn’t want to get ahead of themselves in response to the growing sentiment that Japan could be the best team at the tournament.

Today’s Games

Spain vs. Netherlands

While the Netherlands faces Spain next, Dutch forward Lineth Beerensteyn had one last barb for the U.S. before moving on.

“I was just thinking, you first have to show it on the pitch before you’re talking,” Beerensteyn said about the USWNT. “And I’m not being rude in that way. I still have a lot of respect for them. But now they are out of the tournament.”

Netherlands coach Andries Jonkers has used the same system throughout the tournament only switching one or two pieces, like adjustments to winger Lieke Martens’ positioning. But that’s not to say there isn’t flexibility, which they will need against the top talents of Spain.

Tamerra Griffin tweeted earlier in this tournament that Bonmati is the Christina Aguilera and Putellas is the Britney Spears (with more fame) of Spain. I have a limited knowledge of the early aughts pop princesses, but it sounds right.

Sweden vs. Japan

Japan has both a solid on-field identity and the power to adapt to its opponent. It looks prepared for any scenario, confident, and able to adapt to whomever it meets. Japan looks comfortable on and off the ball, in and out of possession, defending and counterattacking.

Steph Yang breaks down their adaptability:

Japan’s 3-4-3 formation has been difficult for many of its opponents. Sweden will need to exploit the spaces in behind Japan’s defense and lean on its strengths on set pieces. Kudzi Musarurwa offered advice about what coach Gerhardsson should do with attacking player Fridolina Rolfö.

  • The gist: Rolfö has the skill set to beat any marker when facing them and that’s what Sweden will look to create when it gets the ball; find the back of the net through a transition moment using Rolfö.

“If you give them something, they will exploit it,” Sweden defender Magdalena Eriksson said ahead of the match. “If you stand too high with their line they’re going to exploit you behind…if you’re too passive they’re going to exploit you in front.”

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Game Day Ready

Superstitions and teddy bears

Athletes are creatures of habit. Always the left sock first. Listen to the same playlist. Pray before stepping on the pitch. But I’ve never heard a story quite like the one Laia Cervelló Herrero, who’s been following Spain this tournament, shared:

Covering Spain can be fun in terms of football, but not in terms of press conferences. I think I could answer for any of the players or the coach at this point. 

They always say the same thing, whether it’s true or not. “We have 23 Ballon d’Ors,” Jorge Vilda said when asked about Aitana Bonmatí. “I have 23 captains,” he said later as none of his captains are undisputed starters. 

The players have also learned the speech: “We are very united and with the same objective.” These are all phrases that the journalists already have noted in their notebooks before entering the press room. What we certainly didn’t count on is what Athenea Del Castillo told us before the match against the Netherlands. 

“Do you have any (superstitions) before big matches?” a journalist asked. 

“The thing that relaxes me the most is picking up my cuddly toy and stroking its tag,” she replied to the laughter of everyone in the room.

Fun Time World Cup Trivia

Test your knowledge

If you don’t want the answer to yesterday’s question, stop scrolling now….

With the two penalty shootouts we’ve seen so far this tournament, the total number of World Cup matches decided by penalty kicks is 10. 

Today’s question…

What is the Coriolis effect? Just kidding (although you get bonus points for knowing it)! Which is the only country to win the U-17U-20 and senior World Cups?

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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