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Meet the last 8 teams in the running for the Women's World Cup

Spain's Laia Codina (center) celebrates with teammates Esther Gonzalez (left) and Irene Paredes (right) after scoring her team's fourth goal on Switzerland during the round of 16.
Buda Mendes
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Getty Images
Spain's Laia Codina (center) celebrates with teammates Esther Gonzalez (left) and Irene Paredes (right) after scoring her team's fourth goal on Switzerland during the round of 16.

Updated August 10, 2023 at 10:00 AM ET

After nearly three weeks of wall-to-wall soccer, the field of the largest-ever Women's World Cup has narrowed to just eight.

Five of the teams remaining are from Europe: Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden, France and England. Japan, Colombia and Australia round out the bunch. Which teams are peaking at the right time? Read on.

Spain vs. Netherlands

Thursday, Aug. 10 at 9 p.m. ET

Spain

Coming into the World Cup, Spain has been one of the favorites to go far – even though it has little experience deep in the tournament: This is Spain's first time reaching the quarterfinals.

They've gotten to this stage despite major turbulence in their program. Last year, 15 team members resigned from the national team in protest of coach Jorge Vilda, who subsequently reshaped the team with new players. Three of the protesters — Mariona Caldentey, Ona Batlle and Aitana Bonmatí – were welcomed on to the World Cup squad, and La Roja 2.0 has been faring well.

Spain has scored the second-highest number of goals so far in the tournament: 13. Many of those came in its most recent match, as it thumped Switzerland 5-1 in the round of 16. (And Switzerland's goal was an own goal by Spain.) Two of those goals were scored by Bonmatí, who plays for La Liga's Barcelona and has been called the best midfielder in the tournament.

But Spain is by no means invincible: Fellow quarterfinalist Japan shut them out 4-0 in the final game of the teams' group stage.

Netherlands

Jill Roord, a midfielder who signed at Manchester City last month, has already scored four goals for the Dutch in this tournament. One of those was a header in the 9th minute in the round of 16 match against South Africa, giving the Dutch an early lead. They went on to win 2-0.

Netherlands began the tournament in a group with the U.S., and finished in the top spot after beating Portugal and Vietnam and tying the U.S. 1-1.

The Dutch will be at a disadvantage as they face Spain. They will play without midfielder Danielle van de Donk, who is suspended for one match for accumulated yellow cards. Van de Donk is the linchpin between the Netherlands offense and defense, as well as a leader on the pitch, so her team may struggle to advance without her.

The Dutch made it to the World Women's Cup final in 2019, where they lost to the U.S. 2-0.

The winner of the Spain-Netherlands matchup will go on to face the winner of Japan vs. Sweden.

Japan vs. Sweden

Friday, Aug. 11 at 3:30 a.m. ET

The showdown between Japan and Sweden could be fierce – the sort of quarterfinal matchup that could have been a final if the brackets had been different.

Japan and Sweden haven't met in a Women's World Cup since the 2011 semifinals, when Japan won 3-1.

Both teams have won all of their games so far in this tournament — though Sweden beat the U.S. only in penalty kicks after a scoreless game.

Japan

Japan is looking very strong, and could have what it takes to win the whole thing. Japan has won the World Cup once before: In 2011, they beat the U.S. in a penalty shootout after going 2-2 in extra time. They were runners-up to the U.S. four years later.

At this tournament, they've been on a tear, scoring-wise: They've scored 14 goals so far, more than any other team, while allowing only one goal. Japan has been able to score where other favorites have struggled: They walloped Spain 4-0 despite having just 22% of possession.

Hinata Miyazawa has emerged as a star of the tournament, already scoring five goals for a Japan side that could go all the way.
Catherine Ivill / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Hinata Miyazawa has emerged as a star of the tournament, already scoring five goals for a Japan side that could go all the way.

In the round of 16, they solidly defeated Norway, 3-1.

Attacking midfielder Hinata Miyazawa, 23, is leading the competition for the Golden Boot — given to the tournament's top overall goal scorer — having netted five goals so far. She's been something of a surprise: She hadn't even been a lock to be a starter for Japan.

Sweden

What could be more confidence building than knocking off the top-ranked USA, forcing their earliest exit from a Women's World Cup?

That will surely lend some assurance to Sweden, who topped their group with wins over South Africa, Italy and Argentina. They were well-matched against the U.S. in the round of 16, saved many times over by a top-notch performance by goalkeeper Zecira Musovic.

Sweden's goalkeeper Zecira Musovic stops an attempt by the USA's Sophia Smith during the round of 16.
William West / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Sweden's goalkeeper Zecira Musovic stops an attempt by the USA's Sophia Smith during the round of 16.

This is the seventh time Sweden has made the quarterfinals. Now that Germany and the U.S. have crashed out of the tournament, the No. 3 Swedes are the highest-ranked team remaining.

Australia vs. France

Saturday, Aug. 12 at 3 a.m. ET

Everything seems to be coming together for the French, who could well put an end to Australia's dream of a long run on their home turf. But fresh in both teams' minds will be a pre-tournament friendly less than a month ago in which the Matildas defeated France 1-0.

Australia

The Matildas have made it this far almost entirely without their captain Sam Kerr. The star striker injured her calf in training just before the tournament, resulting in her missing the entire group stage. Kerr returned to the pitch near the end of the round of 16 win over Denmark, when Australia had the game nearly sewn up.

Sam Kerr (right) has rejoined an Australia squad that has played very well without her, their captain and star striker. France will be a formidable opponent for the Aussie squad.
Franck Fife / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Sam Kerr (right) has rejoined an Australia squad that has played very well without her, their captain and star striker. France will be a formidable opponent for the Aussie squad.

Coach Tony Gustavsson admits he now faces a quandary: "Who should play?" he wondered aloud after Monday's match, as The Guardian reported. "I have more than 11 players that deserve to start."

This is Australia's fourth appearance in the quarterfinals.

France

Les Bleues are no stranger to the late stages of this competition: This is their fourth straight Women's World Cup quarterfinal.

France has shown good form in the tournament, getting stronger after a draw with Jamaica in their opening match. France followed with victories over Brazil, Panama, and in the round of 16, Morocco.

Kadidiatou Diani of France celebrates after scoring on Morocco in the round of 16. Les Bleues now take on host Australia.
Cameron Spencer / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Kadidiatou Diani of France celebrates after scoring on Morocco in the round of 16. Les Bleues now take on host Australia.

Their 4-0 win over Morocco showed off the range of its scoring threats: a goal each by Kadidiatou Diani and Kenza Dali, and two from Eugenie Le Sommer, who is France's all-time leading goal scorer. Diani has already scored four goals in the tournament, and is in hot pursuit of the Golden Boot.

England vs. Colombia

Saturday, Aug. 12 at 6:30 a.m. ET

England

The Lionesses beat Germany to win the European Championship last summer and came into Women's World Cup ranked fourth in the world. England has plenty of experience in the quarterfinals, having reached this stage on five previous occasions.

In the round of 16, Nigeria held England scoreless through regulation and extra time, before England finally clinched the win on penalty kicks.

England celebrates the team's victory over Nigeria following a penalty shootout in the round of 16.
Justin Setterfield / Getty Images
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Getty Images
England celebrates the team's victory over Nigeria following a penalty shootout in the round of 16.

England is one of three teams (the others being Japan and Sweden) to win all of their group stage games, defeating Haiti, Denmark and China – the latter with a 6-1 trouncing.

England will be playing without its young star Lauren James, suspended for two matchesafter she received a red card for stepping on the back of Nigeria's Michelle Alozie during the round of 16. In addition to the quarterfinal match, James will not be allowed to play in the Lionesses' next match — whether it's at the World Cup or beyond.

After the incident, Alozie said she has no hard feelings toward James, while the England star apologized on X, formerly known as Twitter, and promised to learn from the experience.

Colombia

This is the first time Las Cafeteras have reached the quarterfinals — and they are just the second South American nation, after Brazil, to have made it to this stage.

Of the several longshot teams that captured fans at this tournament, Colombia is the last remaining. Ranked 25th in the world, now they're in the last eight.

Colombia's 18-year-old Linda Caicedo high-fives fans after a round of 16 win over Jamaica, sending Las Cafeteras to their first Women's World Cup quarterfinal.
Hamish Blair / AP
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AP
Colombia's 18-year-old Linda Caicedo high-fives fans after a round of 16 win over Jamaica, sending Las Cafeteras to their first Women's World Cup quarterfinal.

Colombia has only conceded two goals so far in this tournament. In the group stage they beat South Korea and No. 2 Germany.

They reached the quarterfinals by toppling Jamaica, who managed to keep a clean sheet through its three group stage games – with opponents including France and Brazil — until meeting Colombia in the round of 16.

Forward Linda Caicedo, just 18 years old, has scored twice so far, and has emerged as a tournament wunderkind. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 15, and thought she would never return to top-flight soccer. After surgery, Caicedo is cancer-free. Last year she was named the top player at the Copa América Femenina, and earlier this year she was signed by Real Madrid.

The team's captain, Catalina Usme, has also scored twice, and her goal against Jamaica sent Colombia through to the quarterfinals.

"We came here to play seven finals," said Usme on Tuesday. "We are certain about the work we've done, how we are prepared for this. We know that we are dreaming, and we are dreaming big. But we know that we can pull it off. We can do it."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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