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FIFA Women’s World Cup Quarter Finals: No More Soft Targets

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From here on out, the edges are small, and the risks are high

Guro Reiten - Norway - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France
The pace accelerates; can you keep up?
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The round of sixteen knocked out half of the players in the tournament. You now get a scant four free transfers to repair your roster of fifteen before the quarterfinals flush half of the remainder.

I lost two starting forwards in the first two days (Sam Kerr of Australia and Cristiane of Brazil). But I also advanced four players, so I was batting .667, almost enough to reach the 11 of 15 needed to pass fit into the quarters without paying extra.

My big bet was the United States: Four starters and one benchie. They didn’t earn great points in their struggle against Spain (I didn’t have Rapinoe), but they survived to face France. My best performers were my German defending duo — Gwinn and Hegering have been outstanding, and they’re cheap too!

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The Matches:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

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So it’s the United States of America vs. the European Union, with Europe fielding seven separate teams against America’s one all-star side. Divide and conquer?

I’ve discovered imbalance in my squad: One quarterfinal is now Italy vs. Netherlands, and I have just one bench defender between them. Another quarter is England vs. Norway, but I have nobody from either side. I need to diversify somewhat.

But more important will be picking this round’s winners. The next transfer window will allow only three free transfers. Pick wrong, and you could lose eight or nine players! It’s at this stage that I wish I had a wildcard (or a crystal ball).

I’m picking England over Norway, USA over France, Netherlands over Italy and Germany over Sweden — but don’t trust me; I’m not sure of any of those. What I know is that I’ll lose three players even if I am right. If I’m wrong, I’ll lose even more, perhaps many more.

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Complicating matters is that injury info is hard to come by. Germany’s Marozsan was on the bench but unused in the round of 16. I expect her to start against Sweden, but I’m unwilling to risk $1M and a precious transfer on that speculation. England has two doubts in defense (Houghton training after a knock, and Bright suffering a virus).

And I still can’t sort out the USA midfield. Will Horan come back to the starting lineup, or has Ertz’s return from injury displaced her? Horan was a very expensive cameo in my squad last round; I must now decide whether to drop her to raise cash and reduce USA exposure. I’m inclined to believe she was protected from yellow-card accumulation, which means she should start on Thursday; YMMV.

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Did you pick winners in the first knockout stage? Did any surprises pull the rug from under your feet? Whom are you culling? Where are you shopping? What nations are you picking to advance to the semis? Are you carrying any deadwood? Are you paying the neg-five point for any extra transfers? In what shape is your bench? Which quarter-final matches are you watching as a fan? And how is your nation doing? Please share with us in the comments!

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