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World Cup bracket: Breaking down the 16 teams in the knockout stage

Lauren Hemp and England will face Nigeria in the Round of 16 at the 2023 World Cup. (Noemi Llamas/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

The 2023 Women’s World Cup knockout rounds are here, with several powerhouse teams missing from the show. Yet despite a nail-biting end to the group stage, the U.S. women’s national team advanced, avoiding the ignominious fate of Germany, Brazil and Canada.

The Round of 16 features a number of intriguing matchups, from the USWNT vs. Sweden to England vs. Nigeria, which could set the tone for the rest of the tournament. Just Women’s Sports is breaking down the eight matchups before the action starts Saturday.


Sweden vs. USWNT

Head-to-head: USWNT: 27 wins — Sweden: 7 wins — 12 draws
When: 5 a.m. ET Sunday
TV: Fox, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo

Much has been made about this match, and for good reason. The No. 1- and No. 3-ranked teams in the world, the USWNT and Sweden last met at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 in a group-stage match that Sweden won 3-0. But in the World Cup, the USWNT holds a 4-1-1 edge in the rivalry. Their most recent World Cup clash came in the 2019 group stage, a 2-0 win for the USWNT.

While the USWNT historically holds a significant advantage, the clubs split their last 10 meetings, with four wins each and two draws. Nine of the last 10 meetings have been decided by two or less goals.


Switzerland vs. Spain

H2H: Switzerland: 2 wins — Spain: 1 win — 0 draws
When: 1 a.m. ET Saturday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

Another intriguing matchup, Spain had a topsy-turvy group stage that ended in a 4-0 rout by Japan. Meanwhile, Switzerland enters the knockout rounds having drawn seven of its last 10 international matches, but the squad is one of just three at the World Cup not to concede a goal in the group stage.

These two teams have met just three times, with Switzerland holding the edge. Their last matchup came in 2019, with Spain finally recording its first win against La Nati.


Japan vs. Norway

H2H: Japan: 6 wins — Norway: 3 wins — 0 draws
When: 4 a.m. ET Saturday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo

Japan blew through the group stage, outscoring opponents 11-0 as one of just three teams to win all three group stage games.

Norway, meanwhile, finished second in Group A, outscoring opponents 6-1 even without star forward Ada Hegerberg, who hasn’t played in more than two weeks. Her status hasn’t been confirmed, although Norway coach Hege Riise said Hegerberg has been “successful” in the recovery plan.

“She’s been following the medical plan and been successful in every step of that plan,” Riise said. “So we will see her in training (Friday) and see how she reacts to that, like the last step before the game. And we prepare for Ada to play or come in.”


Netherlands vs. South Africa

H2H: Netherlands: 8 wins — South Africa: 0 wins — 0 draws
When: 10 p.m. ET Saturday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo

After winning Group E over the USWNT, the Netherlands will face South Africa, who finished as Group G runner-up. South Africa has been able to get out ahead early but can run out of steam late. Still, the squad managed to clinch its first round of 16 appearance. South Africa finished with an even goal differential in the group stage, while the Netherlands outscored opponents 9-1 – including an astounding 7-0 rout of Vietnam to close out the group stage.

Through eight meetings, South Africa has never beaten the Netherlands, which holds a 22-5 scoring edge.


England vs. Nigeria

H2H: England: 1 win — Nigeria: 2 wins — 0 draws
When: 3:30 a.m. ET Monday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

Led by Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria had a dream run in the group stage to advance past Canada and into the knockout rounds. That run included a win over Australia, though the Matildas took the top spot in Group B.

England, meanwhile, won all three of its group stage matches, outscoring opponents 8-1. Lauren James has been electric for the Lionesses and will look to continue her run of form. History favors Nigeria, however, as the Super Falcons have beaten England twice in three tries.


Australia vs. Denmark

H2H: Denmark: 2 wins — Australia: 1 win — 1 draw
When: 6:30 a.m. ET Monday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

For the second time in less than a year, Australia and Denmark will face off. Last October, the Matildas secured a come-from-behind victory – their first win over Denmark in their history.

Denmark won two games and lost one to England in the group stage. Australia, meanwhile, was upset by Nigeria but still managed to win its group. Denmark managed just three goals in the group stage, compared to seven for Australia. One big question mark surrounds the status of Sam Kerr, who missed the group stage for the Matildas. She reportedly was cleared to play in their final group stage game but did not feature.


Colombia vs. Jamaica

H2H: Colombia: 1 win — Jamaica: 1 win — 0 draws
When: 4 a.m. ET Tuesday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

Whichever team wins will advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time. These two teams have met just twice before, with one win apiece.

Linda Caicedo has starred for Colombia at this tournament, helping them to a shocking 2-1 upset of Germany. Jamaica, meanwhile, finished second in Group F behind France, allowing no goals through three matches in the group stage.


France vs. Morocco

H2H: N/A
When: 7 a.m. ET Tuesday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

World Cup debutante Morocco made it out of a tough group after recovering from a 6-0 defeat by Germany in its opening match. But it hasn’t allowed a goal since then, including against a tough Colombia team.

France, meanwhile, played Jamaica to a scoreless draw before beating Brazil and Panama, outscoring them 8-4 overall. This will be the first meeting between France and Morocco.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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