W Gold Cup enters quarter finals with reputations on the line and the old world order under threat

March 1 – After nine consecutive days of group games, the W Gold Cup moves into its quarter final stage this weekend with two days of double headers at the BMO Stadium, the Los Angeles home of Angels FC of the NWSL and LAFC of the MLS.

The last eight has all four Conmebol guest teams qualified alongside Concacaf’s leading four nations in the women’s game.

Ranked by their group performances with 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, down to 4 vs 5, Saturday’s fixtures open with top ranked Canada taking on eight ranked Costa Rica in a repeat of the final group game that saw Costa Rica only make it into the last eight following a draw where they were pulled out of the pot ahead of Puerto Rico.

That match is followed by the all-Conmebol clash between Brazil and Argentina.

Canada were majestic in the group stage with three straightforward wins, and are expected to make short work of Costa Rica. Having beaten them 3-0 in group play, they should have scored more. Their only concern will be that they don’t take their chances early and take Costa Rica for granted. In the group game Costa Rica came back at the Canadians in the last 20 minutes as they rotated their bench.

Jaqueline Ovalle scored twice against the US

Canada have the tournament’s leading scorer Adriana Leon (5 goals) who will be key to their frontline, while captain Jessie Fleming has been the driving force in midfield. This is the first time the Canadians have gone into a tournament without Christine Sinclair, but they have shown they are more than up to the task so far.

Similarly Brazil will be expected to overcome Argentina. The Brazilians started slowly but started to find their form and attacking flow in their wins over Colombia and Panama.

Argentina in contrast have been more stolid in the group play, but even so, playing Brazil will guarantee an edge to their performance that could unsettle the Brazilians.

What version of the US will be on show?

The US are perhaps the biggest enigma of the tournament so far and their tie against Colombia looks like being the match of the round. Entering as the tournament as the world’s second seeded nation, they came with the expectancy that they would sweep all before them.

Ultimately they were swept away by Mexico who out-played, out-thought and out-fought them.

Brazil are finding form at the right time

It was a sobering experience for the US with all their big name talent, and a shock that reverberated through the women’s game in the US.

Coach Twila Kilgore is only minding the shop until Emma Hayes arrives from Chelsea, but with the Olympics nearing, the US are struggling to put their glorious past and legendary players behind them as they attempt to transition both personality and playing style.

Kilgore made 10 changes to her starting line-up between the first and second games, and seven changes for the third group game against Mexico. It smacked of a coach who doesn’t know who her best players are, or how they will gel together. The danger is that what should have been an opportunity to establish a core of players and a pattern of play that sees them take a winning responsibility, could turn into a disaster that leaves them in a worse position than before they came into the tournament.

Kilgore reverted to the old stalwarts of Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper against Mexico and they were, sadly, exposed. Legend means nothing in the fast improving women’s game.

Linda Caicedo has terrorised defences

There is no doubt the US has the youth but it has been restricted. Whether there is time to unleash the undoubted talent of Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Jaedyn Shaw and Lynn Williams remains to be seen, but Kilgore needs to empower the US’s future, not restrict it, if they are to fulfil their potential and match their own hype.

However Kilgore shuffles her pack she will have to get it right against a very good Colombian team who pushed Brazil to edge and who, unlike the US, have improved throughout the tournament.

In Linda Caicedo, Colombia have a talent that can win matches. Her goal against El Salvador was sublime and every time she gets the ball at her feet on either wing you expect things to happen. In Maria Usme the Colombians have a serial goalscorer, while the midfield of Manuela Vanegas and Lorena Bedoya will be no pushover for the US.

After their magnificent win over the US – only their second in 41 games – Mexico should have the measure of Paraguay. Jacqueline Orvalle announced herself on the world stage with two goals against the US, her first being the goal of the tournament so far when she rounded US keeper Alyssa Naeher and chipped over two US defenders.

Mexico have been threatening to pull off a major result and having proved they have what it takes will be hungry for more.

The non-stop press when they don’t have the ball is impressive as is the commitment of their midfield and link up play between the non-stop Maria Sanchez, Orvalle and Kiana Palacios.

Paraguay have two game breakers of their own. Jessica Martinez’s hat trick against El Salvador matched her uncompromising style of play. Lise Chomorro is similarly threatening if given space.

Jessica Martinez hattrick drove Paraguay into knockout rounds

2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup Quarterfinals Standings
*Based on points, goal difference, and goals scored

  1. Canada (9 pts, +13 gd, 13 gs)
  2. Brazil (9 pts, +7 gd, 7 gs)
  3. Mexico (7 pts, +10 gd, 10 gs)
  4. United States (6 pts, +7 gd, 9 gs)
  5. Colombia (6 pts, +7 gd, 8 gs)
  6. Paraguay (6 pts, -2 gd, 4gs)
  7. Argentina (4 pts, -1 gd, 3 gs)
  8. Costa Rica (3 pts, -2 gd, 2 gs)

2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup Quarterfinals Matchups

QF1: Canada vs Costa Rica
QF2: Brazil vs Argentina
QF3: Mexico vs Paraguay
QF4: United States vs Colombia

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