The time for second chances is over at the Women’s World Cup.
On Sunday, the host Canadians will meet World Cup debutantes Switzerland in a do-or-die Round of 16 match at what should be a sold-out BC Place in Vancouver (7 pm ET; CTV in Canada, FOX Sports 1 in US).
Canada came into the tournament with plenty of hype and grand ambitions, but they haven’t truly looked like world-beaters yet in this tournament. Switzerland, meanwhile, will be competing in their first-ever knockout-stage match at the Women’s World Cup.
How did they get here?
Canada won Group A, posting a 1-0 win over China, followed by a 0-0 draw with New Zealand and 1-1 draw with the Netherlands. But the team was walking a tight rope throughout the group stage – the win over China came on an injury-time penalty kick, while New Zealand missed a penalty kick of their own against Canada.
Had one or both of those penalty kicks gone differently, we may have been looking at a much different scenario for the Canadians. As it stands, however, they enter the Round of 16 undefeated and with the benefit of supportive home crowds.
Switzerland had a roller coaster of a group stage. They hung tough against reigning World Cup champions Japan in their opener, losing 1-0. Then the Swiss obliterated a hapless Ecuador side, winning 10-1. But in their third group stage game, they fell 2-1 to a spirited Cameroon side, which left Switzerland at third place in Group C.
It’s anyone’s guess as to which Switzerland side will show up against Canada. But to assume the host team are going to breeze their way to the quarterfinals would be very dangerous.
What’s the history?
The teams have met four times before, with one draw and three wins for Canada. Their most recent meeting was in the group stage of the 2013 Cyprus Cup, a 2-0 win for Canada on goals from Sophie Schmidt and Diana Matheson.
Canada, who came into this tournament ranked No. 8 in the world, had their all-time best showing at the Women’s World Cup in 2003, when they finished fourth. That run, however, was a bit of a historical outlier; in six Women’s World Cup tournaments (including the group stage in 2015), Canada have an all-time record of five wins, five draws and 11 losses.
This is Switzerland’s first-ever appearance at the Women’s World Cup, and the team came into the tournament ranked No. 19 in the world. They did coast through the qualification for this tournament, finishing the 10-team group stage with nine wins, one draw and a plus-52 goal differential.
Who are the difference makers?
For Canada, the difference maker in this game (and beyond, if the Canadians can make it) will be midfielder Sophie Schmidt. The 26-year-old is in the prime of her career, and led Canada in goals in 2014. But she hasn’t yet shown her most dangerous side in this World Cup and did suffer a hip injury late in her team’s game against the Netherlands on Monday.
Schmidt is expected to play through the pain against Switzerland, and her presence will be instrumental for a team that has struggled to find the back of the net. Her ability to influence the play will have a big impact on Canada’s ability to advance in the tournament.
For Switzerland, striker Ramona Bachmann will be one to watch. She caused headaches against Japan (nearly scoring a late equalizer) and scored a hat trick against Ecuador. The 24-year-old has an impressive strike rate of 36 goals in 64 games for her country, and her lightning-quick feet could cause trouble for a Canadian backline that has, thus far, held relatively firm in the tournament.