The Women's World Cup is down to the last eight, with European champions England widely seen as the favourites to lift the trophy following the elimination of holders the United States.

AFP Sport looks ahead to the quarter-final action on Friday and Saturday in Australia and New Zealand:


Wellington, Friday at 0100 GMT

The first quarter-final might be the most-evenly matched, with a Spain side sitting sixth in the world rankings facing the ninth-ranked Netherlands.

Spain are in the quarter-finals for the first time despite reigning Ballon d'Or Alexia Putellas struggling to make an impact as she continues to recover fitness following a ruptured ACL. Instead her Barcelona teammate Aitana Bonmati has been the standout.

Coach Jorge Vilda made sweeping changes to his line-up for the 5-1 last-16 win over Switzerland and must decide whether to stick with the likes of Laia Codina in central defence and Cata Coll in goal.

The Netherlands, runners-up in 2019, have put the absence at the tournament due to injury of prolific striker Vivianne Miedema behind them and topped their group ahead of the USA.

Andries Jonker's team have conceded just one goal so far. They will need to be strong at the back against a Spain team that has notched 13 goals in four games.


Auckland, Friday at 0730 GMT

Practically written off before the tournament, Japan are the only former World Cup winners still standing following the exits of the USA, Germany and Norway. The 2011 champions have been clinical, scoring 14 goals and letting in just one in wins over Zambia (5-0), Costa Rica (2-0), Spain (4-0) and Norway (3-1).

The player grabbing the attention is Hinata Miyazawa, the 23-year-old leader in the race for the golden boot with five goals. But it is not just about her. "They're so disciplined and very structured in the way they play offence and defence," said Norway's Caroline Graham Hansen after the last 16.

World number three Sweden are the top-ranked team left in the tournament after they ousted the USA on penalties. However, they were second-best throughout that game and grateful to goalkeeper Zecira Musovic for several key saves. They have now kept three consecutive clean sheets.

Japan beat Sweden 3-1 in the semi-finals in 2011, but Sweden won by the same scoreline when they met at the Tokyo Olympics.


Brisbane, Saturday at 0700 GMT

Australia appear to be getting stronger as they go along, surviving a wobble in the group stage before comfortably dispatching Denmark 2-0 in the last 16.

They are aiming to reach the semi-finals for the first time and are boosted by the return to fitness of star striker Sam Kerr, who returned from three weeks out with a calf problem as a substitute against Denmark.

"For (other) teams looking ahead it's pretty scary to know that she's back in the team and she's going to be a part of it with us," said Caitlin Foord.

France are hoping Australia suffer the same fate as befell them four years ago, when as hosts they went out in the quarter-finals to the eventual winners, the USA.

Herve Renard's team cruised through in the last 16, beating Morocco 4-0. They have scored 12 goals in their last three games, but they will have to deal with a hostile atmosphere from 50,000 spectators.

"It won't be an easy match, but it won't be easy for either team," warned Renard, whose side lost 1-0 to Australia in a friendly in Melbourne on July 14.


Sydney, Saturday at 1030 GMT

England are the favourites to win the trophy, while Colombia are the surprise quarter-finalists, and 21 places separate the teams in the world rankings.

However, England stumbled into the last eight, needing penalties to see off Nigeria, and they cannot afford to take Colombia lightly given the South Americans beat Germany in the group stage and have one of the most exciting players at the tournament in Linda Caicedo.

Sarina Wiegman's European champions are also hindered by the absence of Lauren James, with the 21-year-old Chelsea attacker suspended after being sent off against Nigeria for stamping on an opponent.

Colombia reached the quarter-finals for the first time by beating Jamaica 1-0 and will hope to have a lot of support like in previous rounds.

"We are dreaming big -- we can do this," said captain Catalina Usme.