Can England win its first ever knockout stage match at the Women's World Cup Finals when they take on Norway in the R16? By the World Cup betting odds it's a tossup. Here are our soccer picks for this highly anticipated showdown.
England Looking To Break New Ground
England got their campaign off on the wrong foot when they lost to France 1-0 in their opener. However, they bounced back with back-to-back wins over Mexico and Colombia to finish group play in second place with six points, level on points with top of the table France in Group F.
England revived their World Cup 2015 hopes with a 2-1 win over Mexico in round 2 and a 2-1 win over a determined Colombia in round 3. Overall, the Three Lionesses scored four goals and conceded three for a 1-goal differential. Not exactly a force to be reckoned with by the numbers, but they are riding a two-game winning streak that should send them into the knockouts on a wave of optimism.
England have made four appearances at the world finals with their best finish a quarterfinal appearance (1995, 2007 and 2011). The caveat being that in the previous instalments of the world finals it was a 16-team tournament. Thus, the quarterfinals marked the first knockout round. As FIFA has increased the tournament to a 24-team extravaganza, the R16 marks the first knockout stage of these finals. Point being, the English flowers have never won a knockout stage match.
That's the task before them today when they take on Norway: to break new ground in England's history at the FIFA Women's World Cup. Norway are considered one of the European powerhouses in the game, on account of their 1995 title. Reality though is according to FIFA rankings, England ranks five places better (England are ranked sixth while Norway ranks 11th).
Norway Look To Underscore Solid Group Campaign
Norway went undefeated through group play with a 2-1-0 mark. They did what they were supposed to do, which is win the games that were winnable against Thailand and Ivory Coast. They also raised a few eyebrows by holding tournament favourites Germany to a 1-1 draw.
To fall into the same group as Germany could be considered a misfortune. Not that Norway looked fazed by it though as they finished level on points with Germany, falling second only because of goal-differential. By the numbers, however, Norway have plenty to be optimistic about: they scored eight goals and conceded just two. On the whole, they were the fourth best offensive team in the competition.
Soccer Betting Verdict
Odds makers are being extremely coy about this matchup, sending both teams on par at +170 soccer odds to win outright. The draw, meanwhile, is trading at +210 soccer odds.
England's defensive approach lends their soccer odds some weight; they've frustrated opponents and held them to the least shots on target. That could be deciding against a Norwegian side that can turn up the offense when it needs to. Another positive for the English is solid goaltending. Karen Bardsley allowed just three goals through group play, which ranks amongst the best in these finals and should stand her in good stead against her Norwegian opposite, who allowed just two goals through group play. On the flipside, Norway will certainly fancy their chances after showing their mettle against Germany in group play.
Of all the games that are trading on the Women's World Cup betting board, this one is the toughest to call by all accounts. It's really a tossup, with both sides emerging as valuable soccer picks. For our money, we're banking on England snapping it's negative trend on the world stage simply because the Law of Averages says streaks eventually end. This is a good team that's arrived in Canada to compete. They could be the ones to finally do it.
Soccer Picks: England +170 at bet365