Women’s World Cup last 16 – five things you may have missed

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The Women’s World Cup has continued in its entertaining, controversial and inspiring fashion – Nancy Frostick takes a look at five things you might have missed in this round of games…

Stubborn Spain 

The USA’s hard-fought victory over Spain was one of the picks of the round as Jorge Vilda’s side proved a sterner test for the holders than anyone was expecting.

Silky skills, a resolute defence and a clinical offensive line really put Spain on the map at this tournament – and they can feel hard done by that it was a VAR-given penalty that sent them home from the competition. They’re certainly ones to watch for the next Euros.

Jill Ellis’ side didn’t look like they were firing on all cylinders in a gritty performance, but then they haven’t had the most challenging of routes to the knockout stages. Those big wins against lesser opposition might have been deceiving about where their performances have ranked against contenders from other, tougher groups.

Jill Scott, record breaker

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Somewhere between the elbowing, protesting and spitting in England’s win over Cameroon, Jill Scott smashed a pretty important national record. “Crouchy” became England’s most-capped player at a World Cup, surpassing Peter Shilton’s record by earning her 18th outing at the biggest tournament in world football.

As one of the most experienced players in Phil Neville’s squad, Scott could be the key to World Cup success – not just because of her cool head and leadership qualities, but her ability to change the game. If this is to be Scott’s last World Cup, then England will be all the poorer for it next time around.

Penalty record

VAR klaxon! As if any article on this summer’s tournament could be published without mentioning the referee-assisting tech in one way or another, this time it’s toppled a spot-kick record rather than a minor nation’s hopes of success. Penalties have been given left, right and centre in France this summer and so it’s no surprise that the handful awarded in the round of 16 means that with plenty of football left to play, there have already been more penalties than the entirety of the 2015 tournament.

European dominance

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Crushed Canadians and beaten Brazilians – as well as ousted Aussies, Japanese and Chinese – mean that we have the rare situation of seven European teams in the quarter-finals of a world tournament.

Only the USA remain as the outsiders in the now-UEFA dominated tournament. What that means for the women’s game will be something to unpack at depth once we see how things pan out, but when you consider that Denmark, Wales and Portugal didn’t even qualify in the first place, the wealth of talent in Europe is frightening and hugely encouraging.

Post-match quotes

And finally, the fun doesn’t stop when the on-field action is over. Not judging by this tournament’s post-match interviews which have, so far, been fantastic for reasons good, bad and sad. From Marta’s rousing speech aimed at inspiring the next generation to Janine Beckie’s heart-wrenching honesty and Megan Rapinoe’s hilarious hopes for the next round, they’ve been unforgettable. A true sign of the dreams dashed and delivered by the cruel but ever-alluring beast that is the World Cup.

Follow Nancy on Twitter at @nancyfrostick

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