CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in VANCOUVER: With the Women’s World Cup Final less than 10 days away FIFA has still been havering over whether president Sepp Blatter or secretary-general Jerome Valcke will be in attendance as per standard practice.
A spokesperson in Canada reiterated that their respective travel plans will “be confirmed in due course” while speculation continued to bubble that heading for north America might be a flight too far amid the present crisis.
This far the world football federation’s senior vice-president Issa Hayatou, who is also president of the African confederation, has been the most senior executive committee member present. Other exco members have acted as official representatives across all matches.
Valcke had originally been scheduled to attend the Opening Match but did not travel so he could deal with the crisis in Zurich which followed judicial action over corruption allegations in both Switzerland and the United States.
The quarter-finals begin today, with France confronting Germany, so time is running short for either of FIFA’s top two to decide on confirm a Vancouver visit on July 5.
Back out on the pitch France coach Philippe Bergeroo said his side would be properly respectful of Germany in Montreal’s Olympic stadium.
Germany fell at this stage of the competition four years ago in front of their home fans but Bergeroo knows how much the 2013 European champions have impressed since then.
He said: “We’re happy to be in the quarter-finals. The Germans are the best team in the world according to the FIFA world ranking, and so we’ll give them all the respect they deserve.”
Friday’s other encounter sees the United States take on China in Ottawa in the first meeting between the two sides since the 1999 final when the US triumphed on home soil.
The Americans are favourites but will miss Megan Rapinoe because of two yellow cards.
A narrow 1-0 victory over Cameroon gave China their passage to Ottawa but US forward Abby Wambach is predicting an improved performance.
“No matter who they put in, I know they’re going to step up,” the striker said. “Whoever it is has to, because we’re in the quarter-finals. This is the World Cup. Obviously you win or you go home, and China’s not a team to take lightly.”
On Saturday in Edmonton, champions Japan face Australia who recorded possibly the biggest upset of the tournament by knocking out Brazil in the round of 16.
They will find it even tougher to spring a shock against the Japanese who are the only team left who have won all of their matches.
England on stage
The quarter-final stage culminates in what is expected to be the highest attended match of the tournament when host nations take on England at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium.
FIFA announced this week that already more than 50,000 tickets had been sold for the match. The Canadian record attendance for a national soccer match was broken at the tournament opener with 53,058 watching Canada against China.
Organisers will be hoping for a Canada victory on Saturday so attendances will continue to grow and push them towards their 1.5m spectator goal.
England, led by head coach Mark Sampson, will be no pushovers though having recorded their first ever World Cup knockout victory in the round of 16 by beating Norway 2-1.
Captain Steph Houghton believes the team can overcome the pressure of playing against the hosts. She said: “We’ll probably be underdogs, but we’ve already shown in this tournament we can play under pressure.
“That’s what we did against Norway – we knew we could make history and we’ve done it, now we can do it again on Saturday”.