Crunch time begins for teams in Women’s World Cup knockout rounds

China face Cameroon side eager to make history after becoming only second African country to reach Women's World Cup knockout rounds

Germany's Anja Mittag takes part in a training session in Ottawa, Ontario, on June 18, 2015, two days before the squad's Round of 16 Women's World Cup match against Sweden. Nicholas Kamm / AFP
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It is down to business at the Women’s World Cup as the knockout rounds begin on Saturday with top-ranked Germany and former runners-up China both in action.

Germany, winners in 2003 and 2007, take on Sweden in the opening last-16 clash in Ottawa, with China next up against African newcomers Cameroon in Edmonton.

Previous results are irrelevant now, including Germany’s 10-0 hammering of Ivory Coast or Sweden’s struggles to advance, in a one-off encounter.

“What has happened before doesn’t really matter now because this is where it really starts,” Germany coach Silvia Neid said.

“You won’t be given 10 opportunities, you have to seize the two or three you get. You have to concentrate and be cool in the last 16 or go home.”

Germany topped Group B with two wins and a draw, as the fifth-ranked Swedes backed into the last 16 as one of the best four third-placed finishers following three draws.

European champions Germany have demonstrated an impressive forward line with 15 goals in three games, including four from Anja Mittag and three from Celia Sasic.

Sweden, runners-up in 2003 and third in 2011, emerged batter and bruised from Group D, the so-called “group of death”, where the United States took top spot ahead of Australia.

Coach Pia Sundhage was deflated after her side managed just three points from three draws.

“We didn’t lose (in the group) and we scored four goals, but we didn’t do enough to win the group or even be runners-up,” said 55-year-old Sundhage, who coached the US to two Olympic golds and second place at the last World Cup.

Neid is not taking the demoralised Swedes lightly.

“Sweden have a lot of quality on their team,” she said.

“The games we have played against them have always been competitive and close-fought.

“As of now, we have to show passion and give everything. The team in better form on the day will go through to the quarter-finals.”

China, who finished second in Group A behind Canada, take on a Cameroon side who are only the second African country to reach the knockout rounds, after Nigeria in 1999.

Chinese coach Hao Wei was banished from the sideline as tempers flared during his team’s final group game against New Zealand.

Hao has overseen the blossoming of the side who were a footballing power in the 1990s, and are now ranked 16th.

But Cameroon, ranked 53, have also proved they have their place among the big teams.

They opened with a 6-0 whipping of Ecuador and took on champions Japan in a hard-fought 2-1 loss before seeing off Switzerland 2-1.

“The Chinese are a great team. They are very fast, with a Japanese-style football,” Cameroon coach Enow Ngachu said.

“We know it will be very tough, but we have shown that we are learning and if we can surprise China even better.”

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