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Women's World Cup, Day 13 - USA vs. Colombia

The United States plays its first knockout stage game this evening against Colombia. The winner of today's match will meet China in the quarterfinals.

Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

It's the third day of the 2015 Women's World Cup knockout stage. There are two terrific games today: the early game pits Norway against England, and the late game features Colombia and the USA.

Although the USA is the clear favorite this evening, Colombia has already proven its ability to upset elite teams (by defeating France in the group stage), and the Americans have been struggling to simultaneously solve the problem of their midfield defense while providing improved midfield service to the forward line.

The USA has been unsettled up front. Coach Jill Ellis has already started four different players in two attacking roles. She will likely start Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach again today, move Christen Press back to the right side of midfield, and bring Sydney Leroux off the bench at the hour mark. Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd will continue to anchor midfield, but it's unclear how their assignments will be changed against Colombia. However, the fact that neither player is a holding midfielder but both have been given some degree of responsibility for that role means that they are (once again) key performers for the United States. As an SB Nation analysis notes in an article entitled 3 Things to Watch for When the USWNT Take on Colombia:

All of these points have something to do with Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday, the United States' central midfield pairing. They're a couple of very talented and very experienced players capable of being not just net positives, but stars for the USWNT. To this point, they have been below average in just about every way that one can evaluate central midfielders. They can get better, and they need to get better. Here are three important things to watch out for.

(For what it's worth, SB Nation offers a video primer about five USWNT players that the American public should be rooting for; the list includes former UCLA standouts Lauren Holiday and Sydney Leroux.)

The key player for Colombia is Yoreli Rincón. Colombia is dangerous on the counterattack, and Rincón and Lady Andrade will have to take advantage of those opportunities if the Colombians are going to pull off another tournament upset.

In the early game, Norwegian teenager Ada Hegerberg will get a lot of attention from England's defenders. She was sensational in the group stage of the competition, but will surely find chances harder to come by as her reputation grows. The Norwegians remain committed to the style of play that have kept them among the world's elite for nearly two decades: direct, physical football. It may not be beautiful to watch, but it's proven very effective.

England has progressed in the competition without any particularly impressive performances. The English have been scrappy, and they've done just enough to win the games that they were expected to win. In my opinion, they don't look like a team destined to make it past the quarterfinals, and I'll be mildly surprised if they find a way to slip past the Norwegians today.

Day 13 Matches

FIFA Day 13 Preview

Game 1: Norway vs. England

Kickoff: 2:00 PM PDT

Location: Landsdowne Stadium, Ottawa

Live Streaming and International Coverage

United States Coverage: Fox Sports 1 USA, Fox Sports GO, NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra, Fox Soccer 2Go USA, Telemundo, SiriusXM FC

SB Nation's Norway-England Preview

Game 2: USA vs. Colombia

Kickoff: 5:00 PM PDT

Location: Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton

Live Streaming and International Coverage

United States Coverage: Fox Sports 1 USA, Fox Sports GO, NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra, Fox Soccer 2Go USA, Telemundo, SiriusXM FC

SB Nation's USA-Colombia Preview

Day 12 Results

Australia 1, Brazil 0FIFA Match ReportFIFA Video Highlights

France 3, South Korea 0FIFA Match ReportFIFA Video Highlights

Canada 1, Switzerland 0FIFA Match ReportFIFA Video Highlights

The Knockout Stage Bracket

SB Nation's Knockout Stage Bracket

Please enjoy this 2015 Women's World Cup Day 13 thread with your fellow Bruins.