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Vancouver, British Columbia — The United States' bid for a third Women's World Cup title remains very much alive, as do the championship hopes of all five of the world's top-ranked teams.

The knockout stage begins this weekend, with all the powers still in place, although some have shown vulnerabilities during a group-stage round that included its share of upsets and blowouts.

Some story lines to consider as the remaining 16 nations continue their trek toward the July 5 title game in Vancouver:

Bumpy road

Sweden's path already was tough. It's about to get tougher.

The fifth-ranked team, led by former American coach Pia Sundhage, faces No. 1 Germany in one of the early marquee matchups of the elimination stage.

After three ties, the players had to wait until all the matches were complete Wednesday to see if they had made it into the elimination round.

"I said before the matches we have four very good teams and that proved to be the case," Sundhage said. "We had the hardest group and didn't lose, but at the end of the day we didn't play well enough to win the group."

Group D survivors

With its first-place finish in the "Group of Death," the United States headed to Edmonton to face No. 28 Colombia, the surprise of the opening round after a 2-0 upset of France.

Colombia, however, will be without Sandra Sepulveda, its starting goalkeeper, for Monday's match because of accumulated yellow cards.

"They got a tremendous result against France," coach Jill Ellis told reporters. "But at this point, and the players know this, you've got to respect what they can do — because they're going to bring it as much as we are."

Second-place Australia has a challenging opponent in No. 7 Brazil, which won all of its group-stage matches. The teams meet Sunday in Moncton.

Cameroon advances

Cameroon is the lowest-ranked team left.

As just the second African nation to advance out the group stage after Nigeria in 1999, Cameroon faces No. 16 China on Saturday in Edmonton.

China finished second in its group after a 2-2 draw with New Zealand.

Happy hosts

Canada scored two goals in the opening stage, but it was enough to send the team through as the top finisher in its group.

Now it's on to No. 19 Switzerland in Vancouver on Sunday.

"The tournament is a progression," coach John Herdman said. "You're seeing this with a lot of teams. The big players tend to step up in these rounds. That's the way to win, for it to happen."

Another underdog

Along with Cameroon and Colombia, South Korea drew a tough elimination-round opponent in France.

Les Bleues have been considered among the favorites at the Women's World Cup, but they showed vulnerability with a surprising 2-0 loss to Colombia.

Women's World Cup schedule

Second round

Saturday's games

Germany vs. Sweden, 4 p.m.

Chinavs. Cameroon, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday's games

Brazil vs. Australia, 1 p.m.

France vs. South Korea, 4 p.m.

Canada vs. Switzerland, 7:30 p.m.

Monday's games

Norway vs. England, 5 p.m.

United States vs. Colombia, 8 p.m.

Tuesday's game

Japan vs. Netherlands, 10 p.m.


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