New Zealand has made serious strides in women's football in recent years, but there's no doubt that they are the eighth best side in the quarterfinal round of the women's soccer tournament at the London 2012 Olympics. The United States became the first team to get through the group stage with a perfect record after they defeated North Korea on Tuesday, and they've been rewarded with a quarterfinal draw against a team they should beat.
In two very solid performances against gold medal contenders, New Zealand very narrowly lost 1-0 to both Great Britain and Brazil in the group stage. They then earned their way into the quarterfinal with a 3-1 win over Cameroon, which was good enough to see them through to the knockout stages over North Korea on goal difference.
The United States has been without defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx for the last two games, and she should return to the bench against New Zealand. Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney are expected to start in midfield, but Boxx should come off the bench to get some minutes and work on getting her fitness back in the second half of the match. Expect an unchanged first XI for the United States, and expect a victory as well. They'll be seriously tested by the Canada-Great Britain winner in the semifinals, but they shouldn't go out on Friday. If New Zealand can even push the match to penalties, it will be one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.
Game Date/Time: Friday, 9:30 a.m. ET
Venue: St. James' Park, Newcastle, England
TV: NBC Sports Network