Quarterfinal preview: who will advance to play for a medal?
by Andy Potts|11 JAN 2024
Canada's Caitlin Kraemer is out to add to her seven goals so far at the 2024 Women's U18 World Championship.
The competition in Zug steps up a gear as the Women’s U18 World Championship moves to the knock-out round. This year, all eight teams are still in with a chance of a medal as the new tournament format gives more opportunities for everyone to face the highest calibre of opposition. Here’s a run-down of Thursday’s action.


Sweden vs Czechia 1000 CET

It’s an early start for these two teams, which might test Swedish fitness after finishing its preliminary round program on Wednesday afternoon. The group stage ended in a 0-4 loss to Team USA, pushing the Swedes into second in Group B. 

Czechia’s big threat is the Sapovavilova-Plosova partnership – and Sweden’s scoring leader Hilda Svensson is keen to sever that productive connection.

“We need to be on them all the time,” Svensson warned. “I think that’s important. They can lose control if we get on them all the time and they get frustrated.”

The Czechs, meanwhile, targeted a top-two finish in Group A. Blowing a 2-0 lead over Finland in the opening game changed all that. “We should have managed that game and it didn’t work out,” admitted head coach Dusan Andrasovsky. “It’s a shame we don’t go to the quarterfinals from a better position, like we planned. But if you want to be successful, you have to be ready to beat anyone.

“[Sweden] is physically a little bit different from us, but then again I think we have good hockey skills. I believe we will be ready and we will finally get through the quarter-finals.”

Finland vs Slovakia 1330 CET

This could be the closest quarter-final match-up. The teams needed overtime when they met in a warm-up game in December. Hana Krakorova, whose goal against Switzerland gave Slovakia its first win in Zug, certainly believes.

“We played against them a few times and the games were really tight,” she said. “So I think we have a pretty good chance. We'll just try our best.”

Moreover, that recent overtime loss in Chomutov was without Nela Lopusanova, Slovakia’s most prominent goal threat. Throwing her into the equation could tip the balance.

Last year, Slovakia finished sixth while Finland took Canada to OT in the semi-final. But the Finns have not been at their best so far in Zug and suffered a 10-0 loss against the defending champ in the last group game.

Mira Kuisma’s team will point to the impressive form of Emma Ekoluoma – hat-tricks in her first two games here – and the potency of her line with Tuuli Tallinen and Abigail Byskata as a potential game-breaker. Ekoluoma’s goal separated the teams last month and she can further embellish her reputation as one of Europe’s hottest properties in her first World Championship campaign.

Canada vs Switzerland 1700 CET

Host nation Switzerland could be forgiven for fearing the worst after getting a match-up against the defending champion. The Canadians are in imperious form, and Tuesday night’s 10-0 drubbing of Finland highlighted the quality on Tara Watchorn’s roster.

However, this is a rare opportunity for the winless Swiss to take on the best, with the revised tournament format ensuring more opportunities for Trans-Atlantic tests. And that’s a big thrill for the home team, with Tanja Kunz certain there’s nothing to lose: “It’s a chance for us to show the world what we can do!”

Naemi Herzig is under no illusions about the test ahead, but that won’t stop her dreaming. “We need to play sensational to fight against them,” she said. “It will be a tough game, but we need to take experience whenever we play against them and take everything we can out of this game. Hopefully we will score some goals and maybe we can do something big.”

Unchartered territory for Switzerland is familiar for Canada. After powering through the group phase with three wins and a 29-1 goal differential things are looking good in the quest for a first ever three-peat. Chloe Primerano, Abby Stonehouse and Caitlin Kraemer are dominating the tournament scoring, while the defence has allowed just 35 shots on goal through three games so far.

USA vs Germany 2030 CET

After losing to Sweden in last year’s semi-final, Team USA is determined to get back to the gold-medal game this time. A 4-0 revenge win over the Swedes secured top spot in Group B and sets up a QF against newly-promoted Germany.

After powering through the group stage with three wins, the Americans are still looking to improve. Haley Box pointed out one weak spot that might have been punished. “I think I think we're doing pretty good, but maybe just staying out of the box,” she said. “We know we've got [goaltender] Layla Hemp back there and we've got a good PK, but if we're out of the box, it's another player on the ice.”

Germany had a tough time on its return to the top division. However, Hanna Hoppe scored her country’s first goal of the tournament on Tuesday and is adapting to the challenge of facing the best in the world.

“It's very hard because they are so much taller and stronger than us,” she said. “They have so much skill and [good] skating and stickhandling, and it's very hard.”

Meanwhile, head coach Jeff MacLeod is hoping for something special: “Maybe we try something different with our team. Obviously, defence and goaltending are key for us. But it's a hockey game, and anything can happen. And that's how we have to go into it.”