With 16 teams having started, only four remain as Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa chase the gold medal at the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup.
Four of the world’s top five teams are left standing at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena as the tournament on the banks of the Mersey reaches the business end.
Defending champions Australia face South Africa, while Tracey Neville’s England are targeting a first-ever World Cup final berth when they take on New Zealand – the only team to stop Australia in the last seven tournaments.
We got the lowdown on all four teams courtesy of the Sky Sports experts in Liverpool…
Dan Ryan puts Australia under the spotlight as the Diamonds look to continue a remarkable record of reaching every final since the tournament moved away from its round-robin format
They will take a lot of confidence out of the players being able to grind out the win when New Zealand were coming and changing, and the Australians had to adapt to get across the line.
They still have got a lot of amazing players sitting on the bench that can provide impact if required. Lisa Alexander used eight players in that game – Paige Hadley came on at WD and replaced Jamie-Lee Price – so there was some good versatility across those positions.
I don’t think that they will be worried but they will be disappointed, and will look at the moments when they had opportunities to push on.
Against New Zealand, in the first half their defensive unit pressure was relentless and they really did eliminate certain players from the game.
Perhaps that pressure wasn’t as intense in the second half and full credit to New Zealand, because they did change a couple of things which opened them up a little bit.
Results Group A W 88-24 Northern Ireland W 73-37 Zimbabwe W 99-24 Sri Lanka Group F W 91-22 Barbados W 74-24 Malawi W 50-49 New Zealand Key Players
The key one for me is probably Caitlin Bassett. She has the potential to be unstoppable if she’s really quite resilient in the way that she plays the game.
With Gretel Tippett sitting on the bench… although she didn’t start, or play against New Zealand, she has the X-Factor to rip open a game in the unique way that she plays.
In their own words
“I think we’ve set ourselves up really well for the finals. We’ve just got to get out there and produce again. Go a little bit harder in that last squad” – Lisa Alexander
“The mindset doesn’t change too much – we go out to play the way we need to play. For us, we need to be able to finish out the moments. [Against NZ] we were able to push out to five and six-goal leads, and we need to use those in our favour to push on again” – Courtney Bruce
Mikki Austin gives us the lowdown on a Silver Ferns team chasing a fifth successive final and a first title since 2003, when they beat Australia in Kingston.
They’re a well-oiled machine. It doesn’t matter who plays where, they can transition so seamlessly in terms of them switching someone on the court or off the court. They all understand their system implicitly and probably about a year or so ago, they really went away from their Kiwi identity.
Notoriously, New Zealand have been this team that are synonymous with their zone defence – hunting ball, being off body and confusing space. That’s definitely not the way that they played a year ago or two years ago.
You can see that now – all over the court, they have the players and the players have the netball IQ to be able to sit off body, come through for ball, or at least go for it knowing that someone else is going to back them up.
I think that the way that their shooting partnerships up the other end are partnering up, it is paying dividends because they can shoot and score from anywhere.
They can be a little bit liable to making some really fundamental errors at key moments. Their only weaknesses are their own decision making when it matters, and also in the Wing Attack position.
England’s Chelsea Pitman, Australia’s Kelsey Browne and South Africa’s Bongiwe Msomi all have strengths and potentially New Zealand are the only nation that do not really have that.
Results Group B W 64-45 Malawi W 78-25 Barbados W 89-21 Singapore Group F W 79-36 Zimbabwe W 77-28 Northern Ireland L 49-50 Australia Key Player
Laura Langman is key to how New Zealand play. She is the most formidable Centre of all time probably, and that match-up with Serena Guthrie will be a monumental battle.
Laura is a stalwart of the game and the experience that she brings in the middle of the court is unparalleled but she works as part of a unit and everybody knows that she is the target player.
It means that everyone that’s coming up against the Kiwi format is targeting to stop Laura, so she can’t be the only person – there has to be somebody else to pick up that workload.
In their own words
“We have still got a little bit to go to be able to put in a dominant performance but it’s a good start. It’s do or die now to try and be in gold medal contention so it was great to go out, get a level of intensity and know what this competition is about” – Noeline Taurua
Tamsin Greenway gives England the once over as the hosts chase a first-ever World Cup title in front of the M&S Bank crowd in Liverpool.
The experience and ability to make a play. We know that Serena Guthrie and Geva Mentor will do the job. There were doubts about Geva coming into this competition, I think that she has had a quieter season at Collingwood but she’s such a big game player, it will never concern me.
She knows how to turn it on, at a home World Cup, she’s the star and she’s shown that. Serena is exactly the same.
It’s not a weakness but we have talked so much about defenders – it’s now about attackers who are starting to step up.
We’ve seen moments of brilliance from the Harten-Housby-Pitman combination; however I still don’t think that they have properly been tested. That is going to be a key part of England’s game.
Results Group D W 64-32 Uganda W 70-34 Scotland W 90-24 Samoa Group G W 56-48 Jamaica W 72-46 Trinidad & Tobago W 58-47 South Africa Key Player
It’s got to be Helen Housby because if Helen Housby can step up for England against the likes of Watson or Kopau, England have nailed it.
Whoever is going to win this World Cup, it is going to be somebody in the attack end that shines and Helen can do that.
In their own words
“I think every nation has a starting seven and a very cemented seven that you can probably predict that they are going to play. I think that it’s the changes that are absolutely key.
“We’ve got to play around with that for what suits us. So those are the things that we have to challenge ourselves with as coaches and you have to do it in games where actually that match-up might not be apparent” – Tracey Neville
Pamela Cookey runs the rule over the Proteas, the world’s fifth-ranked team who are the surprise semi-finalists.
What they did really well, especially in the game against Jamaica, is their team cohesion.
Norma Plummer has done a fabulous job in terms of developing their belief but also their technical skills. They have all been playing individually in the UK or in Australia but she’s managed to bring all of that power and skill level together and make their combinations work so well.
So with Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius in that back, turning over ball for fun, Bongiwe Msomi as the link between the attack and defence, Maryka Holtzhausen and Lenize Potgieter work well together too.
They are harnessing all of their individual skills into that collective team that believes in each other and wants to work for each other.
Weaknesses Results Group C W 76-45 Trinidad & Tobago W 90-35 Fiji W 55-52 Jamaica Group G W 66-36 Scotland W 67-40 Uganda L 47-58 England
When things aren’t working for them, they don’t have that depth, they don’t have anyone that they could bring off the bench to change things up.
When Msomi got injured and Izette Griesel wasn’t up to the pace for that game, that showed up the squad and that is where they struggle. If you can get all seven of their team firing, then they are definitely a danger.
Karla Pretorius is the best GD in the world. She’s smart and what she is really good at is that tight man-on-man.
When I played against her, she hassles you for the whole 60 minutes and then she is key in when she comes off that hassle. Then all of a sudden, you wonder where she is and then she comes up with a flier!
Also she’s great at getting down low, for the bounce pass if people try to sneak round her. Phumza [Maweni] is really good in the air and then Karla is great on the fly as well, you just don’t know [what she’ll do].
In their own words
“It was a dead rubber but we were very nervous [against England], which is understandable as we were going somewhere we haven’t been for 24 years. When you are nervous, you don’t process and we didn’t process.
“What it has done for is now is show us that for the next two games, when the pressure is really going to be there, we need to be able to handle.