They saw the American agony. German gloom. And the heartbroken Brazilians.
The upheavals have opened a clearer path to world Cup glory for England – but showed what heavyweights are marks to beat.
“I think everyone who plays against us wants to beat us,” said England coach Sarina Wiegman.
“What we have seen in this tournament is that nothing is easy.”
Caution is therefore the watchword before the shock of the last 16 with Nigeria – without complacency in the face of the record of 11 times African champions.
But there is also optimism in the England camp with Keira Walsh back in training with her teammates after a week of recovering from a knee injury.
England defender Alex Greenwood said: “She always had a smile on her face and we just supported her as teammates as best we could.”
Fears that Walsh may be the latest star to be afflicted with a tournament-ending ACL problem have been allayed.
But if the beating heart of the team returns to the team on Monday will be a late call from Wiegman.
The unpredictability of the potential line-up could benefit England.
A revamped line-up flourished in the 6-1 thrashing of China in the last pool game.
And Nigeria had to prepare for systems dependent on Walsh’s availability.
Last Coach Standing
Tactical acumen and flexibility are why England turned to the coach who took the Netherlands to the 2019 final and then won the Euros for the Lionesses last year.
She impresses while the dugouts, even in the women’s game, are dominated by men.
The Netherlands eliminating South Africa and their coach Desiree Ellis left Wiegman on Sunday as the last woman of 12 coaches still in the World Cup.
“Before the tournament started, we had 20 male coaches and 12 female coaches,” Wiegman said.
“What we hope is that this balance will be restored in the future and we are working on it, at least in England and I know also in other countries, to give the possibility of having more women in the game. and hopefully more coaches in the game as well.”
She turned to Greenwood sitting beside her in the Brisbane stadium.
“I hope in the future not too soon – that she will be a coach at some point,” Wiegman smiled. “And that balance is perfect.”
Wiegman has a fan of his accomplishments in Nigerian coach Randy Waldrum.
“She did a fantastic job with England,” he said.
“You can see the progress of the team. And when I look at a coach and try to analyze, if I don’t know him personally, you can look at his team and you can tell if he has an idea based just in their organization and they seem to have a plan.
“One way they want to play attackingly and they’re organized defensively and you can clearly see that with England.
“They are so disciplined on both sides of the ball. Their attacking movement is very good, especially in the last game, you saw how smooth it was against China.”
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“Pending” Payment Dispute
But England are progressing in Australia with an unresolved pay dispute between the players and the FA.
“At this time, the conversation is on hold,” Greenwood said. “We are here to focus fully on football and we are nothing more than that at the moment.”
A focus that is needed after seeing the American hopes of a hat-trick of World Cup titles aborted by Sweden after losing on penalties.
Brazil and Germany didn’t even make it out of the group stage.
Wiegman said, “What we’ve seen in this tournament is that the game is developing very quickly.”