5 Teams to Watch During the Women’s World Cup
The 2019 Women’s World Cup in France has kicked off, and already there is palpable excitement. One of the biggest reasons for the excitement is, of course, the fact that the best talent in women’s football are being showcased at the tournament.
So, let’s take a look at the teams to watch out for who may just go the distance this summer.
Team USA are the defending champions, and they have a talented, experienced squad, currently ranked #1 in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings. There is no doubt that they are favourites to win yet another World Cup title. Team USA’s dominant opening day 13-0 win over Thailand underscores their standing as heavy favourites as they already look like they are going to be hard to beat.
However, The Guardian notes that there are still many reasons why they shouldn’t rest on their laurels. Despite being in great form over the past year and a half, they have shown themselves to be vulnerable to counterattacks due to a playing style that some argue focuses too heavily on attacking. While they have held their own in the past, playing against higher ranked teams in the tournament could expose gaping holes in their defence.
The Lionesses are also one of the favourites to win the tournament, with the BBC’s guide to the Women’s World Cup detailing how England are entering the tournament ranked third in the world and fresh from a recent victory at the SheBelieves Cup back in March. The squad boasts talent in the form of Manchester City captain and centre back Steph Houghton, as well as Barcelona’s Toni Duggan and Chelsea’s Fran Kirby in attack. Given the squad’s depth, it’s no wonder that bwin Football tips England to lift the trophy for the first time in France this summer. Indeed, this summer may see football finally coming home in at least one way.
The team opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Scotland in a controversial match. After a VAR review, Scotland’s Nicola Docherty was penalised in the 12th minute for a handball in the penalty area. Nikita Parris converted the subsequent penalty kick to open up the scoring before Ellen White (40′) doubled England’s lead. They held off a fierce Scotland come back in the second half. It was a win, but The Lionesses will need to play much better if they want to triumph in France.
The host nation has never gone beyond the tournament’s semi-finals and only managed to reach the last eight at the European Championships. Despite this, the squad do have talent in the form of Lyon midfielder Amandine Henry, who is capable of both dropping deep between midfield and defence and also providing an attacking dynamic. While the 29-year old is currently in her prime, having just successfully defended Lyon’s Champions League title, it remains to be seen whether this is enough to replicate the success of the men’s team in Russia last year.
France have two wins to their name so far in the tournament, having beaten South Korea, 4-0, in the opener, and Norway, 2-1. In their last match, it came with some controversy, as France were awarded a penalty kick after a VAR review determined that Norway’s Ingrid Engen committed a foul in the penalty area. Lee Sommers converted the penalty kick to give France their second win.
This ageing squad have proclaimed themselves as favourites despite a recent losing streak that spans nine consecutive matches. The Selecao are hoping to change their luck this time around though, with six-time world player of the year Marta and 27-year old Debinha leading Brazil’s attack.
After beating Jamaica, 3-0, they lost to Australia, 2-3, in an intense and highly physical match. Brazil will need to beat Italy to move on to the knockout rounds without any complications.
Having stunned the USA to win the World Cup in a penalty shootout back in 2011, Japan are no doubt looking to get back to the top. However, while Japan’s defenders are familiar with the expectations of playing at World Cup level, the rest of the squad’s youth and inexperience may be their downfall. Strikers Riko Ueki and Jun Endo are both only 19, while the majority of their midfielders are below 23. Having said that it would be a mistake to count them out so soon; with pre-tournament wins against Brazil and a draw against the USA under their belt, the Japanese squad have certainly earned their place at the tournament.
However, Japan were held to a scoreless draw by Argentina in their tournament opener. That draw might prove costly for Japan, especially with Scotland proving to be a tough proposition and England looming. This means the road to the knockout stage just got a little harder for the 2011 champions, though they are by no means done.
So, two match days into the tournament, Team USA, England, and France have all gotten off to good starts, and have affirmed their standing as favourites, while Japan and Brazil have stumbled a bit. What’s certain, is this tournament is going to be a very interesting affair, which will no doubt go on to help elevate the women’s game even further on a global scale.