Preview of the FIFA Women's World CupDate: June 4, 2019
By: Joseph Osei-Bonsu
24 teams; six groups; nine cities; nine venues; but only one winner in the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in France.
Before the June 7 kickoff in Paris’s Le Parc des Princes stadium, let’s look at the various teams with their respective groups that will be participating in this eighth edition of the cup. Group F is spearheaded by the number-one ranked national team and defending champions, the USWNT.
The U.S. are once again the clear favorites to win a fourth title, as well as their group. Alongside Sweden, they should ease past the likes of Thailand and Chile into the next round. This is not to say that Copa America runner-up Chile will be pushovers. But facing quality players like the veteran Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn, Megan Rapinoe and Sweden’s Kosovare Asllani may be too much for the two countries making their debuts.
Group E’s leadership may not just be a showdown between the Netherlands and Canada; but between two top strikers – Canadian skipper Christine Sinclair and Dutch sensation Lieke Martens. Four years after their stalemate in Canada, they still look evenly matched.
The Netherlands are however the current European champions. Cameroon’s World Cup debut in Canada 2015, was a memorable one. With Gaëlle Enganamouit, they will look to emulate their round-of-sixteen run. New Zealand will hope that this fifth time will be the charm for them against the other 23 squads.
Blessed with an abundance of technical talent, it was cruel to see Japan succumb to the sheer power and physique of a Lloyd-inspired USA in the last final. A Steph-Houghton led England side will be seeking revenge for the calamitous way they lost the semifinal to Japan in 2015.
I’m sure Scotland will be looking forward to stopping England’s star-studded frontline of Nikita Parris, Fran Kirby and company. Can Argentina’s female equivalent of Lío Messi, Estefanía Banini, guide her team to a great performance in Group D, after a twelve-year absence?
The Reggae Girlz are the story of this World Cup. This Group C contender will be the first Caribbean team to feature in the World Cup. Their game against Brazil and women’s soccer great, Marta, 33; in what looks like her last World Cup, will be a historic day for Jamaican women’s soccer.
The Italians are back in the field of 24. After twenty years, they will be led out by Juventus captain and inspirational leader, Sara Gama, an Italian of Congolese descent. Fellow Group C favorites Australia, with Brazil, have been tipped by many to have a very good summer; especially, because of NSWL and W-League top goal scorer, Sam Kerr.
Some have called Group B - ‘The Germans and three others.’ Overwhelmingly backed by a wealth of talent in players such as Dzsenifer Marozsan, Alex Popp, Germany are poised to win this group and a third World Cup. But China, Spain and first-timer South Africa will prove to be stern tests if they hope to be successful. Spain will also be eager to showcase how far their football has come. Asian Player of the Year and China’s Wang Shuang, 24, is one to watch in this group.
Group A - the Group of Death - will be without Ballon D’Or Féminin winner and Norwegian attacker, Ada Hegerberg. But it will make up for it in her compatriot, Caroline Graham Hansen; Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala, France’s Amandine Henry, and South Korea’s Ji So-Yun.
France have always stumbled at the big stage in international soccer considering its dominance at the European club level. Hosting the tournament may perhaps be the solution in their quest for a major international triumph. Nigeria and Norway will battle it out for the second qualification spot if only they can secure wins against a tricky opponent in Korea Republic.
Joseph Osei-Bonsu can be reached at email@example.com.