On 7th June 2019, amidst all the Cricket world cup fever and the climax of the Roland Garros, another one of the year’s biggest sporting events kicks off: the Women’s FIFA World Cup. The tournament, being hosted by France, promises to be a very exciting one, and there are many key teams and players to watch out for. The women’s game is growing fast, and we can expect action-packed high-quality football from this world cup.
The tournament begins with the home team playing South Korea on 7th night and culminates with the final on 7th July. The USA will look to defend their title from 2015, but they face stiff competition. Germany are dangerous title contenders and England could also pose a serious challenge. The host nation France are also among the favourites to win the cup. They will be looking to emulate the success of their male counterparts in 2018 and have the home turf advantage. The French team, Olympique Lyonnaise, has also dominated domestic women’s football recently, winning the last 4 Champion League titles. Moreover, France, Germany and USA have averaged between 3.6 and 4.4 goals per game in their last 5 matches, so these teams are definitely worth following through the competition.
The World Cup will also be a grand stage for some of the game’s biggest superstars, like Dzsenifer Marozsán and Alex Morgan, and possibly the last chance to witness the greatness of legends like Carli Lloyd and Marta. Notably, however, Norwegian Ada Hegerberg, who holds the Balon D’Or and scored a hat-trick in 16 minutes to win Lyon the Champions League final, will not be playing the world cup, due to dissatisfaction with the lack of gender equality in the Norwegian soccer establishment.
Nevertheless, the tournament will surely be an exciting one. Especially in the knockout stage, which starts on 22nd June, where there is unlikely to ever be a dull moment. The group stage will also be made more exciting by the tournament structure. There are 6 groups of 4 teams, and each team plays 3 matches in the group stage. The top two teams in each group advance to the next group, as well as the 4 best 3rd ranked teams. This adds another element of drama, as no team will be eliminated completely until all 3 group stage matches are played. Some key matches to keep an eye on in the group stage are highlighted below:
France vs. Norway (13th Jun): France are the home favourites and serious title contenders. Norway, however, may have a point to prove in the absence of star Ada Hegerberg, and come in with good form after winning the 2019 Algarve Cup (one of the major international tournaments of women’s football).
Brazil vs. Australia (13th Jun): Both Brazil and Australia have very strong squads, boasting stars like Marta and Samantha Kerr respectively. Both teams also come in off strong performances last year in their respective continental championships, and so this game should be a close, exciting encounter.
Japan vs. England (20th Jun): A rematch of the 2015 World Cup semi-final, this game promises to be scintillating. Japan won bragging rights the last time round, ending up tournament runners-up. England comes into this world cup as the 3rd ranked team in the world (versus Japan’s 7th) and will likely seek some payback.
Sweden vs. USA (21st Jun): USA are strong favourites to win the competition and Sweden may be underdogs in this clash, but this is bound to be a tight encounter. Sweden reached the final of the Rio 2016 tournament as dark horses, defeating USA in the quarterfinals to do so. Another upset may be on the cards, but USA will surely look for revenge.
The tournament will be broadcast in India on Sony ESPN, and the action can be followed online.