After the first round of group games of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we’ve seen some surprises, and some let-downs. Although most teams have managed to get several good chances on goal, the real contenders are starting to emerge and are getting the job done. So what have we really learned after the first week?
The hosts, France, coasted and cruised to victory over South Korea in the tournament opener. They barely got out of second gear, yet still managed to score four goals. Their defence looks sturdy, and they showed chemistry in attack. If they do the same to Norway in their next game, consider France a strong candidate to make the Final. South Korea, on the other hand, struggled defensively but showed flashes of success on the counter-attack. They may struggle to leave with more than a point though.
Norway had a strong first half against Nigeria, and looked comfortable for the whole match. Nigeria gave them too much space and struggled to closed down the Norwegian attack. They also had difficulty getting in front of goal, and while they might get a draw against South Korea, they’ll have a hard time keeping France to less than 4. Norway will also need to step it up to get much further than the first round of knockout games.
Spain beat South Africa in a challenging match, and were barely the better team. South Africa showed promise at times, and were mostly solid in defence, although allowed too many chances to Spain. Spain were gifted with penalties to take the lead, and are far from a sure thing to beat China. South Africa also needs to make fewer errors, but shouldn’t be written off if they can beat China and other results go their way.
Germany, however, won a tight battle with China and look to be the strongest team in the group. China’s defence was tight and organised, and they had multiple chances to take the lead, or even get a goal that would have given them a draw. China is more dangerous than they appear, and with this close result against Germany, will be looking to win their remaining two games. If they tighten up, Germany should also beat both Spain and South Africa, but need to take their chances.
Brazil surprised no-one by beating Jamaica convincingly. It was little more than a warm-up game for them, and they will have more to offer when they play the other Group C teams. Jamaica was lost in defence, and while they managed to get in front of goal several times, couldn’t convert. Jamaica will struggle to keep out both Italy and Australia, who also have strong attacks.
Australia looked to be in control in the first half, but capitulated in defence in the second. They might have strength moving forward, but the defence looked lost and was caught out of position too often. They’ll barely manage to keep up with Brazil, even if the defence tightens up and they put more goals away.
Now that they’ve announced themselves, Italy will also have a tougher time catching Brazil off-guard. There’s a good chance they’ll get the win against Jamaica, which should see them through the group, but they may struggle to move past the next round. Especially if they can’t fix their problem with offsides.
Group D is wide open, with all four teams looking very even. England and Scotland played out a tight match, and while they were able to move the ball around, neither team was able to take control of the match. Both were stout in defence, and closed down their opponents for large stretches of the game. There’s every chance that both teams escape the group, but will need to be more creative if they are to make a deep run.
Japan will probably regret not getting a better result, and it could cost them if they struggle to score against England or Scotland. They controlled the ball, had shots on target, but needed to be more direct in attacking the goal. Their defence is disciplined enough though that they may not concede many goals.
Argentina struggled to get the ball in front of goal, and unless they can figure their attack out quickly, they’ll be relying on some fortune to move out of the group. Although they moved to the ball quickly, and scrambled well in the goal box, they will struggle to win the midfield battle in their remaining two games. Argentina got a lucky result, but there’s no reason they can’t continue to surprise.
The Netherlands showed their attacking prowess throughout the entire game against New Zealand. Yet they couldn’t convert their chances until late in the game, and they relied too much on Martens to create chances. Remaining composed and continuing with the same game plan should see them win the group, but they need to also attack down the wing a bit less, as it became too predictable. New Zealand were barely in the game and held on until nearly the final whistle, but will need to figure out how to move the ball downfield if they are to have a chance of winning a game.
Canada should be frustrated with themselves after shutting Cameroon down. They walked away a single goal, and maybe they were getting the rust off, but they didn’t really look confident in front of goal. They moved the ball around well and were never really troubled, but seemed to be unsure how they were going to take the final shot. Cameroon will take heart that they conceded just one goal, but need to find a better way to transition from defence into attack without turning the ball over.
Sweden struggled to beat the Chilean goalkeeper, who made some excellent saves to keep them in touch for most of the game. They relied too much on attacking down the wing and trying to cross the ball in, and couldn’t find open players in the box. With little trouble in defence, Sweden will need to attack down the middle in future games if they are to pose a serious threat. Chile could see themselves as a third-place qualifier, but have to find a focus point for their attack.
USA ran rings around the Thai team, and everything that could have gone their way, did. They were fortunate to have some deflections that gave them a few goals, and in the second half were scoring at will, led by Rapinoe, Lloyd and Morgan. The Thai defence couldn’t mark the USA strikers, and failed to track their movements properly. It’s hard to see them scoring a goal in the tournament, or conceding less than two in a match. The USWNT will be filled with confidence, but this was little more than a warm-up for them.