WORLD CUP PREVIEW
France and Germany are the highest-ranked teams in Groups A and B, respectively, making them the early favorites to advance to the Round of 16.
The hosts are No. 4 in the world and will have the home crowd behind them, as they try to duplicate the fete of the Les Bleus in Russia last year and live up to high expectations in the pool that pundits, arguably, called as “Group of Death.”
A downside for being the hosts is the Les Bleues have never played a qualifying match since 2014. They competed in the Women’s UEFA Women’s Euro 2017, though, and made it to the quarterfinals, but lost to England.
France, which will be making its fourth World Cup appearance, is coached by former player and 2003 World Cup participant Corinne Diacre—the first female to coach a men’s pro team in their country. Diacre will banking on team captain Amandine Henry.
Though Norway (No. 12) is ranked higher than Nigeria (No. 38), the latter is picked to challenge France for the top spot in Group A. The Super Falcons’ ninth title win in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations is enough proof that Nigeria is a threat to the hosts. Add the explosive Asisat Oshoala—voted the best player of the nation for three years and winner of the golden boot award in the FIFA-U20 World Cup—to the equation and you can place your bet on this African team.
Norway has the most World Cup appearances in Group A—making it in all eight editions of the event. It is also the only team in the group that has won the Cup (1995). The Gresshoppene defeated Euro champs, the Netherlands, in a qualifying match to earn a trip to France. Norway, however, was winless in the Women’s Euro 2017.
No. 14 ranked South Korea is the proverbial dark horse in Group A after a lackluster performance in tournaments leading to the World Cup. The Taegeuk Nangja finished only fifth in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and took the last World Cup berth allotted for Asia when they defeated the Philippines, 5-0. South Korea’s powerful weapon in France would be its defense, as it did not concede a single goal in all its matches in the Asian Cup.
Germany is the reigning Olympic champion (2016) and that makes the Die Nationalelf the top pick in Group A. The world’s No. 2 rank team’s 8-for-8 World Cup appearances, three finals stint, and two titles add to Germany’s impressive record.
However, China, Spain, and South Africa just need to look at Germany’s loss to Iceland in the qualifier and struggle in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup and Euro 2017 as motivations that the Die Nationalelf are very much beatable.
No. 13 Spain is the other team favored to make it past the group stage based on its performance in the qualifiers—winning all its eight matches and scoring 25 goals, while giving up only two.
No. 16 China, runner-up to the United States in 1999, will be competing in the World Cup for the seventh time. The Steel Roses were third in last year’s Asian Cup and second in the Asian Game, making the team hungrier for a better finish in France.
No. 49 South Africa has nothing to lose and everything to gain in France, as it will be playing in the World Cup for the first time. The Banyana Banyana made it to the finals of the Africa Cup and only lost to Nigeria after a shootout (3-4).