Editorial — Twenty-four teams now have homes within a group for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The stage is set for the 2019 tournament, which will last from June 7 until July 7. On Saturday in Paris, the FIFA Women’s World Cup draw took place in the host nation of France. Teams were placed in six different groups, from four different pots, based off of their FIFA ranking. Per rules, no group was to have more than two European clubs.
Before we get to the key takeaways from the Women’s World Cup draw, here is a look the official groups for this summer’s World Cup.
1) The USWNT has the easiest group stage
It couldn’t get easier if it tried.
For the fifth-straight time in eight FIFA Women World Cup appearances, the United States will face off against Sweden. There is some history between the two sides. Sweden is the reason the USWNT did not repeat as Olympic gold medalists in the Rio Olympics in 2016.
However, other than that match, the United States has an easy group stage.
In Group F, the United States and Sweden are joined by Chile and Thailand. There’s not a lot of history between the USWNT and Thailand. The two sides last met in September 2016, with the United States capturing a 9-0 victory.
Meanwhile, this past year, the United States and Chile met. The USWNT captured both victories with 3-0 and 4-0 wins, respectively. Next year’s World Cup will be the first-ever appearance for Chile in the tournament. As for Thailand, the team made their first-ever World Cup appearance in 2015, finishing in 17th place.
Unless Chile produces some form of magic, or Thailand has an almost entirely new crop of players, the United States will surely move on to the knockout round. However, in the men’s World Cup this past summer, Germany, the reigning champion, got knocked out in the group stage. In soccer, anything can happen.
But, it’s highly unlikely that the USWNT will not roll through the group stage once again.
2) What’s really the Group of Death? B or D?
There are some really tough groups in this World Cup.
The French didn’t get any favors. The host nation will have to face off against big-name teams like Norway — who have Ballon d’Or winner, Ada Hegerberg — Nigeria and South Korea. Easy to say, the hosts will need to have a flawless group stage to avoid home soil disappointment.
However, there are two tougher groups in my eyes.
If there was a set Group of Death in this World Cup, it would be Group B. Germany, China, Spain, and South Africa are the four teams that make up the group. For South Africa, they have the chance to surprise, with the tournament being their first-ever World Cup appearance.
Meanwhile, Germany has talented players like Dzsenifer Marozsán, a finalist for the Ballon d’Or award, and Alexandra Popp, who isn’t afraid to get physical. Spain recently celebrated the success of their youth in the U-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup. There is pressure on the Spanish to get out of the group stage, as they failed to enter the knockout rounds in 2015, finishing last in their group.
Then, there’s China.
China has been a dark horse team in international soccer. In recent friendlies against the United States, China has been a thorn in the side of the Americans. The Chinese kept a close match in the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup. However, it was against the Chinese that the United States lost their winning streak on home soil.
The two sides faced off this year, with the United States taking two close victories.
If the two teams meet again in France next summer, don’t be surprised to see a stunner. China is well-coached, under the leadership of Jia Xiuquan, who took the job in 2018. There is a large veteran presence, with only one player under 10 appearances in the last roster call-up.
China can make a lot of noise in this tournament.
3) Can the Netherlands win this whole thing? Yes.
The Netherlands is another dark horse team.
They might not have names that most fans will recognize, but they are led by Lieke Martens, the 2017 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. Now, the team is coached by Sarina Wiegman, FIFA’s Women’s Coach of the Year in 2017, and Vera Pauw.
The Netherlands won the EURO Tournament in 2016. After a perfect group stage, which included victories over Denmark, Belgium and Norway, the Dutch blanked both Sweden and England. In the final match against Denmark, the Netherlands obtained victory, 4-2.
That wasn’t an easy tournament.
The Dutch showed a ton of grit, having three of the top five scorers on their team. Vivianne Miedema scored four times while Martens and Sherida Spitse tallied three goals. Now, this coming summer, the Dutch will look to extend that dominance against 23 other teams.
There was already some success in 2018 to help boost momentum. The Dutch claimed victory in the Algarve Cup, which is held every year in Portugal. Meanwhile, the Dutch came in second place, just behind Norway, in World Cup qualifying. A decisive 4-1 victory over Denmark ensured the nation’s ticket to the World Cup.
Just like Thailand, the last World Cup cycle was the first-ever appearance for the Dutch. After coming in 13th place in 2015, the Dutch are primed to move up the ladder this time around.
There is little doubt that this team can’t win the whole thing.