The “friendly” competition is over so to speak at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. It’s do or die time now. Win or go home. Leave it all on the field. So with the final round of group games now finished I thought I would re-cap a few of the for sure victors and some of the biggest surprises so far in the tournament. This year’s group play already provided for a fair amount of surprises, controversy, broken records, and plenty of VAR.
These group toppers should be a surprise to no one. They are all top 10 ranked teams. Their countries’ federations have invested the time and resources to make their women’s sides just as respected and competitive as their men’s sides. Some even more so. (I’m looking at you USMNT)
The biggest surprise of these locks is the Italian team in Group C. They haven’t even qualified for a World Cup since Antonella Carta was captain in 1999. The Matildas were definitely expected to walk away with the first place finish in this group. But the Italians played quality defense and walked away with the upset over the Aussies. And although the Brazilians are not as dominant as they once were, they still have Cristiane and have always been a powerhouse nation when it comes to football.
Second Placers and Straphangers
This is where the fun comes in. And things get a little more difficult. Since this year’s Cup is only a 24-team field to begin with, that means there is a higher likelihood of getting through to the round of 16 than not. The fact that 4 third place finishers will also advance makes things like goal differential that much more important.
What To Watch For
Going into the final games there were few surprises left to be had. Group E and F had both their top teams face off on Thursday for the number 1 spot in each group. Surprisingly Cameroon was able to advance after defeating New Zealand and grabbing their first points of the tournament. The Netherlands and Italy have proven to be teams on the rise and to keep an eye on going forward. After a heartbreaking loss, Scotland failed to advance after Argentina came back to tie the game on a PK that was overturned by the controversial VAR ruling proved that the keeper came off her line to make a fantastic save. (Thank goodness they are making amends to this going forward).
No matter how the balls fall the round of 16 promises to hold more fun, and possible heartbreak, on the world’s most elite level.