The eighth Women’s World Cup got underway last week in Paris, and with the first set of matches out of the way, we’re starting to get a picture of how things are going to play out. The USA have set out their intentions for winning the cup for a third time, while hosts France made a strong showing in the opening game. England share a group with their old enemy (Argentina) and their auld enemy (Scotland), so there are sure to be fireworks there, and there are still plenty of opportunities for surprises still to come. Let’s take a look at how the groups stand after Week 1.
The hosts opened proceedings with a game against South Korea in a packed-out Parc des Princes in Paris on Friday night. The French team were confident and assured, too much for the Koreans to handle, especially in set-piece play. After Eugenie Le Sommer opened the scoring in the ninth minute, Wendie Renard scored twice in the first half from corners, more or less unchallenged in the air both times. This is the first Women’s World Cup to use VAR, and it came into play shortly after the first goal. Griedge Mbock Bathy was judged to be fractionally offside, and her goal was disallowed, but there was no doubting the veracity of Amandine Henry’s shot from outside the box in the 85th minute.
It was a forgettable opener for Nigeria on Saturday, as they gifted Norway with not one but two own goals. Guro Reiten’s shot in the 17th minute was deflected off Onome Ebi’s arm, while Osinachi Ohale failed to deflect a pass across the box in the 37th minute and instead sent it into the goal. They’ll be hoping to regroup for South Korea (at time of writing, they’re 1-0 up, so something is working). Norway will need to be more than lucky if they’re to take the top spot from France.
If there’s a ‘group of death’ in this competition, Group B is it. Spain, Germany, China and South Africa will by vying for the two qualification spots. Spain currently lead, their 3-1 victory over South Africa better than Germany’s 1-0 against China – but they needed an awful lot of luck to get there.
Banyana Banyana, the biggest name on the South African team and the highest scorer during qualifying made a strong start against Spain, floating in a huge shot from outside the box that soared over the Spanish keeper and into the top right corner. However, things swiftly fell apart for the South Africans. The Spanish capitalised on two penalties, the latter of which also resulted in a yellow card for Vilakazi. Substitute Lucia Garcia added a third in the 89th minute, and that was that.
China’s game against Germany was a far closer affair. The two-time tournament winners came close on several occasions but could not find the back of the net. Nor could the Germans, at least not until the 66th minute when 19-year-old Guilia Gwinn fired off a scorcher. They face Spain next, in a match which is likely to decide the top two places in the group.
Despite FIFA’s initial claims that 20 of the 52 matches had completely sold out before the tournament started, they were forced this week to revise that figure down to just 14. In fact, in the first week, only two matches were sold out – the opening game in Paris, and Brazil vs Jamaica in Grenoble. Brazil’s travelling fans at least made it look like a major international football match (as opposed to the paltry 13,000 that England vs Scotland could manage) and the crowd’s support carried their team through.
There was certainly plenty of action in Grenoble, with a penalty (saved) and two of Christiane’s three goals were decided via goal-line technology. There was also a lot going on the Stade des Alpes on Sunday, when Australia took on Italy. Italy started strong, with a disallowed goal from Barbara Bonansea early on. But it was the Aussies that were first to get on the scoreboard, Samantha Kerr making sure on the rebound after her penalty was saved. After that, it was back to the Boansea show, with two legitimate goals in the 66th and 95th minutes respectively. This may end up being the most competitive group in the entire contest.
England are sitting pretty at the top of the table after a scrappy 2-1 victory over Scotland in Nice over the weekend. Nikita Parris opened the scoring thanks to a generous penalty for handball – one of several caused by the new rules regarding ‘body shape’. Ellen White added another just before half time, and with a third goal disallowed, it looked like the Lionesses were romping away with it. But ten minutes before the end, Lisa Evans threaded the needle through England defenders and found Claire Emslie, giving Scotland a consolation score.
There was no such luck for Japan and Argentina in their match at Parc du Princes stadium. Japan made the most of their chances early, with several shots on or near the target. It took Argentina over an hour to get started, their first shot on goal coming after 70 minutes. This is promising news for England, who are the next to face Argentina on Friday.
Group E, or ‘the Ns and Cs’ as we’re calling them around the office (it’s not catching on, if we’re honest) saw Canada face Cameroon while New Zealand took on the Netherlands. Both matches ended 1-0, with Canada and The Netherlands taking the wins. New Zealand were certainly the pluckier of the two losing teams, with some great counter-attacking and long-range ambition. In the end, Jill Roord managed to head one over the line in the 92nd minute. Hopefully, the next few games will produce a bit more in the way of exciting football for the teams in this group. But talking of which…
The previous record for a World Cup drubbing was made in 1982 when Hungary destroyed El Salvador 10-1. That record got thrown out the window on Tuesday night when the USA trounced Thailand 13-0. They’ve come in for some criticism for the way they celebrated each and every goal but really, what else was going to happen? Perhaps it felt excessive to some people compared to a regular game but then in regular games, teams tend not to score 13 times. Either way, the USA have come out and laid their claim to the cup in the strongest possible terms.
The other game in Group F was notable mainly for the ridiculous rainstorm that stopped play in the 71st minute – but also for the two late goals scored by Sweden (last year’s runners up) against Chile (making their debut in the competition). Madelen Janogy’s 94th minute strik was particularly impressive. While they are unlikely to get ahead of the USA on goal difference, Sweden’s game against the Americans next week should be one of the stand-out matches of the entire tournament.
Don’t forget that you can bet on any of the upcoming games on our dedicated Women’s World Cup page. Here, you’ll find all the latest odds, as well as a huge range of other betting options. Check it out today!