First off I have to say that France has done a very good job as host. All but one match has had an attendance of at least 10,000 people and the crowds have been great and enthusiastic. Also the play has been good too. Only one red card so far, and that was a double-yellow. And now FIFA’s groups page include ‘fair play points’ as stats for deciding group rankings. Understandable since it was fair-play stats that gave Japan the qualifying advantage over Senegal in Group H of last year’s men’s World Cup. In addition, two Brazilian players set WWC feats. Formiga became the first player ever to play in seven consecutive Women’s World Cups and Marta set a record of being the first woman to score in five separate editions of the WWC.
Today all the groups have finished playing their second game of group play. Eight teams have their qualifications for the Round of 16 guaranteed mathematically; two wins are a lock. The sixteen others are still unknown. Some groups went as predicted so far. Others have delivered a surprise or two including a few teams most of us underestimated at the start. These third-games will finalize the group-play standings and who will play who in the Round of 16. The Top 2 in each group will have their berths secure. The third-place teams will have to wait until all groups are done to see if they’re among the Top 4 that advance. And both of each group’s third-games will be played simultaneously for the sake of making the contest fair. Those that already qualified, Game Three is important for them too. They may have guaranteed qualification, but their final standing has not yet been determined. Game Three will determine if they finish first or otherwise. It will also determine which game they play and who their opponent will be.
The one thing is right now all sixteen of the teams that don’t have their qualifications guaranteed yet still have a chance in Game 3 to get one of the remaining eight berths. Even those teams that have two losses so far, they can qualify for the Round of 16 by winning their next game and if their goal differentials hold up well. Here is a group-by-group breakdown of those who made it (with countries who are guaranteed to advance in bold), and what the others need to qualify:
Group A: France did it! They had the pressure as hosts to play well. However they won both their matches against Nigeria and Norway to guarantee qualification. In their match against Nigeria, they could simply draw to guarantee first place in Group A.
Norway and Nigeria both have a win and a loss. The only way either of them can overtake France for 1st in Group A is if they both win their games, which will mean Nigeria will have to upset France. Goal differentials will have to decide the rankings. Nigeria would have to win super big over France if they want to top the group.
South Korea may have two losses but it’s not over for them. They could still qualify if they beat Norway and their goal differentials hold up (like beating Norway by four points), along with the added bonus of Nigeria to beat France. If France beats Nigeria, goal differentials in both games will have to decide if South Korea to make it. Sigh, it’s too tough to explain; it’s all about the numbers. Mind you everything will be decided Monday.
Group B: The group was seen to be Germany’s to dominate and it almost looks like they will do it. Germany is the only team guaranteed to be in the Round of 16 after winning against both Spain and China. A simple draw on Monday against South Africa will keep Germany at the top.
However a first-place for Germany even if they lose to South Africa is not guaranteed. Both of Germany’s wins were 1-0. A loss to South Africa could cause Germany to drop to 2nd depending who wins in China vs. Spain and how big the win is. Right now Spain leads over China in goal-differential stats. Spain has been one of the surprises of the Cup so far with their win against South Africa. The winner of Spain vs. China will of course have the edge in group play here, but a draw will have Spain with the advantage of finishing 2nd and China 3rd. Spain could top with a 1-0 win if Germany loses, but for China to top if Germany loses, the win will have to have a two-goal advantage.
South Africa also still has a chance. They would have to win over Germany as well there would have to be a winner in the Spain vs. China game. Also their goal differentials will have to hold up. They’re not trailing as badly as South Korea in Group A. However the games on Monday will set everything in stone.
Group C: To think the last time Italy qualified for a knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup, it was the inaugural WWC in 1991! Now they’re the Group C team that has already guarantee qualification! That came after their surprise 2-1 win over Australia and their 5-0 win over Jamaica. Italy’s goal differentials are so big, both Brazil and Australia will need a win of at least 3 goals to overtake Italy for first. Italy can simply draw against Brazil for 1st place in Group C.
Australia and Brazil may already have healthy chances of qualifying, but it’s not over for Jamaica. Like South Korea in Group A and South Africa in Group B, they still have a chance to qualify if they win over Australia. However it will have to be a super-big win of having at least a four-goal advantage.
Group D: Two wins is what it takes to guarantee qualification to the Round of 16. England is the team of Group D that already has the two wins. With eight teams having lost both their games, that means Japan qualifies due to their win over Scotland and draw over Argentina: the only draw of the WWC so far. Interesting is that the Argentina-Japan game is the one game that ended in a draw. Argentina surprised everyone when they drew 0-0 against Japan: the finalist at the last Women’s World Cup. This may have been Argentina’s seventh-ever Women’s World Cup game, but it was also the first time ever Argentina didn’t lose!
The games on Wednesday will decide everything. England and Japan may have qualified but they just need to draw against Japan to top Group D while Japan needs to win. Japan could finish second if they draw but a loss could put them in third place, depending on the result of Scotland vs. Argentina. If Argentina wins, they will get third-place at the very least and a guarantee of qualification. If Scotland wins, they will get a third-place finish since Argentina has 0-1 in goal differentials.
Group E: If two teams have two wins, their Top 2 finish in a group is already guaranteed. The Netherlands and Canada are those two teams in Group E. Their game on Thursday against each other will decide 1st place. The Netherlands can clinch it in a draw due to better goal differentials. Therefore Canada needs to win if it wants to top Group E.
Meanwhile it’s not over for Cameroon or New Zealand. A win for either will give them their chance for a wildcard berth, but goal differentials will have to give them their advantage. One thing’s for sure: with Cameroon ahead in the stats, a draw will rob Cameroon of any chance of advancing as four third-place teams are already guaranteed better finishing stats.
Group F: Group F is like Group E where the Top 2 teams have won both their games. That means Sweden and the United States guaranteed their qualification for the Round of 16 today. The United States really made history in their 13-0 win against Thailand as the most goals scored in a single WWC match. Alex Morgan’s five goals ties her for the record of most individual goals. You can understand why that goal from Thailand’s Kanjana in their 5-1 loss to Sweden meant so much.
The match of Sweden vs. USA is pretty much a competition for a first-place finish of Group F. Simply with their big win against Thailand, the US just needs to draw to finish first; the goal differential is just that wide. Sweden however needs a win and nothing less to finish first.
For Thailand and Chile, it’s like Group E that either one still has a chance. It’s whoever wins in the Thailand vs. Chile match. Even Thailand is not out, although its chances of qualifying are the slimmest of the slim. If they win, it will have to be if there’s a draw in the Cameroon vs. New Zealand game of Group E and a draw in the Scotland vs. Argentina game of Group C. Thanks to that big loss to the US, their goal-differentials are so huge, those two draws on those two games are the only way Thailand can advance if they win against Chile. Chile doesn’t have that bad of a goal-differential situation, but they still need a win and nothing less to have a chance at qualifying.
And there you have it. That’s a wrap-up of what’s needed to finalize everything in the Group Stage of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. It will all be decided from Monday to Thursday. There won’t be a dull moment.
I only have faint memories of seeing the 1991 Women’s World Cup — the very first Women’s World Cup — on television. Whatever the situation, the Women’s World Cup has grown considerably over the years. So has the sport of women’s football. Canada 2015 definitely had a lot to do with the boost. It had the most attended WWC ever with 1.35 million. France is hoping to boost the sport as well, especially in Europe. Back in 2017, the Women’s Euro in the Netherlands had over 247,000: the most ever for a Women’s Euro. Will France 2019 have a bigger attendance than Canada 2015? They’re aiming for it. They already have almost 1 million tickets sold, last I heard.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup begins today over in Paris’ Parc des Princes at 21:00 Paris time. French singer Jain will be performing at the opening ceremonies. The first match will be France vs. South Korea in front of a crowd of almost 50,000. I know I’ve delivered previews of each group. Here’s a list of all the groups along with the hyperlinks to each group blog along with my predictions of those who will qualify to the Round of 16:
Group A: France, Norway and Nigeria
Group B: Germany and China PR
Group C: Australia, Italy and Brazil
Group D: England and Japan
Group E: Canada, Netherlands and New Zealand
Group F: USA, Sweden and Chile
Also a couple of little things to preview:
VAR IS BACK
Back in Russia 2018, there was a lot of talk about VAR: Video Assistant Referees. Here in France, VAR is back to assist with the games. The fifteen VAR officials were announced last month.
Of course before the start of a major event, you have to focus on the mascot. The mascot was unveiled a little more than a year ago and her name is ettie. While the Gallic rooster is the national bird of France, ettie is a chickadee. Not just any chickadee, she’s the daughter of Footix: mascot of the 1998 Men’s World Cup that France hosted. FIFA described her as a ‘young chicken with a passion for life and football.’ the name ‘ettie’ is short for étoile: the French word for star and it’s based off of the star Footix received when France won the World Cup in 1998. According to FIFA:
“Footix cast his star far into the night sky so it could shine brightly, and after a few years of travelling through the cosmos it came back to him in the form of his twinkling daughter, ettie. Footix knew immediately that ettie was very special, not only because of her sparkling personality that would radiate happiness and joy to everyone she met, but because they shared a real passion for football. After many years of playing football together, Footix realized that ettie was a dazzlingly talented and fearless player.”
And there you go. That’s my post as the Women’s World Cup begins. As things lead on, I will be posting my predictions for the knockout rounds once the contenders are all decided. Stay tuned for a lot of excitement.
Also those of you Canadians who want to relive memories of the 2015 WWC, I’ll repost my blogs of my World Cup experiences:
ettie revealed as Official Mascot for FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019. (12 May 2018). Retrieved from <https://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/news/ettie-revealed-official-mascot-france-2019>
I know I haven’t talked too much about the actual Women’s World Cup event itself. I plan on doing that in my wrap-up blog where I repost the links to my group focuses the day the tournament begins. In the meantime I have one last group to focus on.
The crazy thing about Group F is that it consists of one of the more unknown rivalries: US vs. Sweden. How is it a rivalry? In 2015, the US and Sweden were in the same group and they drew 1-1. At the 2016 Olympics the US met Sweden in the quarterfinal. They drew again at 1-1, but Sweden won on penalty kicks. Now they meet again in Group F. Their game on June 20th should really be interesting. Anyways here I go with my review of Group F:
-United States (1): The US seems like they were born to win. They’ve been at all seven previous Women’s World Cups and finished in the Top 3 each time, as well as winning three times including the last WWC in 2015. They’re even household names: Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Brandi Chastain, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan. However they do have weaknesses. That was exposed by Sweden at the 2016 Olympics. Their quarterfinal loss to Sweden at the 2016 Olympics marked the first time the US women’s team failed to win an Olympic medal.
The last twelve months have been a case of the US showing their continued dominance as they won twenty games, including against Brazil, Australia, Canada, Japan and China. They also had a draw against Japan and Australia as well as England. Their only loss came to France back in January. The United States come to France with the biggest expectations of all teams and they just could do it for a fourth World Cup.
-Thailand (34): Back during Canada 2015, Thailand came to the Women’s World Cup with some of the lowest expectations. They didn’t advance past the Group Stage but they did score a 3-2 win against the Ivory Coast. They’ve had some continued success as they made the Top 4 of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup for the first time since 1986.
Thailand is a team that wants to grow and get better. However they are going to face some serious challenges. Their play records the last twelve months has not been the best. Their only win this year has been 4-0 against Hungary. They’ve racked up losses against China, Japan, Italy, France and Mexico. It’s part of the struggle to get better. France 2019 is another opportunity for Thailand to learn and improve itself for the future.
-Chile (39): Chile is the fourth and last newbie of the Women’s World Cup teams. They did that by coming second to Brazil at the 2018 Copa America Feminina for the first time since 1991. Their second-place finish also gives them a good chance at qualifying for next year’s Olympics, provided they beat the second-place team from the African trials.
Chile last won games back last year, but their wins were against South Africa and Australia. Since then, Chile has endured losses to Italy, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Colombia and Germany. France 2019 is a good opportunity for Chile to get some good experience. They could even pull an upset win just like Thailand did back in 2015.
-Sweden (9): It’s come to be that Sweden has become the US’s ‘Achilles Heel.’ Their record against the US is 7 wins, 11 draws and 20 losses. Sweden has actually had it very good in the last four years. Right after their surprise quarterfinal win against the US, they would go on to win the silver medal. They would also win the 2018 Algarve Cup. However they are fallible as they only made it to the quarterfinals of the 2017 Women’s Euro.
Team Sweden has shown a lot of strength over the last eighteen months. They’ve racked up wins against Canada, Denmark, Norway, England and Switzerland. They only had four losses, but they were against Germany, Portugal, Italy and Ukraine. If Sweden’s on, they could just have their best showing ever here at this Women’s World Cup.
MY GROUP PLAY PREDICTIONS:
You think with the USA in this group predicting would be easy. However I will go with my best hunches and predict the USA to top this group with Sweden second. For third, I will take a chance and predict Chile.
And there you have it. Those are my predictions for Group F. Now that I’ve predicted all the groups, I will give a summary and a reference page of my links just hours before France 2019 starts.
Of course the group I’m most interested in is the one which Canada’s in. And Canada has some strong challengers like Cameroon, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Just because Canada comes as one of the top-ranked teams, it doesn’t mean they will waltz their way to the Round of 16. However many players of Team Canada are saying they believe this to be their best team ever. Midfielder Desiree Scott agrees: “You’re always going into these major tournaments wanting to win the World Cup, I think all teams want to say that. I can say, personally, I know this World Cup we say we want to win, but it’s the first time in many years that I truly believe we can.”
Whatever the situation, Group E promises excitement as the other three teams have pulled upsets before and are capable of pulling an upset here in France. So without further ado, here’s a look at 2019 WWC’s Group E:
-Canada (5): It was losing all three games at WWC 2011 that really changed the Canadian team. In came coach John Herdman who helped them all become better players and even won Olympic bronze in 2012. They had continued success at the 2015 Women’s World Cup where as host nation, they made it to the quarterfinals and even delivered Canada’s first WWC win of a knockout match since 2003 (which I saw live). At the 2016 Summer Olympics, Canada won bronze again. Canada also won the Algarve Cup that year and last year, they finished second at the CONCACAF championships.
In 2018, John Herdman was moved to the Canadian men’s national team. taking his place is Danish coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller who was assistant coach the previous five years and even coached Denmark’s national team at the 2007 Women’s World Cup. The team has a mix of young and experienced players like captain Christine Sinclair, midfielder Sophie Schmidt, defender Kadeisha Buchanan who won the Best Young Player award at the last WWC, midfielder Julia Grosso, and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe. Canada has not has a single loss in 2019 accumulating wins against England, Scotland and Norway and drawing against Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. However in 2018, they did have losses to the United States, Germany and France. If Canada’s on here in France, they could just get Canada’s first Top 3 finish, or even a win!
-Cameroon (46): Cameroon come as underdogs to the tournament, but don’t be fooled. Cameroon qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics and at the previous Women’s World Cup in Canada, they progressed to the Round of 16! At the last three Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon has had two runner-up finishes and their most recent being third.
In Cameroon’s games this year, they won against Croatia, but lost to Spain and China. Most of the team’s play has been against Cameroonian clubs and Spanish clubs. Despite being unknown how well they do, Cameroon could pull an upset in France. Plus you can trust the Cameroonian communities in France giving them a big boost in the crowds.
-New Zealand (19): New Zealand is a team that should not be taken lightly. Sure, they have it easy in qualifying with getting the Oceania berth ever since Australia transferred to the AFC. However they’re more capable than you think. They may have never won a game at the Women’s World Cup, but they have won two games at the Olympics and even qualified for a quarterfinal in 2012. They’ve also made the Top 4 of three of the last four Algarve Cups.
These past twelve months, New Zealand has had some good key wins against England, Mexico, Norway and Argentina. However they’ve also had losses to Japan, Australia, South Korea and the USA. However don’t count New Zealand out as a possible contender here in France. They may try for their first WWC win here, but they can achieve a lot more too.
-Netherlands (8): If there’s one team that can prevent Canada from topping Group E, it’s the Netherlands. Netherlands surprised everyone at the previous Women’s World Cup when they not only qualified for the first time, but made it to the Round of 16. At the Women’s Euro in 2017 which they hosted, they won. This was one of only two times Germany didn’t win the Women’s Euro. And to boot, they made it to the final of the 2018 Algarve Cup.
In the last twelve months, the Netherlands has continued to play well. They’ve had wins against Mexico, Australia, Switzerland and Denmark, even draws against China and Switzerland. They’ve also had losses to Spain, Poland and Norway. 2019 can be a new chapter for the Dutch team.
MY GROUP PLAY PREDICTIONS:
I have to go with my best hunches here and pick Canada to top the group with the Netherlands second. The way things look right now, I’m picking New Zealand for third.
And that’s it for my look at Group E. One last group to review before the 2019 Women’s World Cup begins!
van Diest, Derek. ‘Canada bringing its best to FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.’ Toronto Sun. 3 June 2019. <https://torontosun.com/sports/soccer/van-diest-canada-bringing-its-best-to-fifa-womens-world-cup-in-france>
Group D makes for an interesting lot: England and their opponents. First Scotland because I’m sure there’s some rivalry. Plus there’s talk of a possible Great Britain team for women’s football at the 2020 Summer Olympics. But before any talk of possibility, one of the two teams will have to be among the Top 3 UEFA teams at this Women’s World Cup in order to earn an Olympic berth. Then start talking! Also the opponent of Argentina, mainly because of the ‘hands of God’ goal. Hmm. Do qualms of men’s football get transferred to women’s footfall? I can’t say. Then there’s Japan. If you remember at the semifinals at the last WWC, defender Laura Bassett accidentally scored a last-minute own goal in the English net to send Japan to the 2015 final. Bet that still bites.
Anyways it could turn out Group D is not all about England. All four teams have their own qualities. Here’s my review of Group D:
-England (3): England is a country that has long seen football as a man’s game. The women’s team is changing that and they have made a lot of improvements in recent years. At the last Women’s World Cup, despite Laura Bassett’s costly fumble, they won the bronze-medal match. They made it to the semifinals of Euro 2017 losing to eventual champions Netherlands. This year, they won the She Believes championship in the United States.
The Three Lionesses have had a lot of ups and downs since March 2018. They’ve won matches against France, Spain, Brazil, Denmark and Japan. However they’ve also lost to Sweden, Canada, United States and New Zealand. 2019 could end up being their best Women’s World Cup ever if they deliver each and every time.
-Scotland (20): Scotland is a team that is just starting to get experience and starting to make a name for themselves. However there are a lot of signs that bigger and better is yet to come. This may be their first WWC, but they had their first Euro in 2017. They didn’t advance past the Group Stage, but they did beat Spain. Also they finished 5th in this year’s Algarve Cup.
Scotland even topped their WWC qualifying group, beating out Switzerland who qualified for 2015. These past twelve months Scotland have had losses to top teams like Canada, Norway and the United States, but they’ve also had wins against Iceland, Brazil and Jamaica. Scotland could end up being one of the surprises of France 2019.
-Argentina (37): Argentina may have one of the most legendary men’s team but football for women is slow to progress. They’ve only been in two Women’s World Cups, 2003 and 2007, and lost all their games. They also lost all their games at their only Olympic appearance in 2008. Argentina’s first win of the Copa America Feminina was back in 2006. There are signs of future improvement as Argentina finished 3rd at the Copa Feminina last year.
In the last twelve months, Argentina’s wins have all been against national teams from South America. They’ve had losses to Australia, South Korea and Brazil. Argentina comes as one team with low expectations. This Women’s World Cup could be a learning experience for them, or they could pull some of the biggest surprises this WWC. Only time will tell.
-Japan (7): A lot of the talk in this group is about England. You should not ignore japan. Japan won the 2011 Women’s World Cup and was a finalist at the last WWC. They also won Olympic silver and two straight Women’s Asian Cups during that time. However they did have some setbacks as they failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
In the past twelve months, Japan’s play has had a lot of ups and downs. They won matches against Brazil, Norway, New Zealand and South Korea. They even had draws against Spain, Germany and the United States. However they’ve also had a loss to the United States as well as to Brazil, Australia and France. This Women’s World Cup will be a chance for Japan to add another chapter to their team’s story.
MY GROUP PLAY PREDICTIONS:
This was not an easy guess. I predict England to top Group D. Second will go to Japan. Third is tough to decide but I feel I best go with Scotland.
And that completes my look at Women’s World Cup Group D. Just two more groups to review. I guess I’m doing better than I thought!
You can’t talk about the Women’s World Cup without bringing up the state of women’s football and its participation levels around the world.
We all know that in international football, men’s football is dominated by countries from Europe and South America with the occasional African surprise while most North American teams (except Mexico) and Asian teams struggle. In women’s football, it’s the opposite. It’s where the North American and Asian teams have their day in the sun while the teams from Europe, South America and Africa are working to catch up. FIFA is putting in the effort to increase participation in women’s football, especially in those countries. I remember during World Cup 2015 there were a lot of exhibits and booths promoting women’s football and aiming for an increase. A country like Canada is an excellent place to promote this because North American and many Asian countries promote football to girls as much as they do to boys. In the future, I think more girls from developing countries will be able to have access to playing football. Also who knows? Maybe Europe and South America will someday reach the standards of Canada, USA, China and Japan? And don’t forget Africa. They could have a WWC breakthrough soon.
Moving on, here’s my focus on the teams from Group C. I find it interesting that two teams that met in a Round of 16 match at WWC 2015 — Australia and Brazil — are meeting this time in the group stage!:
-Australia (6): If there’s one team that knows how to show improvement, it’s the Matildas. In fact they showed it at the 2015 World Cup by beating Brazil in their Round of 16 match: their first ever knockout-game win. Australia made it to the quarterfinals at the Olympics too with their best scoring result. They’ve also been runners-up at the last two AFC Women’s Championships.
Australia has been getting better at dealing with their opponents. In the past twelve months, they’ve won against top ranked teams like Brazil, Japan and South Korea and even drew against England and the US. They’ve also had a loss to the US as well as the Netherlands and France. Australia has a lot to prove and they could just do it here in this World Cup.
-Italy (15): The Azzurre have a long way to go to catch up with the legacy of the Azzuri. They’ve never qualified for the Olympics and the last time they competed in a Women’s World Cup was in 1999. On top of that, the last time they qualified for the quarterfinals of the Women’s Euro was back in 2013. 2017 was a case of out in the Group Stage.
Since qualifying for the WWC, Italy has made a lot of improvements as a team. In fact in 2019, they have not had a loss. They’ve amassed wins against Chile, Mexico, Hungary and Switzerland and draws against Poland and North Korea. Italy is another team whose potential is unknown but could surprise us in France.
-Brazil (10): Brazil is a team that has experienced a lot of ups and downs over the years. Back in the previous decade, they showed themselves to be a nation on the move by being a finalist at the 2003 World Cup and winning Olympic silver medals in 2004 and 2008. However things have gotten to a downturn. They were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the 2011 WWC and in the Round of 16 in 2015. At the Rio Olympics, they looked like they were well on their way to gold in the Group Stage, but finished fourth.
Even Brazil’s play record in the last twelve months has been questionable. Their only win outside of South American teams has been to Japan. They’ve endured losses to big-name teams like Australia, USA, Canada, France, England, Spain and Scotland. This could mean they’re going through a troubling time right now, or maybe they’re ‘playing possum.’ That will all be decided in France very soon. Also this looks to be Marta’s last Women’s World Cup. Hopefully she’ll have a good ‘last hurrah.’
-Jamaica (53): The Reggae Girlz are coming here for their very first World Cup. Remarkable because there have been many years Jamaica wouldn’t enter a women’s football team for the Women’s World Cup, or not even the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. The women’s team have shown a lot of improvement lately as they finished third at last year’s CONCACAF championships.
In the last twelve months, Jamaica has won against Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica and Chile. They’ve drawn against Panama and South Africa, but they’ve had losses to Scotland, the US and Canada. Whether they go far or lose out in the Group Stage, this Women’s World Cup will be a great place for experience and development of the Jamaican team.
MY GROUP PLAY PREDICTIONS:
I’m tempted to go with my best instincts and pick Australia to top this group, but a surprise as Italy to come in second with Brazil third. That’s how it looks right now. We’ll see how it turns out very soon.
And there you have it. Those are my predictions for Group C of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Hard to believe I’m halfway done. And I didn’t even publish my first Focus until Friday! What a relief I’ll be completed before the start.
One thing about football is that there is normally a lot of foregone conclusions on who will win the Cup and who don’t have the best chances. Those are not all guarantees. Even the best teams can bomb out sooner than anyone expected. And I will be getting to that very shortly in my blog. In the meantime, I will be focusing on Group B today. It’s easy to assume one team will win the Cup, but upsets are bound to happen. So without further ado:
-Germany (2): Germany has been seen as one of the best women’s teams consistently. They’ve been in all seven previous World Cups and won twice. In 2016, they won their first Olympic gold medal after three bronzes. They’ve been in the Women’s euro all ten times and won eight. However it’s not to say they’ve had some inconsistencies too. The last World Cup where they finished in the Top 3 was their winner in 2007. Also a year after winning Olympic gold, they were beaten in the quarterfinals of Euro 2017 by Denmark. Even the best have an Achilles heel.
If there’s one thing, Germany has been consistent in play in the last twelve months. They’ve won against Canada, Italy, France and Sweden. They’ve also drawn against Japan and Spain. Chances are if Germany’s on target, they can make this World Cup #3.
–China, People’s Republic of (15): China is another team that experienced big success when women’s football started establishing itself in the 1990’s. They dominated in the 90’s, but have been set back in recent years. There was even a brief time at the beginning of this decade, they didn’t qualify for either the World Cup or the Olympics. Recent years have shown an improvement with China as they made the Round of 16 at the last World Cup and the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympics.
China’s last twelve months have had a lot of ups and downs. They’ve had wins against teams like South Korea, Cameroon and Russia. They even tied the Netherlands at the Algarve Cup. However they’ve also had losses to France, Denmark, Norway, Japan and the United States. France 2019 will be the place for them to show the world what they’re made of.
-Spain (13): Spain’s women’s team is a team just starting to enter the stage of women’s football. In fact their appearance at Canada 2015 was their very first WWC. It was a learning experience for them as they left with two losses and a draw. In the women’s Euro, they did have one semifinals appearance all the way back in 1997. They were able to qualify for the last two Euros and finish in the quarterfinals both times. However the most recent Euro was another case of scraping by as their only win came against Portugal.
In the last twelve months, Spain has shown that they’ve made a lot of improvement. They may have lost to Poland, England and the United States, but they did achieve draws against Canada and Germany, and they also won against Finland, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Brazil. France is the arena for them to prove themselves once more.
-South Africa (49): South Africa is one of four teams making their Women’s World Cup debut. South Africa has competed in the Olympics twice in 2012 and 2016. South Africa has also been runner-up five times in the CAF Women’s Championship.
South Africa will be coming to France with a lot to prove. They’re one of the lowest ranked teams in the world competing in France. In 2019, they have yet to win a game, enduring losses to the United States and the Netherlands. However they did draw against Jamaica and Sweden. It’s quite possible South Africa is just a team that hasn’t proved themselves and France 2019 could be the domain to show how much they can do.
MY GROUP PLAY PREDICTIONS:
This is one of the easier ones to predict. I’ll have to say I predict Germany to top with China in second. I anticipate Spain to take third.
And there’s my take on Group B. I aim to have all my takes on the groups completed by Wednesday. Which means I’m planning Group C’s focus tomorrow. Stay tuned.
It does seem like yesterday when Canada hosted the Women’s World Cup. It was the most attended and most viewed Women’s World Cup ever. I also had fun in seeing the exhibits and even a Round of 16 game.
Now it’s France’s turn to host the Women’s World Cup. The television audience is expected to be bigger, the crowds at the stadiums are expected to be bigger, and women’s football as a whole is expected to be bigger. Eighteen of the 24 teams at this year’s World Cup played in 2015 and four will be making their debut this year. Lots of excitement is expected to happen. As for hosting, France has nine stadiums set to contest the matches. All of them are over 20,000 capacity. Three of the stadiums contested matched during the 1998 World Cup and three during the 2016 Euro.
So without further ado, let’s focus on World Cup Group A. FIFA rankings of teams as of March 2019 are in brackets:
-France (4): France is a team waiting for their first ever major international moment. Their best Olympic finish is fourth in 2012, their best World Cup finish ever is fourth in 2011, and they’ve never made it past the quarterfinals of a Euro ever!
France appears ready to deliver a strong result here in WWC 2019. For their Group A teams, France has won against South Korea and Nigeria in the past, but never played Norway. France however has delivered some excellent results in recent months with wins against top-contending teams like Australia, USA, Japan, China and Brazil. Their only loss this year came to Germany. It looks like France is ready to show the world and this could finally be their chance!
-South Korea (14): South Korea is a team not to be underestimated. Sure, they’ve never qualified for an Olympics, but they did achieve a Round of 16 result at the last World Cup and they have had a third-place finish at the Women’s Asian Cup.
South Korea has had an uneven play records these past twelve months. They’ve endured losses to China, Australia and Sweden. However they’ve had wins against New Zealand, Argentina and Romania. Expectations are low for South Korea here, but don’t underestimate them. They could be one of the big surprises in France.
-Norway (12): Norway was one of the great teams when the Women’s World Cup was starting. They won the second WWC back in 1995 and the second-ever Olympic gold in women’s football back in 2000. Returning to their glory days has been a struggle. The last Olympics they competed in was in 2008. They have finished runner up in the 2013 Women’s Euro only to lose out in the Group Stage in 2017.
Norway has a record these past twelve months of ups and downs. The lost to Australia, Sweden, Japan and Canada, but they’ve also won against China, Scotland, Denmark and 2017 Euro winners The Netherlands. Norway even won this year’s Algarve Cup. Norway could just well be on their way to a comeback.
-Nigeria (38): Nigeria leads the pack in terms of African teams in women’s football. They’ve won the CAF Women’s Championship all but two times. Nigeria is searching for its first major international breakthrough. The best they ever did at a WWC was a quarterfinals finish 1999. Their best Olympic finish was the quarterfinals of 2004.
Nigeria has had a challenging year losing to Canada and China, but they’ve also had wins against Slovakia and Romania. Nigeria could be one team that can pull an upset.
MY GROUP PLAY PREDICTIONS:
France looks to be the top team of the group. They will qualify strongly. Norway looks to be the team to come in second. As for third, I’m thinking of going with Nigeria. This can be anybody’s to take.
And there’s my first take on the teams of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. There’s still more to come as we’re leading up.
Holding this year’s Academy Awards has been a load of chaos going even as far back as August. The struggle had as its focus the record-low ratings of last year’s Oscars. Hey, when they keep on giving Best Picture to films with low grosses, they have that struggle coming. First there was an attempt to include a new category: Best Popular Film. Derision from critics, filmmakers and the public quickly rose and the category was dropped within a week. Then there was having Kevin Hart as the host. That seemed like a good idea, until he said something homophobic in his comedy. He apologized and even some celebrities came to his aid, but the hostility did not die. That meant no host this year: only the second Oscars to be hostless. Then came the procedure two weeks ago of four categories to be awarded during commercials with the presentation broadcast on livestream. Filmmakers and fans shouted their derision online and that led to the categories assigned back on broadcast.
All I can say about the ceremonies is what a headache for the organizers. The big question may not be ‘who will win what’ but ‘can they do a winning Oscars without a host?’ There has been one hostless Oscars in the past — the 61st in 1989 — and they went off very well despite the highlight being an unforgettably cheesy song-and-dance number with an awkward Snow White singing and dancing with Rob Lowe. This year’s hostless Oscars have yet to bee seen, but there have been other awards shows where there wasn’t a host.
The surprises weren’t just about the ceremony itself. The surprises were in the awards race too. One big shocker was a NetFlix film being a heavy favorite. Another was most of the Best Picture nominees snubbed in at least one category that effects their Best Picture standing: like in acting, directing, writing or film editing. Only BlacKkKlansman had nominations in all. Another was the double-snub of Emily Blunt in both acting categories to actresses of Roma that didn’t have as big of awards clout. Another was films with outside chances like Cold War and The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs garnering nominations. Guild awards provided other lopsided results too like SAGs giving snubbed-out Emily Blunt the Best Supporting Actress award, and the Writers Guild of America giving Bo Burnham the Best Original Screenplay award. With only days to go there’s still no clear favorite for Best Picture. Not even The Favourite!
However the awards results and the pictures themselves do give a good sense on who just could win. So without further ado, here are my predictions for who Will Win the Oscars as well as a Should-Win pick where I feel necessary. Also hyperlinks to my reviews are included.
This year’s eight-pack of Best Picture nominees are quite unique and exhibit a lot in diversity. One is a film predominantly in Spanish. One is a superhero movie. Two are music-based. Three begin with the letter B. Three have African-Americans as their dominant or central characters. Five have some reference to LGBT people. All have a lot of awards clout and have paved their way successfully to their nominations. So here is my rundown of the Best Picture nominees:
Black Panther – The 21st Century is best remembered so far as the heyday of the superhero movie. For so long, people have waited for a superhero movie to get nominated for Best Picture. In fact the number of Best Picture entries was expanded past its traditional five when The Dark Knight didn’t get nominated. Finally a superhero movie is nominated. I can’t think of a better choice than Black Panther. It has all the qualities of a Best Picture contender — acting, directing, writing, and a lot more — but its buzz fell fast when its only other nominations were technical ones. I don’t think it will win.
BlacKkKlansman – Isn’t it something how Spike Lee went from boycotting the Oscars three years ago to becoming a nominee this year. Spike Lee has had a career with a lot of ups and downs. Ever since Do The Right Thing, he has struggled to get his greatness back. His success however has paved the way for other African American directors. BlacKkKlansman brought him back into major action. I consider this a top contender for the Best Picture award, but not necessarily the winner.
Bohemian Rhapsody – This film has all the ingredients of a Best Picture contender, especially a performance by the lead that will blow you away. The film also has a very critical weakness. That being the original director is an alleged sex offender. That may not hurt Rami’s chances for Best Actor, but it robs any and all chances of a Best Picture win for this film.
The Favourite – What’s the Oscar race without a timepiece set way back being a top contender for the Best Picture award? The Favourite is just that movie, and one of only two movies with ten nominations. The film has the ingredients to win Best Picture. However some may find the story too tempestuous and the film too eccentric to win the biggest award of the night.
Green Book – Overcoming racism has been a central theme in many a film in this year’s Oscar race. This is a film that may not be historically accurate, but it does make for a good film from start-to-finish with a good message. Much of it is true as Tony Lip’s son was the scriptwriter. It’s tight but I give this my Will Win pick.
Roma – This film is a thing of beauty. I can sum it up like that. For the record, no film predominantly in a foreign-language has ever won the Best Picture Oscar. I have a feeling that could rob Roma of the biggest award that night. However this is a close race and anything can happen. That’s why I give it my Should Win pick.
A Star Is Born – When the Oscar season began, this film had the biggest buzz. Especially with it being Lady Gaga’s big screen breakthrough. The film has all the ingredient for a Best Picture winner. However, this is a film that’s been done three times before. I don’t think the Academy is willing to give the Best Picture Oscar to a reboot.
Vice – If you remember The Big Short, you’ll see how Adam McKay lampooned the banking system and the games they were playing just as they were about to lead the US to its biggest recession since the Great Depression. Here McKay lampoons the American political system and how Dick Cheney played a major role in the political climate we have today both as Vice President and while holding other office. It’s as entertaining as The Big Short, but not as good. That’s where I feel Vice falls short in the Best Picture race.
Should Win and Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
If you see Roma, you will see it’s more than just two women transformed in a changing time in Mexico. You will notice it’s a piece of Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood. He creates a masterpiece so beautiful and intimate, not even the images of the dog droppings can ruin its beauty. It’s a masterpiece of a film and I feel Cuaron deserves to win again.
Should Win and Will Win: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Thirteen of this year’s twenty acting nominations are for performances of people that exist or have existed. In no other category is that best represented than in the Best Actor category. Bradley Cooper’s is the only nomination of a fictional person here. It’s a tough call between Christian Bale as Dick Cheney or Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. I have to go with Malek because his performance was more dead-on while Bale’s was intended to be cartoonish in the way Adam McKay wanted it. Besides those that saw Bohemian Rhapsody will say Malek got the spirit of Freddie to a tee.
Should Win and Will Win: Glenn Close – The Wife
How far back was Glenn Close’s first Oscar nomination? Back in 1982 for her performance in The World According To Garp. Her performance in The Wife is her seventh nomination. Many people will claim that she will win the Oscar on career culmination. I’m sure Lady Gaga fans will have their own trash-talk on social media for her when she wins (Monsters indeed!). However those who have seen The Wife will admire her acting for how her character hides her true intentions and true feelings and you can see it. As expected, Glenn delivers.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Should Win and Will Win: Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Ever since he stunned audience in Moonlight as the crack dealer with a soft spot for the young boy, Mahershala Ali has been on a roll. I still remember in his acceptance speech, he said the advise his teacher taught him: “It’s not about you. It’s about the character.” He delivers again as Don Shirley. Another winner.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Should Win and Will Win: Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
This is a category with jam-packed with top contending performances. It’s tough to pick a favorite. However I have to go with Regina King for playing the mother in Beale Street who goes all out for her son-in-law’s innocence.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
Will Win: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara – The Favourite
The originals have the edge over the adapted this year, but the results are all over the map. Green Book has the Golden Globe, First Reformed has the Critics Choice, The Favourite has the BAFTA, while the Writers Guild award went to Eighth Grade which was snubbed out. This must be the major category that’s hardest to predict. I was tempted to go with Roma, but I have to pick The Favourite.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Should Win: Barry Jenkins – If Beale Street Could Talk
Will Win: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
In all frankness, I think If Beale Street Could Talk was the best film by an African American director this year. James Baldwin would have been proud of Barry Jenkins’ adaptation. However I think the major buzz is for the four writers of BlacKkKlansman for creating a clever story that’s very thought-provoking.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Should Win and Will Win: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
This year, animated movies continued to draw crowds and families. However it was once again another year that couldn’t compare to 2016. Near the end of the year, the two biggest movies were sequels: Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks The Internet. Just when it seemed lackluster, Spider-Verse came and was more entertaining than the others. Deserves to win here.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Will Win: Ruth E. Carter – Black Panther
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Will Win: RBG
BEST FILM EDITING
Will Win: Hank Corwin – Vice
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Will Win: Roma (Mexico)
BEST HAIR AND MAKE-UP
Will Win: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney – Vice
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: Nicholas Britell – If Beale Street Could Talk
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Should Win and Will Win: ‘Shallow” from A Star Is Born
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Will Win: Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton – The Favourite
BEST SOUND EDITING
Will Win: A Quiet Place
BEST SOUND MIXING
Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Will Win: Black Sheep
JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS
Here are the six upsets I feel are most likely to occur. In category order:
- Roma wins Best Picture
- Spike Lee wins Best Director for BlacKkKlansman.
- Christian Bale wins Best Actor for Vice.
- Amy Adams wins Best Supporting Actress for Vice.
- Łukasz Żal wins Best Cinematography for Cold War.
- Cold War wins Best Foreign-Language Film.
And there you have it. My predictions for the winners, and possible upsetters of the 91st Academy Awards. The end result of a hostless Oscars has yet to be seen, as well as the ratings results. But the winners have yet to be seen too, and that should be the most important thing. It will all be decided Sunday night.
The Wife is another summer release I missed out on seeing at the box office. Ever since its Oscar chances for Best Actress, it sparked my interest. I’m glad I saw it.
The film begins in 1992 with Joan Castleman and her husband Joseph just waking up. Joan appears to be the happy wife of a renowned author. They receive the news that Joseph has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Both are overjoyed, at least on the outside. At the party to celebrate, their daughter Susannah, who’s having a baby, is happy, but son David is less so. David has desires to be a writer, but seems to consider his talent inferior to his father’s. Especially since he’s hesitant about hearing his father’s critique of his short story. As Joan and Joseph fly to Stockholm, a reporter named Nathaniel Bone tries to congratulate Joseph. That only causes discomfort for the two, but you notice a certain bitter feeling in Joan. A bitterness that grows even further whenever he acknowledges Joan in public.
The film goes frequently from 1992 to the past to back to 1992. In the flashbacks starting in 1958, Joan Archer is a writing student at her university. Her writing and her looks have impressed a young Joseph Castleman who’s a college professor. Joan refutes his advances at first, but things change when she works at a publishing company and hears from her boss Elaine Mozell that female writers don’t have a chance at competing against men. Joan continues to attend more classes with Joseph teaching and his encouragement wins her love to him. Joseph tries to make it as a writer while Joan just wants to be a housewife. But when Joseph’s writing is declined by publishers, Joan starts tutoring him. By 1968, it’s a case where Joan ghostwrites novels Joseph is to be credited with while he plays ‘househusband’ to the kids. Over the decades after many novels, and adulterous affairs, the narcissistic Joseph has become a Nobel Prize winner.
Back to Stockholm, Joseph and Joan are put in a hotel with all of his books present. Joan appears to be excite over seeing all of his books published in other languages. Later, Joseph meets with many important people leading up to the Prizes ceremony. Joseph has a heart condition that comes without notice and requires medication, as noticed during the ceremony rehearsal. One night, Joseph is lured away by a young female photographer named Linnea. Joan leaves, unhappy with what she saw. Nathaniel notices an unhappy Joan in the hotel lounge and invites him to drinks. Nathaniel reveals he’s been studying up on Joseph and has gotten the sense that it was Joan who was doing all the writing. Joan tries to call them lies and tell him to go away. Meanwhile Linnea comes onto Joseph. Joseph accepts, but his heart condition acts back up. Both confront each other about what was going on, but the heated argument ends when they receive a phone call learning of their newborn grandson.
The night of the ceremony occurs. before the Awards, David arrives. He confronts the two about what he heard from Nathaniel Bone. The two deny everything. As Joseph receives the Prize, Joan’s bitterness grows first at the Prizes ceremony and then at the dinner banquet. In the limo to the hotel, they get into a heated argument which causes Joseph to give the prize to Joan, only for her to refuse it. The argument continues on as Joan throws books at Joseph and tells him she’s divorcing him. Joseph goes into a heart attack. It’s apparent it’s fatal. As Joseph is dying awaiting paramedics, Joan tells Joseph she loves him. Joseph’s last words to her are “You’re such a good liar.” On the airplane home with David, Nathaniel Bone acknowledges the loss, but Joan’s response, and the film’s ending, will surprise you in a subtle way.
This year’s Oscars appear to be full of films with social messages. This film has a message about sexism in the arts. We have Joan who wants to write, but it’s Joseph who takes the credit for it. It’s not that uncommon as I once read a 1975 book called The People’s Almanac and they had an article in their chapter on literature titled “She Wrote It, He Got The Credit.” We shouldn’t forget that the time Joan chose to ghostwrite for Joseph was back in the early 1960’s. Female writers may have better chances not, but it’s still hard. Don’t forget J.K. Rowling went by her initials instead of Joanna Rowling with that belief she won’t be taken seriously as a writer. The story is very similar to Big Eyes as Margaret Keane ‘ghostpainted’ under the name Walter Keane because of the sexism in art. I think that explains why Joan was very willing to ghostwrite for Joseph back then. Because she felt the only way she can show her writing to the world was under a male name.
Nevertheless the film is more about the story and the woman rather than the social message. Joan is a woman who appears to be happy on the outside and very in love with her husband. However as each passing moment and instance comes up, Joan’s hidden anger of being the true writer and the wife of an adulterous man becomes more obvious in her silence. You had the feeling that Joan would explode any minute and her true feelings would show. It happens right there after Joseph wins the big prize. However the thing about Joan is that she is willing to keep her peace after his death and make the truth known to just David and Susannah, but hidden from everyone else including Nathaniel Bone. It takes a person of that much self-control underneath the hidden rage to have that much strength to let things be.
The story itself is pieced together very well. We have that moment in 1992 in the days from when Joseph’s award is announced to his eventual death. We also have the past where Joseph and Joan meet, and then become the ‘writing pair’ over time. We also have Joseph being lured to Linnea which would unravel another dirty secret. The film does a good job in moving scenes from 1992 to back in the past to returning to Stockholm to returning to the past and so on. The quality is that it keeps the audience in the wonder. You have the audience thinking one thing at first, sensing something’s wrong later on, and then finding out the truth near the climactic end. That’s an excellent quality because it provides the film with the mystery to keep the audience intrigued.
This is the first English-language film directed by Swedish director Bjorn Runge. He does a very good job of directing the film and the story. I have never read the novel The Wife, but scriptwriter Jane Anderson does a very good job in adapting Meg Wolitzer’s novel into a story to keep the audience intrigued. The highlight of course is Glenn Close’s acting. The best thing about the performance is not just how she delivers, but how she’s able to keep so many things hidden in her character only to come out at the right time. You could see the hidden hurt and disappointment in her character and that was the best quality. Acting is more of what’s unsaid than said. However the film is not only Glenn’s. Jonathan Pryce also delivered well as the husband who can’t confront his problems right. Annie Starke, daughter of Glenn, did a very good job of playing the younger Joan. She did a good job of showing Joan’s disappointment that early in her life, but mix it with her willingness. Max Irons, son of Jeremy Irons, played David very well, butI was not happy about seeing him have a role where he appears like he’s always hurting.
The Wife is more about the character than the social message. However it’s also about the story that makes it so intriguing to watch.