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.