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2019 FIFA WWC: My Prediction for the FINAL, And Third-Place Playoff Too

ettie

I have to say this Women’s World Cup has been excellent. It won’t break the attendance record set by Canada back in 2015 but it has already surpassed the 1 million mark. The support for the teams has been outstanding with the various football federations shouting their support and some of the biggest male football stars supporting their teammates. Play has also been excellent as there’s American Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White chasing the golden boot with six goals each. Also there’s only been four expulsions: only one of which was an instant red. So this is a Women’s World Cup France should be very proud of.

THIRD-PLACE Playoff:

Few people are willing to make a prediction for the Third-Place playoff, or the match I call the ‘bronze medal match.’ However I’m one who is willing. Here’s how I look at it:

Head-To-Head Stats:

England and Sweden have faced off against each other 24 times before in the past. Sweden has won thirteen times, England won three times and they drew eight times. Their last match against each other was on November 11, 2018 which Sweden won 2-0.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

England fixedEngland: Women’s football has really grown a lot since England finished third at the last Women’s World Cup. The team they fielded looked like one that could pose the best challenge to the United States. Unfortunately it was not to be as the US beat them 2-1. To add insult to the injury, the US’s Alex Morgan appeared to do a tea-sipping gesture after scoring the winning goal. Many have taken this to be an insult to the English.

It’s difficult to say if England will win. They will have a lot of their top stars like Ellen white and Lucy Bronze ready to play for the game, but Millie Bright won’t be after her double-yellow red card. Phil Neville knows that he will have to get his team ready for the match on Saturday. England have already gotten this far. Perhaps they can give their team one last feat.

Sweden FixedSweden: Before the semifinal, I’m sure most of you predicted Sweden to beat the Netherlands. I mean Sweden had the clout. They’ve been to every Women’s World Cup since it began in 1991. They’ve finished in the Top 3 three times before. They’ve even beat the Netherlands way more often than they lost to them. However things did not go according to plan. Before the match, Fridolina Rolfö received a second yellow card during the match against Germany which meant she will miss the next match. The Netherlands turned out to be a more formidable opponent than they expected. Regulation play resulted in no score. Then there was the goal from Jackie Groenen in the 99th minute. Then there was the shocking injury to Kosovare Asllani where she was carried off on a stretcher.

Sweden came to the tournament with a lot of energy. They won big and were able to rebound after a loss to the United States. Their trip to the WWC semifinal was not easy as they overcame teams like Canada and Germany that had bigger expectations. However they were brought to a halt by the Netherlands in the semifinals. They could win the third-place match or they could lose it. It depends if their players are all in top condition and they attack more than they did on Wednesday.

My Prediction: England have the star strikers, while Sweden has a strong team unit. Sweden will have a one-woman advantage in this game after Bright’s expulsion. Asllani may not be recovered from her injury, but Rolfö can be brought back in play. I will predict Sweden to win 2-0.

THE FINAL

FIFA WWC

This is it. The final for the Women’s World Cup. One team has been their four of the previous seven times and won three times including the last contest in Canada. The other team is only competing in its second Women’s World Cup and won its first-ever knockout match right here in France. So this is quite the quantum leap for the team. So here’s the low-down:

Head-To-Head Stats:

The USA and the Netherlands have met only seven times before. The only time the Netherlands won before was their first meeting all the way back in 1991. The last time the two squared off against each other was in 2016.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

United_States_SoccerUnited States: The United States is the team that is most expected to win this Women’s World Cup. They’re the defending champs from 2015. They’re ranked #1 in the World. They have some of the biggest stars in women’s football who are seen as trailblazers. However they have also earned naysayers too. It all started when they won 13-0 against Thailand and celebrated after each goal. Many thought it was disrespectful. Then Megan Rapinoe made headlines for taking a knee during the play of the Star-Spangled Banner. She followed that by saying she won’t be going to the White House to a reporter. Most recently, Alex Morgan made England fans mad when she celebrated her game-winning goal by doing a tea-sipping gesture. Despite the negative press, they’ve delivered each time. They’ve won all their games, scoring 24 goals and only conceding three.

The only barrier I can see the US would have en route to winning the Cup is them being overconfident. They’ve played very well: better than any other nation. However they showed in their Round Of 16 game against Spain they could give it all away. They won 2-1, but on two penalty kicks from Rapinoe. They did come back in the QuarterFinals against France winning 2-1. However they should not go to the Final thinking they’ll roll over the Netherlands. The Netherlands has surprised all their major opponents here in France. For the US to win, they have to be on the ball and take the Netherlands seriously.

Netherlands FootballNetherlands: Before Women’s Euro 2017, people did not expect much of the Netherlands. Why should they after they finished in the Round of 16 in Canada 2015 and failed to qualify for the Olympics? However they surprised everybody by winning all their games and would win the final by beating Denmark 4-2. This made it the first Women’s Euro since 1993 that Germany didn’t win! Here at this Women’s World Cup, expectations were good but not that big. Canada was expected to top Group E, but the Netherlands did it by winning all their games, including beating Canada 2-1. Then in the Round of 16, they were pitted against Japan whom they lost to in Canada 2015. This time the Netherlands won. They were pitted against Italy in the quarterfinals and won 2-0. Then came Sweden who was more expected to win the game. It started with nil-nil after regulation, but a goal from Jackie Groenen in the 99th changed it all. Now it’s the Netherlands in the final.

What can I say? The Netherlands have silenced their critics. Especially those who dismissed their win at the Women’s Euro as host-country luck. These past six matches show that the Netherlands have earned their place in the WWC Final. However the United States team has more seasoned players and have consistently shown to be a stronger team unit with more know-how of the game than the Dutch players. Now don’t get me wrong. I think the Netherlands can win against the USA, but they will have to play like they’ve never played before, both as individuals and as a team unit, and take advantage of any American weak-spots once they find them.

My Prediction:

I hate to side with the majority so instantaneously, but I think the United States will win this 4-1. I hate to peeve off Oranje fans, I could be wrong, but the Netherlands simply making it to the final already shows how much women’s football has improved there.

And there you go. That’s my prediction for the Final of the Women’s World Cup, as well as my prediction for the third-place match. To think it will all be decided by Sunday. What a month it’s been!

 

 

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2019 FIFA WWC: My Predictions For The SemiFinals

Womens Cup

It does seem odd that I post my predictions for the semifinals on Canada Day, especially since Canada is out of the tournament. In fact the two teams that Canada lost to in France, Netherlands and Sweden, are squaring off in the second semi-final! Sometimes I think that sends a message of how good Canada was as a team; that the teams they lost to got this far. We shouldn’t forget that both teams beat other top teams in the knockout rounds too; Netherlands beat 2015 finalist Japan in the Round of 16 and Sweden beat 2016 Olympic champs Germany in the quarterfinal. Other top teams like Australia, Brazil, China and France are out too. Pele always says: “Football is a box of surprises.”

WWC SemisAnyways enough of who are out of the tournament and let’s focus on the four that are still standing. The US is the only one of the four that have won the Women’s World Cup in the past, two have been to the semis at least once before, and one team is there for the first time ever. Three have won all of their games in this WWC while one had a loss in group play to a team that’s also in the semifinals. Both semifinal matches will take place at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon: the same venue that will hold the final for the Cup. So here’s a look at the four teams in both semifinals and my predictions:

SEMIFINAL #1: England vs. U.S.A.

Head-To-Head Stats:

The only time the US and England met head-to-head at the WWC was back in 2007 which the US won 3-0. No doubt after that, England decided to get better. In the past five years, the two meet five times before: four of those times at the new She Believes Tournament. Of the five times, England won once while the US won three times. Their last meeting was at this year’s She Believes Tournament. England won the tournament, but drew against the US 2-2. The US was the only team England didn’t defeat.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

EnglandEngland: This makes it only the second time England has reached the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup. The only other time was back in 2015. England’s appearance in the semis allows Great Britain to qualify a women’s team to the Tokyo Olympics. England won all their games in the Group Stage with Scotland being the only team to score a goal against them. England especially wanted to get revenge on Japan whom they lost to back in 2015. England continued looking like a tough team to beat with 3-0 wins against Cameroon in the Round of 16 and Norway in the quarterfinals. England have been earning their strong share of supporters like Wayne Rooney, Prince William, various BBC personalities and even the public with chants of “It’s coming home!” Many English who never cared about women’s football in the past are now paying attention!

England have been looking like a strong opponent all tournament. However they do have their imperfections. They’ve lost to major opponents early in tournaments. Also they’ve had losses to top-ranked teams in the past 12 months. England will have to be on-target if they’re to win here in France.

United_States_Soccer

United States: In all eight Women’s World Cups, the United States has been present. In all eight Women’s World Cups have they made it as far as the semifinals. In the Group Stage, they appeared invincible in their 13-0 win against Thailand and continued looking impressive with a 3-0 win against Chile and a 2-0 win against Sweden. Then in the knockout rounds, the US appeared to lost its edge after a 2-1 win over Spain in the Round of 16: both goals being penalty kicks delivered by Megan Rapinoe. Also it was Rapinoe who made the most controversy when she took a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and even said in an interview about a White House-dinner if the team wins “I’m not going to the ******* White House.” It was an intense three days between the whole fiasco and their game against France. The team had since stood with Rapinoe and what she said. What happened against France was the team responded with a 2-1 win: both goals scored by Rapinoe.

The US came as the team with the most expectations to win and has been one team that has best delivered so far. However this World Cup is all about endurance and who is the strongest at the end. The US went all out in the Round of 16 but appeared to give way when they played against Spain. They can’t afford to do that in their semifinal against England on Tuesday. Not after how well England has been playing. Don’t forget they went easy at the 2016 Rio Olympics and found themselves out without a medal.

My Prediction: Last time England played the US, it was this year in February and the result was a 2-2 draw. I anticipate the game will be a 1-1 draw with the United States winning on penalties.

SEMIFINALS #2: Netherlands vs. Sweden

Head-To-Head Stats:

This is the first time the Netherlands and Sweden will meet on the Women’s World Cup stage. They met once before at the Women’s Euro in 2017 where host-nation Netherlands beat Sweden 2-0 in the quarterfinals en route to winning the championship. In total, Sweden has beat the Netherlands more often in the 21 previous times that they met: ten times in total. Six times the Netherlands won while five games ended as draws.

Team-By-Team Analysis:

Netherlands Football

Netherlands: Isn’t that something how a team that has only competed in their second Women’s World Cup is now in their first-ever semi finals? Actually the Netherlands’ woen’s team was not taken too seriously until they qualified for their first Women’s Euro in 2009. There they finished third and showed that the women’s team has a lot of promise ahead. Back when they made their WWC debut in Canada 2015, they finished in the Round of 16 losing 1-2 to eventual finalists Japan. However the Leeuwinnen have really taken off in success. Back in 2017 when they hosted the Women’s Euro, they won! They would also continue their winning way by topping the 2018 Algarve Cup (based on stats). The Netherlands would be the team that toughed it out in the FIFA playoff rounds for qualifying for this Women’s World Cup.

The Netherlands have overcome a lot to be in this semi. They were successful in winning all their games in the Group Stage, got revenge on Japan 2-1 in the Round of 15 and beat Italy 2-0. They have overcome a lot to prove their Euro win was no fluke. However they have had a history of losing out to key opponents. They’ve lost to teams like Spain, Norway and Poland in the last eighteen months. The Netherlands have done very well together, but they will have to be on if they are going to beat Sweden in the semifinal.

SwedenSweden: While Netherlands are rookies at being in the WWC semifinals, Sweden have been there before. Three times to be exact with the last time being a third-place finish in 2011. Like the US, they’ve also competed in every Women’s World Cup. Here in France, they’ve been showing a lot of great team play and a lot of great play together. That has helped them in every game and even surpass major favorites like Canada and Germany. The one thing about Sweden is that needs to continue its team strength or else it will fall apart. And it has fallen apart in major tournaments in the past, like WWC 2015 and Euro 2017. This game could be Sweden’s triumph or Sweden’s choke.

Sweden are a team that know how to rebound when you least expect it. At the 2016 Olympics, they received their biggest defeat in the team’s history by losing to Brazil 5-1 in group play only to draw against them in the semifinals and defeat them in penalty kicks. Sweden would go on to the gold-medal match, but lose to Germany. The funny thing is it’s at this very Women’s World Cup where they got their revenge on Germany: in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win. Here’s another thing to chew on: Sweden lost in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Women’s Euro to the Netherlands. Will they get revenge here? And if the US win their semi, will Sweden get revenge for group play by beating them in the final?

My Prediction: Sweden may have won against the Netherlands more often, but Oranje have won their last two meetings. Netherlands may ave won all their games, but Sweden have performed better as a team. I predict Sweden to win 2-1 in added extra time.

And there you have it. Those are my predictions for the 2019 Women’s World Cup semifinals. Hard to believe the final is just six days away! May the best team win!

 

 

2019 FIFA WWC: REVISED Predictions For The Quarterfinals

WWC QF

Did I say that I won’t be doing any predicting until the semifinals? I changed my mind. Normally I would let my predictions I made back on Friday stay as is, but the Round of 16 matched made me rethink a lot of things. Not simply because I got two quarterfinalists wrong — I’ve been wrong in Round of 16 predictions before and shunned them aside — but because of the play of teams in the Round of 16. Here they’re showing more of their strengths and weaknesses and it’s better to tell who will win.

So I will try to make a new set of predictions for the quarterfinals. Interesting how all six teams that topped their group won their Round-Of-16 match. Also interesting how seven of the eight quarterfinalists are European teams. The USA is the only non-European team that won their Round of 16 match. What did it? Jetlag to all those other teams? The same curse on the men’s World Cup that has prevented any non-European team from qualifying for a World Cup semifinal on European soil since 1998? Bad reffing? Or is it because the European teams are simply the most there? You be the judge. Anyways that’s the way it is and here’s how I predict for the quarterfinals:

NorwayNorway vs. England fixedEngland: Already for Norway, this is their best WWC result for them since 2007. They won their match against Australia, but on penalty kicks. They will be hard-pressed against England. Don’t forget it was England who ended Norway’s Women’s World Cup run in 2015 with a 1-2 in the Round Of 16. Don’t forget England looked good in their 3-0 win over Cameroon. I will have to go with England here.

France fixedFrance vs. USAU.S.A.: The U.S.A. looks like they struggled in their game against Spain. They won 2-1, but it was on penalty kicks from Megan Rapinoe. They appeared invincible in their 13-0 win over Thailand, but don’t forget football is opponent vs. opponent and results can differ greatly. France may have won 2-1 over Brazil, but it was in added extra time. So they showed some vulnerability here.

France may have won over the U.S. 3-1 in a friendly back in January, but this is a different day and a different meet. I think the U.S.A. will win, but in added extra time.

Italy ficedItaly vs. Netherlands FixedNetherlands: Italy, in its first Women’s World Cup in 20 years, but won their first-ever knockout round game against China 2-0. This is also the Netherlands’ first time ever winning a knock-out match at the WWC, and it was up against Japan: last year’s finalist. Both teams also looked great in their group play. Netherlands won all their games while Italy only lost to Brazil.

This is a tight call between the ‘Cinderella team’ of the tournament and the 2017 Women’s Euro winner. Don’t forget both teams will already have their best-ever result at the Women’s World Cup. I will have to say Italy as they’ve won over the Netherlands in head-to-head competition more often.

Germany fixedGermany vs. Sweden FixedSweden: Isn’t that something that this quarterfinal looks like a rematch of the 2016 Olympic final? Germany is one of five teams entering the quarterfinals with straight wins. Sweden’s only loss came to the U.S.A. in group play. Germany was very convincing in their 3-0 win against Nigeria. Sweden may have won against Canada 1-0 but they proved the can be a strong team.

I predict it will be Germany that wins as they have appeared the strongest. Also because they haven’t conceded a single goal in the tournament. And also Germany has won against Sweden more than they’ve lost in head-to-head competition.

And there you have it. My new predictions for the quarterfinals. Funny how watching play gives you second-thoughts. Right now I’m tempted to predict that the WWC final will be the U.S.A. vs. Germany. But it’s wrong to jump the gun. So let the play decide!

2019 FIFA WWC: Predictions For The Round-of-16 And Quarterfinals

ettieThe Group Stage has been contested. Those 36 games delivered a lot in terms of excitement and thrills. There were even surprises. Who would have thought it would be Italy that would top Group C? Also we knew the USA would beat Thailand, but who expected a score of 13-0? Also it’s interesting to note that none of the debut teams qualified for the Round Of 16, but they deserve respect. Chile was the one debut team that achieved a win and Scotland was the debut team that scored the most goals. Even Jamaica and South Africa gave themselves their first-ever WWC goal.

Whatever the situation, the 24 at the beginning had to be reduced to 16 and now that it’s decided, it’s off to the knockout rounds.

ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS

Makes better sense that it be called the Round of 16 than the ‘Eighth-Finals.’ With this being a contest of 24 teams, the Round of 16 is a case where the Top 2 teams from each group plus the four best third-place teams qualify for this round. By the time all the second-games were played, it became evident that four game points, the equivalent of a win and a draw, guaranteed qualification. However there would still be at least two teams with a win and two losses that were lucky enough to qualify. Anyways all the qualifiers have been decided as well as who plays who. Interesting how eight European teams and eight non-European teams qualified. Also interesting how each Round of 16 game is a case of a European team against a team outside Europe. Interesting.

Here are my predictions with my winner prediction bolded:

Norway (Group A 2nd) vs. Australia (Group C 2nd): This is hard to tell. Norway have been playing well despite France showing their weaknesses. Australia have performed well but they too faced exposure of their vulnerability thanks to Italy. I give it to Australia not just on play here, but also because Australia beat Norway in a game last year.

England (Group D Winner) vs. Cameroon (Group B/E/F 3rd): England made it through Group D with straight wins. Cameroon made it through by winning their last Group E match against New Zealand. They’re lucky they were able to score again after that own-goal. I’d say this game is England’s to take.

France (Group A Winner) vs. Brazil (Group C/D/E 3rd): France hopes as host nation they’d win all three of their Group Stage games and they did. Brazil won two games and lost to Australia. Because of goal differentials, they finished third in their group. For the winner here, I’ll pick France because Brazil has never won against France.

Spain (Group B 2nd) vs. U.S.A. (Group F Winner): One of the big surprises of this WWC was Spain. They won against South Africa, drew against China and only lost 1-0 to Germany. The US winning Group F was no surprise, but their 13-0 win over Thailand was! For this match, I expect the U.S.A. to win. We might even see another big score!

Italy (Group C Winner) vs. China (Group A/B/F 3rd): China qualifying was not a surprise. Italy topping Group C was a surprise. Especially since they surpassed more lauded teams like Australia and Brazil. It’s hard to predict who will win since China last played Italy back in 2008. I’d have to say Italy because they’ve been better at scoring at this Women’s World Cup.

Netherlands (Group E Winner) vs. Japan (2nd. Group D): This is a tough call. We have the finalist at the last WWC playing against the winner of the 2017 Women’s Euro. I will have to go with The Netherlands because they have been better at winning and scoring at this Women’s World Cup.

Germany (Group B Winner) vs. Nigeria (Group A/C/D 3rd): The reigning Olympic champions Germany have won all their group play games. Nigeria only had a single win, but hung on to qualify. I’m going with Germany because of their consistency.

Sweden (Group F 2nd.) vs. Canada (Group E 2nd.): This is interesting as both teams finished second in their group and both did it with two wins and a loss. Both are Olympic medalists from Rio: Sweden the silver medalist and Canada the bronze medalist. I’ll go with Canada, but to win on penalty kicks.

QUARTERFINAL PREDICTIONS:

Provided my predictions for the Round of 16 winners hold true, here are my predictions for the quarterfinals:

Australia vs. England: Australia has only won once in their five meetings with England. I will have to go with England here.

France vs. U.S.A.: The USA appears invincible but keep in mind France beat them 3-1 in a friendly back in January. I’m going with France, but in added extra time.

Italy vs. The Netherlands: Italy may have been a surprise but I think this is where things are going to run out and thing will go in the advantage of the Netherlands.

Germany vs. Canada: This is going to be a tight game as it’s against two of the biggest in the world. I will have to say Germany.

And there you have it. Those are my predictions for the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals. You won’t be hearing from me again until just before the semifinals. So stay toond!

 

2019 Women’s World Cup Preview Links

France 2019

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.

MASCOT ettie

ettieOf 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:

WORK CITED:

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>

2019 Women’s World Cup Group F Focus

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:

USA-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-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-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 Fixed-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.

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Group C Focus

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-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 ficed-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-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-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.

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Group B Focus

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 fixed-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.

ChinaChina, 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 Fixed-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-flag.jpg-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.

2019 Women’s World Cup Intro and Group A Focus

Womens Cup

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 fixed-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!

Korea-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-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-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.

World Cup 2018: My Prediction For The Final, And Third-Place Playoff Too

Final

I know most of my picks for the Group Stage panned out while some didn’t. I know I was very good at predicting the Round Of 16 and QuarterFinals but was off a bit. Also I know I got both SemiFinals wrong. Nevertheless I’m not worried. If the BBC’s Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson can have a 52% success rate and still keep his job, I’m pretty comfortable right now.

Anyways the last two big matches will be contested this weekend. Here are my reviews of the two big matches:

The 3rd-Place Match for the bronze medal will be contested Saturday the 14th in Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. The Final for the Cup will take place at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

THIRD-PLACE PLAYOFF REVIEW:

The 3rd-Place Match for the bronze medal will be contested Saturday the 14th in Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. Often you wonder who normally wins the 3rd-Place Match? The team who most feels they have one last thing to prove? Or the team that’s the least disheartened? Whatever the situation, it should make for an interesting match. Especially since both teams met in the Group Stage in Group G. Here’s my review of both teams.

Past Head-To-Head Results: England and Belgium have squared off 22 times before. England won 15 times and Belgium won only three times including here in Russia 1-0 in group play. They drew four times in the past. As for World Cup play, their other two games were a 1990 Round-of-16 win for England and a 4-4 draw in 1954.

BelgiumBelgium: The Red Devils should be admired. They are a collection of marvelously talented players in their own right coming together to give Belgium one of their best World Cup performances ever, if not the best. They proved to be a top challenger for the final, but the goal from France’s Unmiti in the 51st minute ended their World Cup dreams. Nevertheless the Belgian team here have the chance to give Belgium it’s best-ever World Cup finish. Belgium’s best finish ever was 4th in 1986. Here’s the chance for them to win a 3rd-place match. An excellent chance to revive the #RedTogether spirit.

They have the advantage since they met England in group play and won 1-0. They can do it again. However they did show vulnerability in their game against Japan when they trailed 2-0 with 25 minutes to go. They did do an excellent job of coming back to win. However their luck ran out when they faced France. Their top players are still in excellent form in this ‘marathon’ of a competition, but they have to function together if they want to win this.

England fixedEngland: They came in 2018 with a new team and a new determination based on past humiliations. They came with a fairly young coach with experience playing in a World Cup. They came from the various teams of the Premier League with a lot of established talents and a lot of young rising talents. They came with the hope of winning England’s first World Cup since 1966. They delivered one of their best group stage showings in years. They delivered England’s first-ever win of a World Cup game on penalties after losing the previous three. They came with their fans chanting It’s Coming Home (in reference to the Euro 1996 theme song). Then it ended in the semifinal against Croatia. They began strong with a goal from Kieran Trippier in the 5th minute. However they were losing it after Ivan Perisic equalized in the 68th minute. It was Mandzukic in the 108th minute that took the match for Croatia and brought an end to the #ItsComingHome phenomenon.

However the 3rd-Place Match can give England one last thing to prove. This is only England’s third time to the Top 4 of the World Cup. The team has done an excellent job of putting their Premier League differences aside and play as one unified team. Gareth Southgate has done an excellent job of coaching and has successfully help Team England overcome many past adversaries and many weaknesses the team had for a long time. That gives England an advantage leading into the match. However England hasn’t fully overcome their habit of choking at big events. Sure their finish here will be their biggest since 1990, but they can blow it if the team don’t come together and deliver the same play they delivered over this past month. This was no ordinary Three Lions here in Russia 2018. This was a new Team England that had a lot to prove and did prove a lot.

My Final Verdict: I know Belgium beat England in the group stage, but this is a new match. The game will go to the team that has the best team tactics and functions as one. I’ll say it will be Belgium winning 2-0.

THE FINAL

Whos Next

Which team will be next?

I know for my review, you will see me repeating a lot of what I wrote for my SemiFinal review. There’s a purpose. Because all they went through will be coming to this moment. Making it to the final is no easy journey. It’s also not just about having a great team of assembled talent. It’s about having your team together, it’s about them delivering each and every time, it’s the ability to protect from racked up injuries to players, it’s the ability to endure mentally… basically it’s a month-long marathon. A game of survivor.

The World Cup has all these games to basically narrow it down to the very two to play in the Final to decide the Cup.  Of the two teams that made it, one made it to the Final twice before and won 20 years ago, while the other is playing in the Final for the first time ever. So without further ado, my review of the World Cup Final:

Past Head-To-Head Results: Croatia and France have played each other five times in the past. Both teams drew twice. France has won the other three games, including the 1998 World Cup semifinal 2-1.

FranceFrance: France is a nation whose football greatness really only started to take off in the early 1980’s. It was in Mexico 1986 that France got its first-ever Top 3 finish. They would fail to qualify for the next two World Cups, but would host in 1998 and would go on to win. Some say France’s team of 1998 was the best World Cup team since Brazil in 1970.

They’ve had a lot of ups and downs since. In 2002, they suffered the ‘curse of the defending champion‘ and not only failed to advance past the group stage, but failed to even score a single goal. They would come back in 2006 and appeared to be on their way to a second World Cup, but Zidane’s head-butt to an Italian player and subsequent red card in extra time in the Final marked the end of their chances right there. Then the disastrous 2010 which I talked about in my Semifinal write-up.

However it was the 2014 World Cup that showed a ray of hope for the French team. They were out in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Germany, but the team showed a big improvement and promise for the future with young players like Pogba and Griezmann. France played host to Euro 2016. There they delivered the best showing of all teams en route to the Final for the Cup. Unfortunately they lost to Portugal 1-0 in added extra time.

Here in Russia, Les Bleus has delivered the best showing of all teams.  They may have had the only 0-0 game of the World Cup so far, but all their other games were wins including all their knockout games, and all in regulation time. The #FiersDetreBleus phenomenon has taken them this far. France appears to have the best chances with players like Pogba, Griezmann, Giroud, Payet, young gun Mbappe and their goaltender Hugo Lloris who claims the loss at Euro 2016 really changed him. They look like the team that best has what it takes to win. However they could easily just let it go the same way they did in Euro 2016. If you remember their Round-Of-16 game against Argentina, they conceded three goals. They’re lucky they scored four to win. They all have to be together as a unified unit ready to play hard if they want to win the biggest match of their lives.

CROATIA footballCroatia:

“Everybody cheers for David. Nobody cheers for Goliath.”

-Wilt Chamberlain

Croatia comes to the World Cup final as the underdogs. They also come as the first country with a population of under 5 million to qualify for a World Cup final since Uruguay back in 1950. They come as the biggest underdog story in decades. Already the hashtages of #Vatreni , #FlamingPride and #BudiPonosan have been big hits. However it was very hard and with a lot of heartache. It started with a 3rd-place finish in their first World Cup back in 1998. It was finally a chance for Croatian football to define their identity now that they were free from Yugoslavia. However it was a struggle since. The next four World Cups were cases of a failure to qualify in 2010 and out in the Group Stage the other three times. After the 2010 World Cup failure, Croatian football was about to make a comeback. They may have been out in the Group Stage in 2014, but there was promise shown by players like Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic.

Croatian football unfortunately was also given a big black eye in the last few years thanks to the irreverence of certain fans. Certain Croatian fans were known to shout racist slurs, wear Nazi symbols, and cause violent incidents during matches. The most noticeable was during the Euro 2016 match against the Czech Republic where flares were thrown onto the field. The Federation HNS and the National Team paid the biggest price by facing sanctions and fines from both FIFA and UEFA including having to play ‘closed’ matches. However after Euro 2016, Croatia has made strides to get tougher with fan behavior.

Here in Russia, The Blazers, or Vatreni, were brilliant in group play as they won all three of their games. Their biggest luck came in the Round of 16 against Denmark and the QuarterFinals against hosts Russia as they drew 1-1 and 2-2 respectively, only to win both in the penalty shoot outs. Then came their semifinal against England. The game went into 1-1 in regulation only for Mandzukic to deliver the game-winner in added extra time. There have been calls from many for Croatia to be disqualified since that match, but the alleged controversies have been proven false.

And to think Yugoslavia never qualified for a World Cup final ever in its existence! Croatia comes with the least star-studded team here in this stage of the World Cup. The key to Croatia’s success is for players like Modric, Perisic, Rakitic, Lovren, Mandzukic and Danijel Subasic to play as one functioning team. Many can easily dismiss Croatia’s success because of luck in the knockout rounds, but truly it is the team unity of the players that have got them this far. Croatia however has shown weakness of their own. The fact that they won two of their knockout matches in penalty shootouts shows they can come short on delivery. Whatever they’ve been holding back or just not delivering on in past games, it won’t work against a team like France. Croatia has a strong midfiled, but France’s midfield has proven more this Cup. Croatia’s team will have to play a lot harder if they want to win the Cup. If they do win the Cup, they will do it through their first-ever victory over France, at the very least.

My Final Verdict: Both teams have been performing well and with a great sense of team unity, but I have to pick France to win 3-1. It’s not just in terms of past performance, but also because of the brilliance of the players individually as well. Plus the fact the referee for the match will be an Argentinean won’t help Croatia too much.

And there you go. My look at the teams playing for both the match for the bronze medal and the Final to win the World Cup. Let’s sit back and watch history be crowned.