Women’s World Cup Set To Be The Biggest Yet
The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in France this Friday and it is set to be the biggest competition yet.
Excitement is building after what has been a record breaking year for the women’s game.
In March, a crowd of over 60,000 people saw Barcelona women’s team face Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, a new world record attendance for a women’s club match.
A week later, 39,000 fans turned out to see Juventus women’s team face Fiorentina at the Allianz Stadium.
The women’s game is rapidly growing in popularity and this summers World Cup should be one of the best attended in its history.
More than 720,000 tickets have been sold and the opening game between hosts France and South Korea sold out within 48 hours.
It is also one of the most wide open tournaments in the history of the competition. Here are five big talking points ahead of the tournament.
Can The USA Repeat?
The defending champions are the favorites to win the Women’s World Cup for a fourth time.
Jill Ellis’s side come into the tournament in sparkling form. They are unbeaten in their last nine games, winning seven of them.
In fact, they have lost just once in their last 38 internationals. They have a fearsome strike force including star striker Alex Morgan.
Carli Lloyd, the hat-trick hero in USA’s 5-2 victory against Japan in the World Cup final in 2015 is set to make a final appearance in the World Cup finals.
With 274 appearances for her country, it would be a fitting way for her to go out, if USA emerge victorious in France.
Ballon d’Or Winner Missing
One of the biggest stories ahead of the tournament was that the winner of the Women’s Ballon d’Or, Ada Hegerberg, won’t be playing at the World Cup.
The Norwegian striker decided to stop representing her country as a form of protest due to a dispute with the Norwegian Football Federation.
The dispute is regarding how they treat women’s football and the money earned by the women’s national team compared to the men’s.
You have to applaud Hegerberg for taking this stance. Given that Norway’s women’s team have won the World Cup and the Euros twice, more than the men, you can understand Hegerberg’s frustrations that they are not treated equally.
In fact, they deserve more than the men given what they have achieved. Even though, you have to respect Hegerberg for taking this stance, it is a great shame that the best player in the World won’t be at the World Cup.
Can France Do The Double
The hosts France will be looking to emulate their male counterparts from last summer and win the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Incredibly, France havn’t been past the quarter-finals in any major tournament.
One of the biggest reasons is the lack of cutting edge up front in the key games. However, they will feel this year could be their time to break that hoodoo.
The core of the side is made up of players from Lyon who recently won the Champions League for a fourth time in a row.
Defensively France are solid with a strong unit of Renard and Griedge Mbock. They are also hardworking in midfield led by captain Amandine Henry.
Manager Corrine Diacre has a strong squad at her disposal, one that should be able to reach the semi-finals at least. The big question will be how they cope with the pressure of being the host nation.
Old Rivals Collide
One of the pick of the group stage matches is between England and Scotland.
It will be the first time both nations will face each other in a World Cup. Scotland are one of the debutants along with Jamaica, Chile and South Africa.
Under the guidance of Shelley Kerr, Scotland were impressive in qualifying and will be hoping to reach the knockout stages.
They boast some fine players including former PFA Women’s Player of the Year, Kim Little.
However, they will know it will be a tough opening match against England.
The English are one of the favorites for the competition, having reached the semi-finals four years ago. They have stringed some impressive results recently, including drawing with defending champions USA in March.
Their success will depend on the performances of key players such as Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Barcelona striker Toni Duggan.
Phil Neville’s side have the quality to win the tournament but the big question will be whether they have the mentality needed to win a World Cup.
Will this be Marta’s Swansong?
This could well be the last time we see Brazilian legend Marta playing at the World Cup.
The Brazilian striker hasn’t confirmed whether she will carry on after this tournament but will be 35-years-old by the time the 2023 World Cup comes around.
Marta is one of the greatest footballers of her generation. She is the all time record goalscorer at the World Cup with 15 goals.
She has also won the FIFA Best Women’s Player of the Year on six occasions.
However, despite her individual success, incredibly Marta is without a World Cup winners medal.
The best result was finishing runners-up in 2007, losing out to Germany in the final.
Like her male counterparts, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Marta looks destined never to win the World Cup.
Marta is also facing a race to be fit as she is recovering from a left thigh injury. Not only that Brazil go into this tournament in awful form.
They have lost their last eight internationals and expectations are low going into this tournament.
Written by David Coates
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Photo credit to FIFA via twitter