What an exciting start to the 2015 FIFA Women’s world Cup! We have had goalscoring records broken (see Brazil), record crowds, and unexpected results with some of the groups too close to call. Canada has been an amazing host so far, really behind the tournament as a whole.
Whitecaps FC took the Girls Elite REX program to the double header at BC place on Monday, June 8 – the girls were amazed by the atmosphere around the games and the standard of play. Truly inspirational for them to be able to see and experience in person an event that every one of them one day aspires to play in.
Overall, this tournament has really impressed me with the standard of play so far. Teams have improved both technically and tactically since Germany 2011, creating some fascinating encounters.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed from each group:
Group A: New Zealand, Canada, Netherlands, China
Canada had a tough opening game with China sitting in a deep block. Despite the frustration, Canada still took the all-important three points with a dramatic stoppage time penalty kick, cooly finished by Christine Sinclair.
As I expected, the second game against New Zealand proved to be an exciting encounter, despite a 0-0 final score. This game had a bit of everything: A lightening break, two cross bars hit, a penalty missed for New Zealand, a goal called offside for Canada. The home nation will be disappointed not to take the three points, but no goals conceded so far is pretty impressive. The chances are being created for Canada, the next step is to be more clinical in the final third.
Both teams are still alive in the tournament and Canada are still in the driving seat to finish top of the group.
China, meanwhile, really opened up in their second game versus the Netherlands – taking the game deservedly 1-0. Some clever tactics from the Chinese coach, not showing his cards at all in the first game against Canada then surprising the Netherlands with a much more possession based game and pressure much higher up the pitch. Netherlands, however, are still in the hunt to progress after picking up their first ever WWC win against New Zealand in the first game.
Group B: Germany, Norway, Ivory Coast, Thailand
With Germany being one of the favourites to make the final four, they will be disappointed with their 1-1 draw with Norway, especially after spending a lot of time in Norway’s half though out the game.
But Norway will be a danger to any team in this tournament on set pieces. Maren Mjelde scored on a free kick against Germany with a clever dink over the wall, which may have been enough to send them through to the knockout stages.
Congrats also to Thailand on their first ever World Cup win, which they earned against Ivory Coast.
Group C: Japan, Switzerland, Cameroon, Ecuador
Defending champions Japan are the first team to secure their path to the knockout stage with two wins in two matches, but they were tested in both encounters.
I was lucky enough to attend the first games at BC Place. Despite playing the champs, Switzerland by no means looked overawed by the occasion. They played an attacking brand of football, connecting and overloading flank areas with pace and precision– really causing problems to the back four of Japan. Ramona Bachmann for Switzerland has been an outstanding performer. Look out for her throughout the rest of the tournament.
Cameroon has been a fan favourite at BC Place. After an opening 6-0 win over Ecuador, they gave Japan all they could handle in a narrow 2-1 defeat. Their speed and athleticism caused problems. It should be an exciting match between the Swiss and Cameroonians.
Group D: Nigeria, Sweden, Australia, USA
The Group of Death has lived up to its billing, starting with an exciting 3-3 draw between Sweden and Nigeria. Nigeria showed their vulnerability around set pieces, but also their pace with talented individual players Ngozi Okobi and Asisat Oshoala combing well to hurt the Swedes.
Australia came out fired up against the United States, showing no fear. In the end the pace and power of the USA, as well as some individual brilliance from Megan Rapinoe, proved too much in the second half as the Americans won 3-1. Australia responded in their next match with a strong 2-0 win over Nigeria, while USA and Sweden played to a 0-0 draw.
The Americans are in the drivers seat, but every team is in it entering the final matches of the group. Great entertainment.
Group E: Brazil, Korea Republic, Spain, Costa Rica
Brazil broke records in their opening game of this tournament with Marta becoming the all-time top goalscorer in Women’s World Cup history, and Formiga (37 years old) becoming the oldest goalscorer in the competition’s history in their 2-0 win over Korea Republic.
A surprising 1-1 draw between Spain and Costa Rica will put some pressure on Spain now to produce wins out of the next two games to go through to the next round
Group F: France, England, Mexico, Colombia
France proved why they have been highlighted as a team to be watching in this tournament with their 1-0 win over England. The superior technical ability of the French will be hard for most teams to contain, and is always exciting to watch.
Mexico will be disappointed with their 1-1 draw with Colombia. The South Americans scored an outstanding goal by Daniela Montoya in the 82nd minute to earn themselves their first ever point at a WWC.
Led by Emma Humphries, Whitecaps FC are holding a camp centred around the World Cup (including tickets to the final at BC Place, which is already sold out). As part of the camp, girls will have the opportunity to come and interact/learn from the Girls Elite REX coaching staff.