Blame it on the artificial turf, blame it on the location, blame it on the increased investment by many more countries than in previous years but there doesn’t seem to be a good to honest favorite to win the Women’s World Cup.
We have as many as six to nine legitimate contenders for the Women’s World Cup and none have broken out of the pack as the odds on favorite. While this provides tremendous parity, something the men can’t provide in their World Cup, it could also make things tremendously unfair for those teams who have been successful for the past four years just to get screwed over by a horrific draw and Knockout Stage path (Sweden). Let’s look at each favorite and how they have struggled in the Group Stage as well as speculate their Knockout Stage path.
The #1 team in the world probably did the best job of any of the teams in the Group Stage. Germany was unbeaten in all three games and won the group. It was tough to judge how Germany performed because Germany played in a rather easy group but they’re definitely making up for it in the Knockout Stage. Germany has a scenario ahead of them where they can play all of the other teams in the top five of the FIFA Rankings in order to win the Women’s World Cup.
They were rewarded by winning their group with playing 5th ranked Sweden. A win will likely get them 3rd ranked France in the Quarterfinals. If they make it to the Semifinals, they could get 2nd ranked United States. If they get through all three, there’s a chance they get 4th ranked and defending champs Japan. If Germany can do this, they will go down as the greatest World Cup champion (men or women) of all time.
The United States had to go through the “Group of Death” and escaped alive by winning the group. The USWNT didn’t win the group in the most glamorous or dominating way like they have in previous World Cups but they still won the group.
On the flip side to Germany, the United States got rewarded for their group win. They face upset minded Colombia, who is without their starting goalkeeper, and will get either China or Cameroon if they make the Quarterfinals. With likely facing a top five team in the Semifinals, anything less than a Semifinal berth would be an abysmal failure.
3rd ranked France suffered one of the biggest upsets in Women’s World Cup history as Colombia upset them in the group stage. They still won the group by defeating England and unlucky Mexico but the Colombia defeat has certainly planted doubt among fans.
They walk into a veritable minefield with a potential Quarterfinal matchup against Germany and Semifinal matchup against the United States. They definitely have one of the toughest paths to the Final.
The defending World Cup Champions were very solid and showed very minimal weakness. Yeah they played in a weak group and didn’t score many goals but their defense only allowed one goal and won every game. Only Brazil won all three of their group games.
Playing their AFC mates South Korea in the Round of 16, they have a chance to play either Brazil or Australia. A possible matchup against Brazil means that one or both teams who won all three games will be knocked out of the tournament by the Quarterfinals.
Poor, poor Sweden. When former USWNT manager Pia Sundhage came aboard and took Sweden through World Cup Qualifying, they had nothing to be worried about. Then they were put into the “Group of Death” with the United States. And then by finishing 3rd, they get put into the “Bracket of Death.”
I have never seen a team who had such a difficult tournament from start to finish as Sweden. After facing the US and Australia in the Group Stage, they face Germany and maybe France and the United States if the opportunity presents itself. Definitely one of the toughest journeys ever and Sweden may be heading for an early exit based on the unfortunate luck of the draw.
It may seem shocking but England is the 6th ranked team in the world. They aren’t a team that gets talked about in the same way as the other favorites but they can still surprise given the right situation. Losing in a tough 1-0 effort to France, England came back to win their final two games and finished 2nd in the group.
It turned out, that loss against France was the best case scenario for England. By finishing 2nd, they get a Round of 16 match against Norway and if they beat Norway, will likely face Canada in the Quarterfinal. While it’s not the USA’s path to the Semis, England definitely has an easier road than most.
Thanks to being in one of the easier groups of the Women’s World Cup, Brazil has been nothing but awesome in the Group Stage. They defeated South Korea, Costa Rica and Spain by not allowing a goal and cruising their way to three wins. Like with other teams, it’s unknown as to whether or not Brazil can compete in the Knockout Stage based on the group they’re in but they certainly have a great start.
Brazil gets a tough beginning in the Knockout Stage by playing Australia and potentially matching up with Japan. If Marta is going to finally win her first World Cup, she’s going to have to earn it.
The hosts Canada I guess did a great job in the Group Stage. They definitely fared better than in previous World Cup’s and they won their group but they weren’t the most convincing in their Group Stage triumph.
Canada is in one of the easier parts of the bracket. They face Switzerland in the Round of 16 and possibly England in the Quarterfinals. This is Canada’s chance to become a world superpower in Women’s soccer and now is their chance to take advantage.
Australia rounds out the top ten ranked teams but they still have a lot to play for and shouldn’t be counted out. By finishing 2nd in the “Group of Death” to the United States and defeating Sweden, Australia is right in the thick of things to make an impact.
Their only issue is that they get to face Brazil in the Round of 16 and then possibly Japan in the Quarterfinals. Australia may have the team but fate may get in the way to keep them from winning it all.
So who is going to take that brass ring and win this World Cup? It’s really anyone’s guess. For some teams, the road will be easier and for some teams, the road will be harder. All that matters is that whoever does win, they would have earned it.