On December 8th, the draw for the 2019 Women’s World Cup took place near Paris. The tournament will take place between 7 June and 7 July next summer at the various stadiums around France, with the final being played at Parc Olympique Lyonnais. The United States enters the competition as the defending champion, after defeating Japan 5-2 in Vancouver in 2015.
The competition will feature 24 teams from the six different confederations. As the hosts of the tournament, France received an automatic entry into the tournament and did not have to go through qualification, opening another spot for a team from UEFA. Netherlands claimed the final spot from UEFA by winning the playoff on 13 November against Switzerland.
FIFA Rankings and all that
The top ten teams, at least according to FIFA, all qualified for the tournament. North Korea, the 11th ranked team, is the highest not to qualify. Jamaica, ranked 53rd in the world, is the lowest ranked team that qualified, and they will be making their Women’s World Cup debut. Chile (38th), Scotland (20th), and South Africa (48th) join them as first time participants.
The 24 teams were drawn into six groups of four, and will play each other team in their group once during the group stage. Like other similar tournaments, teams will be awarded three points for a win and one point for a draw, and the top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout stage, where they will be joined by the four best third-place teams.
We’re going to take a look at the groups and try to figure out who might have the best chance of claiming victory in the tournament. Will the French women’s team be able to match the men’s team from this past summer and claim victory? Will the USWNT continue their dominance in the World Cup despite a lack of success at other precursor tournaments? Or will we see a victory from another country that has never won the tournament?
Onto the groups!
Teams (FIFA ranking): France (3), Norway (13), South Korea (14), and Nigeria (39)
Based on average FIFA ranking, this is shaping up to be the second-toughest group. France will have their work cut out for them, with four-time semifinalist Norway (including a title in 1995), as well as a Nigerian team that has qualified for every Women’s World Cup (Norway joins them with this distinction as well). France was defeated in the quarterfinals in 2015, while Norway lost in the knockout stage. South Korea is no slouch either – though France knocked them out in the knockout stage in 2015 – so I could easily see those three teams making it through group play.
Advancing to knockout stage: France, Norway, and South Korea
Teams (FIFA ranking): Germany (2), Spain (12), China (15), and South Africa (48)
This group is in the middle of the six groups but boasts a former two-time champion (Germany won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007). Spain made their debut in the 2015 Cup, finishing fourth in their group. South Africa, as mentioned previously, is making their debut. China has a pretty solid history in the Cup, however, losing to the USWNT in the 1999 final after making the semifinals in 1995.
Advancing to knockout stage: Germany, Spain and China
Teams (FIFA ranking): Australia (6), Brazil (10), Italy (16), and Jamaica (53)
Per average rankings, this is the “easy” group of the six. In addition to the debut of Jamaica, this group will see Italy taking part in their first Women’s World Cup since 1999 (it went okay for them). Brazil has participated in all eight Women’s World Cups, though without the same level of success as their male compatriots. (Though they did finish second to Germany in 2007). Australia lucked out despite being the lowest-ranked team from Pot 1.
Advancing to knockout stage: Australia, Brazil, and Italy
Teams (FIFA rankings): England (4), Japan (8), Scotland (20), and Argentina (36)
This is the dreaded “Group of Death, at least according to average FIFA rankings (the average rank is 0.25 lower than Group A). It also boasts a past winner – 2011 champion Japan – who was also runner-up to the United States in 2015 (they defeated the U.S. in 2011). As mentioned previously, Scotland is making its debut, while Argentina is back in the tournament for the first time since 2007, where they were the worst team. As it stands now, I could see a tie with seven points at the top of the group between England and Japan or three teams tied with five points.
Advancing to knockout stage: England, Japan, and Scotland
Teams (FIFA rankings): Canada (5), Netherlands (7), New Zealand (19), Cameroon (46)
Canada’s women’s team is no slouch on the international stage, qualifying for all but one World Cup. They were a semifinalist in 2003, finishing in 4th place. The Netherlands were just outside the top six in FIFA rankings and almost got a group of their own (they were 12 points behind Australia). Cameroon is in their second straight World Cup after debuting with a trip to the knockout stage in 2015 (they lost to China). New Zealand has never advanced past the group stage.
Advancing to the knockout stage: Canada and Netherlands
Teams (FIFA ranking): United States (1), Sweden (9), Thailand (29), and Chile (38)
The bottom of Group F is the second worst of all six groups – only Italy and Jamaica in Group C have a lower average ranking. The U.S. Women’s National Team hasn’t had the same struggles that the men have, having reached the semifinals in each of the seven World Cups. This year should be no different, though Sweden should prove to be a formidable opponent. Chile is making their World Cup debut, while Thailand is in their second final. Pretty straightforward here.
Advancing to knockout stage: United States and Sweden
It is extremely early to predict how things will play out in six months, but we’re going to do it anyway. Should there be a dramatic injury or something that happens prior to the start of the actual tournament, we’ll update our predictions later. I’m going to identify the 16 teams that I think will make it through the group stage.
Stay tune between now and June as the world prepares for the Women’s World Cup! We’ll be watching. Will you?
Until next time…