Preview: Women’s World Cup Draw
After months of anticipation, it’s finally time for the much awaited draw for the Women’s World Cup 2019, where 24 teams will fight it out for the chance to call themselves the best. How did we get here? Read on to get up to speed.
Over the course of 18 months, we’ve been following all of the action being played out across the globe, on the quest to get that ticket to the World Cup. Teams have qualified through tournaments played in their ‘zones’; Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central America and Caribbean, South American, and the Oceania zone. The qualified teams are now making up the roster for football’s biggest tournament.
On Saturday, at 5pm (UK time), the draw will be held at La Seine Musicale de Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris to decide which teams are going to be pitted against each other in the group-stage of the World Cup 2019 in France, and Alex Scott and Louis Saha will be in charge of drawing the teams for the event. The 24 teams are going to be divided into four groups, which is affected by their position in the FIFA ranking as of 7th December 2018. Based on that distribution, they will then be divided into the six definite groups that’ll make up the group phase of the competition. Teams from the same zone cannot end up in the same group, with Europe as the exception: at least one European team has to end up in every group, with a maximum of two per group.
The draw will decide which teams are going to fight it out in the group stages before heading into the latter stages of the competition, and getting a favourable draw can impact a team’s chances considerably. But this doesn’t just depend on the difference in skills between teams – there’s also a lot of rivalry and social history to consider, like the feelings a game between England and Scotland can encourage, or a match between USA and Canada. It’s going to, without a doubt, be very interesting to see which teams gets drawn against each other, and it’ll also give the coaching staff more to go on in their preparations for the World Cup in France in June 2019. For now we’ve only got the road travelled so far, detailed below by qualification tournament.
AFC Women’s Asian Cup
The top five teams in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup would qualify for the Women’s World Cup in France the following year, and it was a tough competition that saw some really strong teams battling it out against each other, with Japan eventually beating Australia 1-0 in the final, and China beating Thailand 3-1 in the third place match. South Korea also qualified having beaten Philippines 5-0 in the fifth place match.
Australia’s team, the Matildas, have participated in five previous World Cups and they went the furthest any Australian team – male or female – has gone in the competition when they won a knockout match in Canada 2015, beating Brazil 1-0. With the likes of Sam Kerr, who’s always happy to score a few, and Lisa De Vanna, the experienced co-captain of the team, they’ve come to be a serious threat against any opposition. Having played in all but one World Cup since its inaguration in China in 1991, China’s team have always produced good results in the competition, ending up in the quarter-finals at the very least. Japan is another team to keep watching closely, as the Nadeshiko has had a few successful years internationally, winning the World Cup in Germany in 2011 and finishing runners-up four years later in Canada. It’s not the team it was four years ago, but with the likes of internationally successful and strong players like Saki Kumagai, Rumi Utsugi and Hikaru Naomoto on the team sheet, there is no knowing the lengths that this team can go to.
Women’s Africa Cup of Nations
From the African zone, three teams qualified by playing in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Nigeria were the defending champions, and they managed to retain their title for a third consecutive win. South Africa qualified for the first time in their history, finishing as runners-up, with Cameroon grabbing the last spot in third place. The Nigerian team, also called the Super Falcons, have made a huge impact on the African continent, but have yet to truly prove themselves in the World Cup and, despite qualifying for every World Cup since 1991, they’ve only managed to get to the top eight once. Banyana Banyana, the South African team, are one of the newcomers to the competition and although their cup final against Nigeria ended in a heartbreaking 3-4 loss in a penalty shoot-out, the main job was already done. A player to keep our eyes on is the young but extremely talented Thembi Kgatlana, chosen as player of the tournament after her five goals.
CONCACAF Women’s Championship
The top three teams in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship would qualify to the World Cup, and it was the defending champions USA that ended up successfully defending their title with a 2-0 win over Canada in the final. Jamaica qualified as the third team as somewhat of an underdog, after winning on penalties 4-2 against Panama in a nail biting game. The Reggae Girlz, as the team is called, have had a lot of support on their way, and despite being first-timers at the World Cup, they are heading into the competition with full focus on competing. The USA team will be looking to defend their title from 2015 and, currently number 1 on the FIFA ranking of the best national teams in the world, there’s a lot of pressure on the Americans to do well overseas. But with a squad filled to the brink with experienced national team players such as Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn, it’s pretty much expected that they won’t be out in the group stages.
CONMEBOL Copa America Feminina
The Copa America Femenina was a qualification tournament for two teams to go through directly, as well as allowing for one play-off spot against the fourth placed team from the CONCACAF tournament, which Argentina eventually grabbed after beating Panama, which means they’re back in the competition for the first time in 12 years. A team that has never previously qualified is Chile, and they’ll be eager to show that they deserve the spot, having secured their place in the Copa America Feminina by beating the likes of Argentina and drawing against a few strong opponents. They’ve got a good goalkeeper in Christiane Endler, who is a strong penalty keeper, and Francisca Lara, who ended up scoring twice in the Copa America Feminina. Brazil won the whole tournament with several high scoring players on their side - Bia Zaneratto, Cristiane, Monica and Andressinha to name a few, which speaks to the depth in the squad. Not to forget, they’ve also got one of the best players in the world and although Marta has been on the world scene a long time she’s managed to stay present on the frontline, and for the first Women’s Ballon d’Or prize awarded this week she finished in fourth place.
OFC Women’s Nation’s Cup
Only one team would emerge a winner from the Women’s Nations cup and grab that sweet qualification spot, and it was defending champions New Zealand that managed the feat for the fourth consecutive time, leading to their sixth overall Women’s Nations Cup title. New Zealand managed to win by quite big numbers throughout the tournament, and in the final they beat Fiji 8-0. Joint top-goalscorer Sarah Gregorius, with eight goals, together with the likes of captain Ali Riley, Annalie Longo and Ria Percival, are some of the players to closely watch from the Football Ferns.
UEFA European qualifying competition
The European qualifying competition for the World Cup is built on a structure different from the rest of the zones, given that 8 teams (excluding the host country) can qualify, making it a little more complicated. There was a preliminary round which qualified five of the 16 lowest ranking teams to the qualifying group stage, where the 30 highest-ranked teams were all drawn into seven groups of five teams. The teams then play each team in their group home and away, and at the end the seven group winners qualify directly, whilst the four best runners-up go to the play-offs, playing two knockout rounds to decide the last team to qualify for the World Cup.
The teams that qualified directly were France (as hosts), England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Italy and Spain, and the Netherlands, winners of the Euros 2017, then qualified via the play-offs. A lot of these teams contain some really good squads, and there could possibly be one or two favourites for the gold medal from this zone with teams like England, France, Germany and Sweden all veterans in the competition with a history of doing well. Scotland pulled off a historical qualification, getting to play in the competition for the first time and beating the likes of Switzerland to get there, even as it looked dark for the Scots, making them surely one of the underdogs to watch. Norway has got a strong set-up but will definitely miss the current world’s best goalscorer Ada Hegerberg, newly crowned the first female recipient of a Ballon d’Or, as the 23-year-old striker is refusing to represent her national team on the grounds that the women’s team is unfairly treated.
That’s a quick look at the overall prerequisites for Saturday’s draw and the teams concerned, and the rest will (quite literally) be in the hands of Scott and Saha on Saturday. What’s your prediction who are you hoping your team draws? Drop a comment below!