As the Women’s World Cup (WWC) draws nearer and nearer, LFS have begun a series of articles previewing the first stage of the tournament, the groups. It all kicks off on Friday night as the hosts France take on South Korea to open the tournament. So, we’ll start with France and their group.
Manager: Corinne Diacre
Odds: 7/2 (JF)
As the hosts of the competition, there will be a lot of pressure on Corinne Diacre’s side to go out and perform. Much like the men at the 2016 European Championships, the French will be expecting the trophy to be theirs for the next four years.
In Canada 2016, Les Blues were knocked out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage as they lost on penalties to Germany. Their record in major tournaments really leaves a lot to be desired as the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 European Championships proved to yield little success.
Coach Corinne Diacre, who has been compared to her male counterpart, Didier Deschamps has taken a few risks with her squad selection. Much like Deschamps, she has chosen to pick a squad that she thinks will work well together, rather than taking the best individual players as most coaches would be tempted to do. Just as two examples, Barcelona women midfielder Kheira Hamraoui has been left at home, as has PSG forward and French first division top scorer Marie Katoto.
The core of the team is largely made up of players from the Lyon Feminine side that has won four consecutive Champions League titles. The team will be looking to their more experienced players such as Wendy Renard and skipper Amandine Henry to help pull them through what is sure to be a very tough test. With their campaign beginning against South Korea at Parc Des Princes on Friday, they’ll be looking to get off to the best possible start and log a comfortable win.
WWC South Korea
Manager: Yoon Deok-Yeo
South Korean football is a very interesting story – nations like South Korea love to have a star name that they can get behind and support. In men’s football it’s Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur, in the women’s game, it’s Chelsea star Ji So-Yun.
In reality, Ji So-Yun is just one part of a sport that is making great progress in South Korea. Since 2010, when South Korea’s U17 team won the World Cuo, the women’s game has grown exponentially and with a good performance in the World Cup, it’s only likely to keep on growing. South Korea aren’t coming into the tournament with any delusions of grandeur or anything like that, they come into the tournament with one modest aim – to get out of the group stages.
Despite this team being dubbed “Korea’s golden generation”, there are still a few issues with the team. Manager Yoon Deok-Yeo likes to play quite attacking football, he usually sets his team up in a 4-2-3-1 and plays around Chelsea star So-Yun. Despite having some good players in attack such as So-Yun and Lee Min-A, there are some obvious gaps at the back. The defence have been known to make some catastrophic errors and you’d think that if South Korea are to fulfil their aim and reach the KO rounds, the defence will have to plug those gaps.
In a nation that boasts just 1500 registered female footballers, South Korea are more than capable of throwing up at least one shock result in the tournament – much the way their male counterparts did a year ago in Russia when they beat Germany.
Manager: Martin Sjögren
Despite being without star player and Ballon D’Or Feminin winner Ada Hegerberg, Norway are a very handy outfit and have the potential to do some damage at this tournament. Having said that, their last major tournament was an absolute travesty.
At the 2017 European Championships, Martin Sjögren’s side failed to score a single goal at the tournament at crashed out in the group stages. What’s more, star player Hegerberg announced afterwards she would be taking a break from International football because she felt the set up of the national team “did not suit” her.
Throughout the tournament, Norway are likely to line-up with a 4-4-2 formation. Norway boast not one, but two Chelsea stars in Maren Mjelde and Maria Thorisdóttir who are likely to play an important part for their team at the back. In an attacking sense, the goal scoring responsibility will be left to Isabell Herlovsen. The 30-year-old has 57 international goals in her 14 year international football career.
So, they may be without their star striker, but they aren’t without quality. Norway could prove to be a very tough nut to crack for any of the big teams and you would expect them to join France in the KO rounds of the tournament.
Manager: Thomas Dennerby
The Super Falcons – perhaps the team with the best nickname in world football. However, like so many other nations in world football, support and funding for the Women’s game has just not been there with the football federations prioritising the men’s game.
So far, there have been 11 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, Nigeria have won nine of them. The problem, though, with a lack of funding, has been getting games. When the Super Falcons won the AWCON in December 2016, that was the last time the team would play until April 2018, just mere months before the next AWCON.
Having said all of that, the Nigerian Football Federation do seem to have got their act together ahead of the WWC as they installed Thomas Dennerby as coach. As well as that, the team have been involved in a good few warm-up matches and have held a training camp in Spain before the tournament.
In terms of player personnel, the standout stars are Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala and Desire Oparanozie. The head coach, Thomas Dennerby, likes to set up with a resolute 4-5-1 formation that has the ability to morph into a 4-4-2. One of the strongest parts of the Super Falcons game is their defence, they conceded just a single goal at last years AWCON.
Unfortunately for Nigeria, they have been given a pretty tough draw for this World Cup. Given the nature of their group, it’s difficult to see them getting past the first stage but they’ll be hoping to give their fans something to cheer about when they face South Korea – the game that is perhaps their best chance of a win.