Continuing our Women’s World Cup previews, we move on to group B. This group houses Germany, Spain, South Africa and China. From the outset looking in, it seems as though there will be two clear favourites to progress, but you never know. Let’s look at the four sides in a bit more depth.
Coach: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg
With a new coach in Martina Voss-Tecklenburg and some of the old guard no longer a part of the set up, Germany women are very much a side in transition. They’ve had a bit of a topsy-turvy four years since the last World Cup – they won Gold at the Olympics in 2016, a year later they crashed out of Euro 2017 at the quarter-final stage and then just last Spring, they finished dead last at the SheBelieves cup in America.
So, with the likes of Annike Krahn, Melanie Behringer, Anja Mittag and Simone Laudehr no longer around, Voss-Tecklenburg will be looking to Wolfsburg striker Alexandra Popp and Lyon star Dzsenifer Marozsán to add that little bit of experience to the team.
Considering the appointment of Martina Voss-Tecklenburg is still so new, it’s difficult to tell what kind of formation she is going to adopt in the tournament. From the players selected, experts suggest that a 4-2-3-1 is the way the Germans are likely to line up.
Even though the last two tournaments haven’t yielded much success, you can never write Germany off. Whether it be men’s or women’s football, they’re always in with a good shout of pulling it off. To start with, they need to get through their first game – this year, that first game is against China on Saturday afternoon.
Coach: Jorge Vilda
Spain are a contender, as much as Jorge Vilda would disagree, they are in with a shout. The recent success Spain have had at youth level has been phenomenal. We’ve seen the under-17s became world and European champions and the under-19s won the Euros while the under-20s finished second in the World Cup.
One of the concerns experts tend to mention is how non-competitive the Spanish first division is. The top league in Spain is exclusively fought between Barcelona and Atletico, and as such, most of Vilda’s squad is made up of players from those two teams. In fact, for a recent friendly, there were 16 players from the two sides involved in Spain’s squad.
In Canada 2015, Spain crashed out of the tournament at the group stages. The main story from the Spanish camp that year was the rebellion of the Spanish players. Following the tournament, they released a joint letter condemning the methods of then coach Ignacio Quereda, as well as calling for him to resign his post – which he did soon after.
This time around, the Spaniards will be hoping to keep most of the attention on the on-field action rather than any antics off it with players such as Jenni Hermoso potentially key to that. If Spain don’t do so well, one decision that will be called into question was Vilda’s decision to leave Vera Boquete at home. Vilda prefers to adopt a teamwork mentality and such chose to go without naturally big-name individuals such as Boquete.
For Spain, the tournament gets underway against South Africa on Saturday evening, directly after their two other group rivals face off against one another. It’ll be a tough task for them to win the whole tournament, but it’s certainly not impossible. If everything goes their way in terms of injuries, Vilda’s team could be in with a good shout.
Coach: Jia Xiuquan
Rivalling the Nigerian team for cool nicknames, China’s Iron Rose are desperate to restore the national team to it’s former glory days. After a narrow defeat to Japan in the Asia Trophy last year, the team is starting to come together and boasts a few star players. Not least, PSG striker and fan favourite, Wang Shuang.
Shuang comes into the tournament after a brilliant season in France – however, there are a few concerns she may have burned herself out following a slow end to the league campaign. She should be back to her old self and firing on all cylinders when the World Cup campaign gets underway.
Coach Jia Xiuquan has a bit of a selection dilemma, quite unexpectedly, in the middle of the park after holding midfielder and vice-captain, Zhang Rui was dropped from the final squad. There are two options to fill the hole left by Rui’s absence, firstly, Tan Ruyin who is very talented and quite experienced, but is just coming back from a long-term injury. The other is Yang Lina, a talented youngster who has a lack of international experience.
Perhaps the main problem Coach Xiuquan has to face is the surprisingly small pool of players he has to pick from. Despite the staggering 1.4 billion people who currently reside in China, there are less than 1500 players to pick from at ALL age levels in the women’s game. An absolutely astonishing statistic.
It’ll be difficult for China to challenge for the top two spots in their group with the strength that Spain and Germany possess, but there could be an upset to be had. You never know.
Coach: Desiree Ellis
Banyana Banyana are one of the hottest young female sides in the game at the minute. Their attacking play can be brilliant with coach Desiree Ellis preaching an offensive style of football. They scored 24 goals between March and October last year – scoring in ten consecutive games.
Keeping clean sheets has been an issue of late and if you couple that with their flair for attacking football, it could very well lead to some very entertaining football at the tournament. In the AWCON last year, Banyana finished a very close second, holding Nigeria to a 0-0 draw before losing on penalties. Something of note is how the new brand of football the team has played under coach Desiree Ellis has captured the attention of the nation – there’ll be plenty of South African eyes on France over the course of this month.
A few players to look out for are Thembi Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Jermaine Seoposenwe. All of whom have a tendency to chip in with goals and assists for their side. The main star of the side is Thembi Kgatlana, the 23-year-old is one of the most talked about players in the women’s game at the minute, particularly in Africa.
Despite her still young age, she has racked up over 50 assists for her national team and will be a great player to look out for once the tournament commences.