Group C is the next instalment of our Women’s World Cup previews. This group will see some marquee match-ups as it houses Italy, Brazil, Jamaica and Australia. We’ll start with the Italians:
Coach: Milena Bertolini
Le Azzure have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in over 20 years after winning their qualifying group. When you hear a stat like that, you tend to think well “ah that means they’ll probably crash out at the group stage” but that’s not the case with Italy – they have a real chance of making it through.
Women’s football in the country is undergoing something of a resurgence – earlier this year, they set a new record attendance for a women’s football match in the country. The record had stood at 14,000 but, that was obliterated when Juventus welcomed 39,000 to the Allianz Stadium to see them defeat Fiorentina 1-0.
Le Azzure are one of the tournament’s best defensive sides – in qualifying, they conceded just four goals in eight games, with two of them coming in their final game against Belgium when they had already qualified. If they are to progress to the Knockout rounds for the first time since 1991, they will rely on that defensive solidity to get there.
Juventus winger Barbara Bonansea will no doubt be the star player in the Italian line-up this summer. The 27-year-old can play on either wing, as well as in the centre of the park. There’s a great quote about Bonansea on the FIFA website – it describes her as “being able to balletically slalom past opponents on grass like Alberto Tomba did poles on snow”.
Coach Milena Bertolini decided to start their training camp really early on, with the players all convening in the second week of May to get to grips with the way Bertolini wants them to play. The way they’re expected to line-up is in a 4-3-3 formation but we could also see 4-4-2 thanks to the versatility of the midfielders. Italy get their campaign underway when they play Australia on Sunday afternoon – nothing like a nice, tough game to get your World Cup started.
Brazil are lucky to boast perhaps the greatest female player of all time in their ranks. Marta, who is now 33-years-old is coming into what will most likely be her last ever World Cup. The fairy-tale ending would be for her to end a glittering career with a World Cup win, but to be honest, that seems pretty unlikely to happen.
Since winning the Copa America in 2018, the Brazilian’s have struggled winning just one of 11 matches and losing nine straight games. Coach Oswaldo Alvarez, or “Vadao” as he’s more commonly known as, has drawn some criticism for his old fashioned way of playing the game.
Vadao prefers a flat 4-4-2 and he is determined to play that way, even if it means playing players out of position and not playing to the strengths of his star players. At her advanced age, Marta often struggles to keep up with the play. She prefers to stick in and around the penalty area these days but with the 4-4-2 formation, that’s not really possible – there’s still a lot more running to do than she is happy with.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Brazil fare at the tournament but one thing is for sure, if they can get Marta on top form, then it’ll be difficult for any team to beat them. Brazil get their campaign underway on Sunday evening against Jamaica.
Coach: Ante Milicic
The Matildas come into this World Cup with the best chance of winning the trophy they’ve ever had. With star player Sam Kerr at the head of the team and a new coach a the helm, Australia are a real dark horse for the competition this year.
Ante Milicic is new to his role as coach, having just been appointed in January so if thing’s don’t go very well, a lot of fans will likely point to that as being a reason why. However, with the very attacking style of football Milicic likes to play, Australia could be a very entertaining side to watch this summer.
As mentioned earlier, the star of the team is without a doubt Sam Kerr. The Aussie is the all-time leading scorer in the NWSL and the W-League, she has won four consecutive domestic golden boots and is one of the undoubted super stars of the game – all this despite the fact she’s just 25-years-old.
With Kerr up top, flanked by the likes of Lisa De Vanna and Emily Gielnik, the Matildas are likely to demonstrate a precise, possession based game with high pressing fullbacks. Their attacking philosophy can often leave them vulnerable to the counter-attack but if they can be as efficient in attack as they usually are, that should’t matter too much.
Coach: Hue Menzies
Jamaica are history-makers just by actually being present at the tournament – the Reggae Girlz are the first Caribbean team EVER to appear at the Women’s World Cup after a brilliant qualification campaign that saw them beaten just twice (Canada 2-0, USA 6-0).
Jamaica scored an impressive 53 goals in qualification, with star striker Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw leading the way, scoring 19 of them. If Jamaica are to cause any sort of an upset, they’ll need Shaw to be on top of her game. Coach Hue Menzies has adopted the 4-3-3 formation and Shaw will, as ever, be the focal point of the front three.
If the wingers can use their pace to get in behind teams and provide service to Shaw in and around the 18-yard-box, she can definitely have an impact on the tournament. You’d think that with the high press they like to play, Menzies will be looking at Australia as a potential upset. If they can counter effectively, they could really cause the Matildas some serious issues.
With the significant competition in their group, the Reggae Girlz face an unbelievably difficult task to get into the KO rounds. They’ll be hoping to give their fans something to shout about and at least bag themselves one win on their historic trip to France – I’m sure we’d all love to see them achieve that too.