Last up in our Women’s World Cup previews (WWC) is Group F. This group houses USA, Sweden, Thailand and Chile – with current World Cup holders USA in the fold, it promises to be a cracker.
Coach: Peter Gerhardsson
Peter Gerhardsson and his Sweden team finished top of their qualifying group for this World Cup quite comfortably. It has to be said, that was helped by the Danes failing to field a side for one of the meetings between the two nations, thus leading to Sweden being awarded a 3-0 win.
Linkoping striker Stina Blackstenius will be hoping she can be the one to alleviate Sweden’s woes in front of goal. Gerhardsson’s side have struggled in attack recently – however, that was lessened slightly when they managed to notch against a high quality German team back in April.
Sweden like to attack down the wings with the likes of Sofia Jakobsson leading the charge. Usually lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, they like to play the ball out form the back and then let their wingers get at the opposition full-backs.
Kosovare Asllani is the key to the Swedish attack. She plays in that number ten role behind the striker – she is often allowed to roam around in the midfield, something which tends to be pivotal to the Swedish attack. She is a very technically gifted, intelligent footballer with a real flair for attack.
Coach: Jill Ellis
Odds: 7/2 (JF)
Since winning the World Cup back in 2015, it’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy few years for Jill Ellis and her side. At one point, Ellis had called up 61 different players to the US National side as they endured a tough spell, but eventually they found their rhythm and look a strong outfit heading to France.
In 2016, a year following their World Cup glory, they crashed out of the Olympic Games at the quarter-final stage thanks to a defeat at the hands of group-mates, Sweden. In 2017, Ellis’ side temporarily lost their world number one ranking to Germany following a last place finish at the SheBelieves cup. They suffered home defeats at the hands of both Germany and England as well as losing to Australia for the first time in their history. All that coupled with a bunch of off-field problems, 2017 was a poor year.
Ellis and her team came out of the other side of their rocky year and soon enough, were back to winning ways. They went on a 28-game unbeaten run that only actually ended this January. The coach seems to have settled on a 4-3-3 formation that sees star names Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan in attack. Those two, as well as the likes of Tobin Heath, Mallory Pugh, Christian Press and the stalwart that is Carli Lloyd – they’re gonna score a fair few goals in France this summer. Defensively, there’s a few concerns for Jill Ellis. At the start of this calendar year, the team conceded multiple goals in back-to-back games for the first time in eight years.
With the ever impressive Sweden in the group, as well as minnows Chile and Thailand, USA shouldn’t struggle to get out of their group. They are joint favourites to win the tournament and looking at it objectively, you’d be hard pressed to find a reason to disagree with that.
Coach: Jose Letelier
In typical South American style, the Chilean team is made up of brilliant technical players lacking in only one thing, physicality. Jose Letelier’s team finished second in the Copa America a year ago – since then, they have had a couple of poor results. A loss to the USA as well as a humiliating 7-0 hammering at the hands of the Netherlands proves that Chile will have their work cut out against the worlds best in France.
The standout player for the Chilean national team is PSG goalkeeper Christiane Endler. The captain of her country and sixth best keeper in the world (according to IFFHS), she brings a confidence to a back-line that is depleted by injuries. Both Carla Guerrero and Geraldine Leyton are both absent from the team in France this summer.
As for the rest of the team, Letelier tends to favour a 4-3-3 formation with Karen Araya pulling the strings in the engine room. She is often flanked by her Sevilla teammate Francisca Lara – opposition defenders will need to be quick to close her down before she can unleash those world class long range efforts. With Aedo and Daniela Zamora in attack, Chile will no doubt be a dangerous team to play against.
A place in the KO rounds is not beyond Letelier’s team in France this summer, they have a good enough team to do just that. However, if they can perform well in their matches and put on a good show, they’ll be more than happy with their efforts.
Coach: Nuengrutai Srathongvian
Thailand come into this, their second ever World Cup, with basically the same squad that won hearts and minds in Canada back in 2015. They didn’t quite reach the KO rounds in 2015, but they only just missed out on goal difference. That came after they beat fellow World Cup debutants Ivory Coast.
They qualified for the tournament by reaching the semi-final of the Asian Cup after beating Jordan 6-1 and the Philippines 3-1. They were eventually beaten 6-0 by China in the semis.
As mentioned earlier, Nuengruethai Sathongwien’s squad is essentially the same as the one she took to the last World Cup. With Duangnapa Sritala and Sunisa Srangthaisong at that back, Rattikan Thongsombut and Taneekarn Dangda in the midfield as well as Kanjana Sungngoen and Orathai Srimanee up top. There are a few added names, such as Suchawadee Nildhamrong (Miranda Nild) – a striker currently playing and studying at the Berkeley.
With the level of opposition in their group, it is unlikely that Thailand will progress through to the KO rounds this year. However, if they can play with their usual levels of fight and desire, anything is possible.