Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group B

Group B – Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Germany

Dzsenifer Marozsan
Dzsenifer Marozsan will be crucial to Germany’s hopes of winning the World Cup. Photo By: Lar Baron/Getty Images.

Two time World Cup winners Germany would have been delighted with their World Cup draw.

They will be expected to top the group and will look to maintain their record of at least reaching the quarter final stage in each of the seven previous World Cups campaigns.

Martina Voss Teckelenburg’s side have not lost a game this year recording wins against France, Sweden and Japan.

The second ranked side in the world will look towards Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan to anchor the midfield.

She is capable of creating and scoring goals, while Lea Schuller is another to keep an eye on as she has scored eight goals in 13 games for her country.

This could be her breakout tournament as Germany aim to join the USA as three time winners.

China

China are the most unpredictable side in the tournament as they reached the final in 1999, suffering a defeat on penalties to the US but they have not progressed beyond the quarter final stage since then.

They will be looking towards Wang Shuang to provide the goals needed to see them progress.

The reigning Asian Footballer of the Year plays her club football with PSG and is the only player in the Chinese squad to ply their trade abroad.

China have qualified for the World Cup seven times but their form in the Algarve Cup, a warm up tournament for teams, saw them finish last after losing all of their matches.

Spain

Women’s soccer in Spain has grown rapidly over the past few years as they won the Algarve Cup in 2017 and the Cyprus Cup a year later.

They qualified for their first World Cup tournament four years ago, failing to win a single game and finishing in 20th place.

La Roja have improved greatly since then and won all eight of their qualifying games for this tournament.

Jennifer Hermoso will be crucial to their hopes of progressing beyond the group stage for the first time.

She helped Atletico Madrid win the league title ahead of Champions League finalists Barcelona as the striker finished top scorer with 24 goals.

Jennifer Hermoso
Spain will need Jennifer Hermoso to be in top form if they are to progress in the World Cup.

Patri Guijarro is another attacking player who could shine as she won the Golden Boot at the Women’s U20 World Cup last year.

Spain face China in the final group game and the result there should determine who finished behind the Germans.

South Africa

South Africa are the second lowest ranked side in the tournament and will find it difficult to gather points in the competition.

The wonderfully nicknamed Banyana Banyana are competing in their first World Cup after finishing as runners up in the African Cup of Nations, losing to Nigeria in a penalty shootout.

They beat the Super Falcons in the group stage but their results against European teams is worrying.

South Africa
South Africa will hope to make an impression in France. Image via: Eyewitness News

South Africa have conceded a combined total of 10 goals  in friendly games against Norway and the United States before this tournament.

Janine van Wyk is the heartbeat of their defence and holds the record as the country’s most capped player of any gender.

Striker Tembi Kgatlana won Player of the Tournament at last year’s African Cup of Nations but she may struggle for service as her side are favourites to finish bottom of the group.

Fixtures: (British and Irish Times)
8th June:
Germany 1 China 0
Spain v South Africa 17:00
12th June
Germany v Spain 17:00
13th June
China v South Africa 20:00
17th June
China v Spain 17:00
Germany v South Africa 17:00
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Soccer, Uncategorized, Women's World Cup

Women’s World Cup Group 1 Preview

The Women’s World Cup kicked off last night with France laying down a marker with a 4-0 victory against Korea Republic. The month long festival of football will showcase the best players in the world with the tournament taking place in France. Here I discuss each team in the group and how likely they are to progress beyond the group stage. 

Group A – France, Korea Republic, Norway and Nigeria

France

France will start this group as favourites as they seek to become the first nation to hold the Men’s and Women’s World Cup trophies at the same time.

Les Bleus have never won this tournament and are seeking to become only the second side after Germany to win the Men’s and Women’s hosting of this competition.

The team are ranked fourth in FIFA’s rankings and with home support should progress to the knockout stages.

Their striker Eugénie Le Sommer will lead the line.

The Olympique Lyonnais player has won six Champions League titles and has scored 74 goals in 159 French appearances.

They are unbeaten since February and their home fans will be expecting them to go deep in the tournament.

Eugenie Le Sommer
Eugenie Le Sommer will hope to lead hosts France to World Cup glory. Photo By: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images.

Korea Republic

Korea Republic, also known as the Taeguek Ladies will compete in their third World Cup finals having reached the knockout stages in 2015 where they were defeated by France.

Their other appearance in 2003 saw them suffer a 7-1 hammering to Norway as they failed to progress from the group.

Their captain Cho So-hyun is a midfielder who plays with West Ham United and is considered one of her country’s greatest ever players.

Ji So-yun plays for Chelsea and is another midfielder worth keeping an eye on.

They are hoping to get out of the group but they only just secured the final qualifying place in Asia while their poor form against European teams is cause for concern.

Norway

The World Cup winners in 1995, Norway, would have been widely regarded as dark horses for the tournament but the first ever winner of the Ballon d’Or feminin prize Ada Hegerberg’s decision to boycott the competition is a major blow.

She argues that female players are shown a lack of respect and will miss the tournament. Hegerberg has scored 38 goals in 66 appearances for her country and they may struggle for a cutting edge without her.

Norway have won six of their seven games this year and will need Chelsea player Maren Mjelde to create chances.

Caroline Hansen is a talented winger who has signed for Barcelona after impressing with Wolfsburg.

The opening game with Nigeria looks to be vital towards deciding who progresses from the group.

Ada Hegerberg
Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg will not be playing for Norway at the World Cup.

Nigeria

Africa Women’s Champions Nigeria will be hoping to bring their success in their nation to the global stage.

The Super Falcons are the only African team to have qualified for every World Cup.

They have only got out of the group stages once, in 1999 when they reached the quarter final stage before losing to Brazil.

Nigeria will be looking to Asisat Oshoala to provide the goals; she announced herself on the world stage when she finished top scorer at the U20 Women’s World Cup.

Oshoala scored in the Champions League final as Barcelona were defeated by the all conquering Olympique Lyonnais.

They know that a top three finish may be enough to progress and the format gives them every opportunity to rectify previous World Cup failings.

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Four for Four for Irish Provinces but Injury headaches for Joe Schmidt

I pick out the main talking points from the European action as Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht all secured victories.

Leinster remind Toulouse of the path ahead

Toulouse entered their clash with Leinster on the back of 12 successive victories and on top of their Champions Cup pool. For 40 minutes the RDS was home to a slugfest, one which closely resembled an international game. Leinster however are an 80 minute side and they had too much for their French counterparts. This was a stark reminder that although Toulouse have improved they are still not on the level to compete with the best in the competition. With Johnny Sexton and other internationals to return, Leinster once more look the team to beat.

Leinster Pro 14 Champions
Leinster are the defending champions and look the team to beat once more Photo by: Billy Stockland/INPHO

Carbery’s response to adversity is very encouraging

Joey Carbery suffered an off day when Munster lost to Castres in their fourth game of the Heineken Cup. His response to that poor performance has been extremely encouraging. He has kicked 17 successful penalties in a row in games against Leinster, Connacht and Gloucester. His mental toughness shows just why he has the potential to be a pivotal player for Munster and Ireland in the years ahead. His game management has improved too and a 26 point haul against Gloucester will do his confidence no harm at all.

joey carbery
Joey Carbery celebrates his try against Gloucester. Photo by: Inpho.

Stockdale continues incredible try scoring form

Jacob Stockdale has took to senior rugby like a duck to water. The 22 year old winger scored his fifth and sixth tries as Ulster surprised last year’s finalists Racing 92. Stockdale’s second try in which he sidestepped past Olivier Klemenczak before breaking ahead, chipping on with a crisp-left foot strike, showing tremendous pace and then stepping inside to read the bounce quicker than three Racing defenders. Frighteningly good and as he is only 22, there is plenty more to come.

jacob stockdale
Jacob Stockdale scored a brace of tries for Ulster. Photo By: Getty.

Connacht have strength in depth

Connacht overcame Sale Sharks in the European Challenge Cup and now look poised to qualify for the quarter finals. The Westerners have used the competition to test their squad. Andy Friend did name a strong side but the performance of James Mitchell at scrum half and James Cannon in the second row. Substitute fly half David Horwitz kicked the winning penalty. If Connacht are to push for Champions Cup qualification then they will need a strong squad.

Schmidt’s scrum half crisis

If there is one negative that can be drawn from the weekend’s rugby, it is Ireland’s problem in the no9 position. Luke McGrath’s injury in Leinster’s win coupled with John Cooney not being fit to play for Ulster against Racing means that Conor Murray is Ireland’s only fit scrum half. Kieran Marmion was injured in Ireland’s victory against New Zealand last November and is not due back until late February. This means that Murray is the only capped Irish scrum half currently fit, less than three weeks out from the 6 Nations.

conor murray
Conor Murray is currently Ireland’s only fit scrum half. Photo By: Inpho.

Competition for Places for 6 Nations

The clean sweep of victories for the Irish provinces was notable because of the strength of performances by individuals fighting for a place in the Ireland squad. Since Ireland’s defeat to Argentina at the World Cup in 2015, Schmidt has tried to develop strength in depth. The provinces have allowed Irish talent to develop and now it is coming to fruition for the and the national side. This has raised hopes of a strong 6 Nations and World Cup.

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World Cup Final Talking Points: France and Croatia vie for glory but who will win the ultimate prize?

France and Croatia will face off on Sunday to win the World Cup. It is a final that not many predicted. France were expected to go deep while Croatia were dark horses but due to them flattering to deceive in previous tournaments, no one was sure how well this Croatian team would do. Here are the talking points ahead of the biggest game in these players lives.

World Cup Trophy
Who will get their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy? It’s anyone’s guess at this juncture. Photo By: Getty

Revenge for 1998

France beat Croatia 2-1 in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup. It was Croatia’s first World Cup as an independent country and their achievement in reaching the semi-final made them cult heroes. They took the lead when striker Davor Suker slotted home after a wonderful assist. France replied instantly and with twenty minutes to go Lillian Thuram got his second and sent France on their way to winning the World Cup. Can Croatia avenge this loss?

France v Croatia 1998 World Cup
France celebrate their semi-final victory at the 1998 World Cup. Who will emerge victorious this time? Photo By: Matthew Ashton/EMPICS Sport

Can France’s attackers shine?

Strangely France are in a World Cup final but there are plenty of question marks surrounding the team. Their defence has grown in stature and has been excellent, barring the Argentina game. Their attack however has not been as consistent with the French public questioning Deschamps’ system of play. Antoine Griezmann stood up against Uruguay while Kylian Mbappe has been more consistent. Olivier Giroud has not had a shot on target so far. Who will be the one to step up and seize the opportunity?

Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe has scored three goals at the World Cup. Can he score one more? Photo By: Getty

Fatigue

This has been a long competition for both teams – especially Croatia as they have gone to extra time in their three knockout games and penalties in tow of those (against Denmark and Russia). Many believed Croatia would tire against England but in fact they were the fresher team and that is why they won through. France are more disciplined without the ball but will their young squad struggle towards the end of the game. Fatigue could decide this game.

The Midfield Battle

Luka Modric has been outstanding for Croatia in the midfield and he will face his toughest test to date against Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Ivan Rakitic could be vital in helping Croatia winning this key battle. Pogba and Kante were outstanding against Belgium and if either team can gain control in this sector then they will be World Champions.

Luka Modric Croatia
Will Modric be celebrating Sunday evening? Photo By: AFP

Nerves

No player in either team has played or been involved in a World Cup final. Modric, Rakitic and Mandzukic and Griezmann have played in Champions League finals while others have played in Champions League knockout games. Those games are filled with pressure but this game is the biggest game in each of these players lives. A mistake or lapse in concentration could decide what promises to be a close game.

Good luck to both teams and lets hope for a classic World Cup final. It promises to be a cracker.