The Game is Afoot!
The Women's World Cup gets underway in Paris
By Nick Barbaro,
7:07PM, Fri. Jun. 7, 2019
The French women opened the 2019 Women’s World Cup in style on Friday, cruising to a 4-0 win over South Korea in front of 45,000+ fans at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
Korea was supposed to be pretty solid, especially on defense, but France seemed to totally have their way throughout, shredding especially the left side of the defense at will. Goals from the two attacking stars, Eugenie Le Sommer and Amandine Henry, sandwiched a couple of towering headers by 6-foot-2 defender Wendie Renard – and beg the question, is France really that good, or has the talent gap between the contenders and the pretenders not closed as much as we thought? Or both; hard to draw too many conclusions from one game.
There are three games a day this weekend. Saturday starts off with Germany-China, at 8am Central. On paper, this looks a lot like today's opener: one of the big favorites (Germany's unbeaten this year, and handed France their only loss of the year), against a largely untested Asian "power" - though China has some history as a genuine power. Then comes Spain-South Africa (11am), in the same Group B; the Spaniards are some people's dark horse pick to perhaps make a deep run, while South Africa is mostly just happy to be here. But they have enough talent to create problems if the defense can keep them in the game. Which is the forecast as well for the third game of the day – Norway-Nigeria, 2pm: European tactics and discipline are expected to smother third-world individual talent and athleticism, and find lapses to exploit. By the end of the day, we should have a good feel for whether that will indeed be a theme of the tournament.
The three games Sunday have a whole different flavor. Start with Australia-Italy, the tourney’s lone 6am start: Italy, like Spain, has really come a long way recently, buoyed by major investment from the big club teams in both countries, and solid youth programs; they’ll test their mettle against the Matildas, rated as one of the overall favorites. Brazil-Jamaica (8:30am) should produce some goals; this Brazil team is perhaps a little past its prime (Formiga is playing in her record seventh WWC, and Marta is still the best-known player in the world, but she’s no longer the best), but they should be able to run up the score on the lowest-ranked team in the tournament. And then there’s England-Scotland (11am), one of the world’s oldest sporting (and sometimes not-so-sporting) rivalries. Scotland’s here for the first time, and you just know they have to have been tickled pink (even pinker than usual) when they got drawn into a group with their dearest of enemies to the South of Hadrian’s Wall. England’s ranked third in the world, and are a big favorite, but this is really one of those games where you can throw the records out the vindauga.
Then two more games on Monday, and three on Tuesday – concluding with the 2pm U.S. opener against Thailand – finish up the first matches for all 24 teams. I’ll check in again some time before then.