Reporter Lee Ji-jin = “When I was younger, if you watch a women’s football match, (one team) would score 12 goals. It’s interesting and fun to watch such a fierce match, because you never know how it will turn out.”
Lena Oberdorf of the German women’s national football team expressed her opinion on recent trends in women’s football at a press conference on 2 February, a day before the team’s third group game of the 2023 FIFA World Cup against South Korea.
Oberdorf believes that there is a “power levelling” among teams around the world that makes the game less predictable.
“The standard of women’s football is rising,” she said, “and I think we have a great tournament going on,” said fellow head coach Martina Posteclenburg.
Sadly, Germany were soon to prove otherwise.
After drawing 1-1 with South Korea, the Germans failed to reach the round of 16 behind Colombia and Morocco. It was Germany’s first group stage exit since the 1991 tournament in China.
The quarter-finalists for the tournament were announced on 8 August, but the USA and Germany, ranked 1-2 in the FIFA rankings, were nowhere to be found.
The ‘world’s strongest team’, the USA, were also eliminated after a penalty shootout with Sweden in the round of 16.
They weren’t the only heavyweights to go home empty-handed. Tokyo Olympic champions Canada (ranked seventh) and Brazil (eighth), led by the ‘legend’ Marta, packed their bags in the group stage.
Europe remains strong with Sweden (third), England (fourth), France (fifth), Spain (sixth) and the Netherlands (ninth) making the quarter-finals, but their journeys have been tough too.
England, winners of last year’s European Women’s Football Championship (Women’s Euro 2022), had a tough quarter-final run that ended in a penalty shoot-out with 40th-ranked Nigeria.
Spain also suffered a humiliating 0-4 defeat to Japan (ranked 11th) in the group stage.
Meanwhile, Colombia (ranked 25th), who won their first match 2-0 against South Korea, reached the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. This is the first time a team outside the top 20 has reached the quarter-finals at a Women’s World Cup.
In addition, three teams from outside the Americas and Europe remain in the quarter-finals, including hosts Australia (10th), who are often labelled as a ‘traditional powerhouse’, and 2011 winners Japan.
This is a change from the last World Cup in France in 2019. At that tournament, all seven of the quarter-finalists were from Europe, with the exception of top-ranked USA.
In 2015, the quarter-finals were also dominated by ‘familiar names’.
In addition to Germany and the USA, France (3rd), Japan (4th), England (6th), Canada (8th), Australia (10th), and China (16th – rankings as of March 2015) competed.
There is no clear favourite at the World Cup in Australia-New Zealand.
For the first time since the Women’s FIFA Rankings were established in 2003, the first and second-placed teams did not appear in the quarter-finals. Until the last tournament, the first and second-placed teams made it through the round of 16 with ease.
Widening the scope to the round of 16, this year’s World Cup has seen the most ‘fringe’ teams make it through.
From Canada 2015 to France 2019, when the tournament was expanded to 24 nations and the round of 16 was established, only two teams from outside the top 20 made it out of the group stage.
This year’s tournament has five teams ranked outside the top 20. In addition to Colombia, Nigeria (40th), Jamaica (43rd), South Africa (54th) and Morocco (72nd) made it through to the round of 16.
Morocco reached a historic milestone by becoming the first Arab nation to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, and the first team ranked in the top 70 to reach the round of 16.
Korea Women’s National Team head coach Colleen Bell said there had been a leveling of the playing field before kick-off, with as many as eight teams named as ‘favourites’.온라인카지노
“There were two or three teams that were favourites to win the last tournament, but now there are six or eight,” Bell said at a press conference on 5 March, when the final roster was announced.
“If you look at the games in this World Cup, they’re so intense, they can go either way,” Bell said on 29 March, after Colombia’s loss to Morocco.
Bell and other leaders around the world see this as a sign of how far women’s football has come.
“The competition is getting more and more intense,” Denmark coach Lars Sørenergård said at a press conference on 27 March. Even unranked teams are playing tougher and tougher,” he said, adding that “all aspects of women’s football are improving.”
Australian ‘legend’ Claire Polkinghorne, who has played 161 A-matches for her country, welcomed the “tectonic shift” in women’s football.
Playing in her fifth World Cup, Polkinghorne told a press conference on 3 March, referring to Jamaica and South Africa’s progression to the round of 16: “That’s why this tournament is so successful. Every game is unpredictable. It’s just crazy,” he said.
Nigeria striker Ifeoma Onumonu, whose side were knocked out at the quarter-final stage, has vowed to ‘fight back’, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
“There are more teams that have played a lot of international games and are catching up with (the big teams). That’s a change,” he said, adding that “every game is a war now.”