Dear Blog Reader,
I just booked my ticket to France.
It’s been my lifelong dream to go to the World Cup. As a young player, and up until about a year ago, I had dreamed of playing on the greatest stage this game has to offer. I got close: playing in the 2010 World Cup Qualifying tournament and being the last center midfielder cut before the 2011 World Cup team was announced. So, as I looked up flights with my sister, checked train schedules, and sent messages to try to find tickets to purchase, it was a very strange feeling for me.
But as I write this post, I realize that my main emotion at the moment is pride. I’m incredibly proud of how the women’s game has progressed, and I’m excited to attend this tournament as a fan — something I honestly never thought I’d be able to do without a lot of complex personal emotions.
My general prediction for this tournament is that it will usher in a new era of women’s football worldwide. The culture of the game has changed enormously since 2015, when we last gathered for this event. Now, we’re seeing record crowds at domestic league games around the world, clubs competing over signing players through offering competitive salaries, and major companies backing these players and their teams.
Most importantly, the quality of play, individually and collectively, has reached new heights. The women’s game is taking off, and I can’t wait to be there to personally witness what I believe will be the event that officially catapults us into new territory. These women are about to transcend the status of ‘women vying for respect in a men’s sport’ and be seen simply for what they are: footballers. And d*mn good ones.
With love and admiration for the women’s game below are my tournament predictions,
P.S. My sister and I are still looking for tickets to the final if anyone has access to two extra.
P.P.S. If you want to make sure not to miss any World Cup games, here’s a schedule you can reference.
How will the USWNT do?
Even with the drastically increased parity in the women’s game since the last World Cup, I believe that the U.S. has a significantly deeper player pool than any other nation. There’s a cumulative effect of the investment in the women’s game that has given our country a great advantage in terms of being able to actually “select” players based on specific attributes and playing styles that almost no other nation is currently able to do.
If the team is firing on all cylinders, I don’t believe that any team in the world right now can match them. That being said, the quality of the some of the other nations is such that should the USWNT have any lapse at all, there are a number of other countries that can capitalize.
Bottom line: I believe that the USWNT has a 50 percent chance of winning the World Cup and that every other participating country combined shares the other 50 percent.
Which nation do I think will win?
In past tournaments, there has been a very short list of teams that could realistically vie to be World Champions. This tournament is different. I’d put the teams with a shot into several buckets. I’ve listed them in order in both buckets according to which I believe has the been chance.
Expect to win: USWNT
Could win: France, Germany, England
More important than my thinking these teams could win, I believe that they think they could win. And when it comes to a major tournament, that genuine belief (not just a hopeful wanting to win) can go a long way.
France will have a lot of momentum as the host nation, and can draw huge confidence from their emphatic 3-1 win in a friendly over the USWNT earlier this year. Moreover, a number of their players are in top form, recently coming off of a 4th consecutive UEFA Champions League victory with their club, Lyon.
Germany, a long-time powerhouse in the women’s game, has a number of very seasoned professionals. Most importantly, they are the only nation besides the U.S. to have been crowned World Champions twice. They will be pushing hard to make that three.
England has slowly and steadily been eking their way into the top ranks of women’s football, most recently winning the SheBelieves Cup, a tournament which included the USWNT. Almost more important than any of their recent results and the fact they have a number of top individual players all over the field, however, is the fact that their manager, Phil Neville, has outright said he thinks his side could win it all. That belief will certainly prevail throughout the locker room.
Can’t count them out: Australia, Spain, Netherlands, Japan, Nigeria
These are all quality sides, which on any given day could beat any team in the world. I don’t believe any of these teams will win it all, but I think they could. They will all rely heavily on key performances from certain players. Should those players have a lights-out World Cup, they could carry their squad to victory. However, that’s a lot to ask of any individual, and I don’t believe that these teams have deep enough quality rosters to be crowned champions.
A few players I’m particularly excited to watch:
Sam Kerr. I’ve played against her, and in my opinion, she’s the very best in the world right now. While there will be a lot of pressure on her during this World Cup, she’s likely motivated to prove herself because she’s been notably snubbed from inclusion in FIFA’s top awards over the past couple years. This is her time to shine. She has the ability to blow the world away with her skill, athleticism, and quality of movement. I’m personally rooting for her to take the world by storm.
Formiga. Though Brazil has been very hot and cold in women’s international football, Formiga is probably the pinnacle of consistency in any sport. At 41, this will be her SEVENTH World Cup, the most ever for any female or male player. She’s one of the best holding midfielders the women’s game has ever seen and should be celebrated along with the likes of Marta and Cristiane.
Shanice van de Sanden. I’ll be honest, I first started noticing van de Sanden because she was a staple feature on the Instagram when they’ve been her teammate for any stretch of time. She has a flashy look and style off the field, which I’m very pleasantly surprised to see she upholds on the pitch. She has great energy, skill, and her confidence is palpable on television or computer screens worldwide. I genuinely enjoy watching the football she plays, and am excited to see more of it.
Carli Lloyd. Carli has been very public about the fact she is NOT satisfied being on the bench. And if there’s one thing we know about Carli, it’s that she never stops working and always, always comes up big in the biggest moments. Quite honestly, if the USWNT is relying heavily on Carli this tournament, it would probably mean that coach Jill Ellis is disappointed in the performance of the handful of players she currently opts to use ahead of her. This would not bode well for the team. But given any legitimate amount of time on the field, Carli is absolutely determined to make her mark. I’m very curious to see how this plays out.
I’ve started the discussion. So now, feel free to comment and let me know your reaction, or your own predictions.