The Kickoff: A weekend full of promise
This football weekend is full of promise as Germany, Norway, and Australia wait to take on their opponents in the knockout phase.
Two weeks after the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup match between host France and South Korea was played at the Parc des Princes, we now have eight teams leaving the championship – South Korea, South Africa, Jamaica, Scotland, Cameroon, New Zealand, Chile, and Thailand. Despite their scores -- Scotland scored their first point in a World Cup in their third match that they drew against Argentina yesterday -- their World Cup appearances demonstrated their grit and girth, some beautiful football, and taught us a lesson or two in tenacity and perseverance. The remaining 16 teams -- the top two from each group plus four of the best thirds -- will play the knockout matches from June 22 onwards.
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Christine Manie of Cameroon is challenged by Deanne Rose of Canada during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group E match between Canada and Cameroon at Stade de la Mosson on June 10, 2019 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
A World Cup appearance is a big deal among the 211 football playing countries registered with FIFA; there are some 40 more countries worldwide playing association football and dreaming of earning their places on that list. As far as women are concerned, FIFA has a more conservative list, and 176 countries play women’s football internationally. Ridden with bans, discrimination, internal conflicts, social stigma, and disbandment of teams, these national women’s teams fought long and hard to earn credit and validation. Their World Cup appearances are a sign that they have risen through fantastic international football and finally appeared on the world scene. It is, hence, a big deal – the ultimate target. And that makes me proud and happy for the Jamaican women, the first Caribbean team to qualify for the World Cup.
It’s Marley through and through for the Reggae Girlz
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, no one but ourselves can free our minds, sang the Jamaican singer-songwriter, Bob Marley, while he was fighting cancer. He died at age 36, in the year 1981, but left his songs, his words, and his daughter Cedella Marley to continue uplifting people.
Australia's forward Samantha Kerr (C-L) vies for the ball with Jamaica's forward Khadija Shaw (C) a during the France 2019 Women's World Cup Group C football match between Jamaica and Australia, on June 18, 2019, at the Alpes Stadium Grenoble, central-eastern France. (JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)
It can safely be said that Cedella Marley played as the 24th player in the Jamaican women’s squad. It is for her that the Reggae Girlz came back from disbandment in 2014, rode the waves of another in 2016, and finally got Hue Menzies as their head coach. Menzies recognized how beautifully the Jamaican girls played; he had earlier left a lucrative career in corporate finance to become a full-time soccer coach. He has not received a single penny from the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) for all his time and effort with the Reggae Girlz, and the game of women’s football is fraught with stories of such passion and sacrifice. 'Don't gain the world and lose your soul. Wisdom is better than silver and gold,' Marley sings across eternity.
Twist in the Tale
The biggest surprise this week was again served by Argentina, who fought gender discrimination to reach the World Cup and score their first ever World Cup point. June 19 saw the last two of the Group D matches, with Argentinean fans calculating how their team should win their match with a big goal difference to stay in the World Cup, and how to ensure that England should win as well against Japan – expecting actually a miracle. And a miracle happened, however controversial it might be. Argentina had remained the lowest scorer in their group, but at game time, they turned the tables and tamed a visibly confident Scotland, who eventually fought themselves at the Parc de Princes and out of the World Cup – all in the last 20 minutes of the match.
Argentina's forward Florencia Bonsegundo celebrates after scoring a goal during the France 2019 Women's World Cup Group D football match between Scotland and Argentina, on June 19, 2019, at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
Later the Scotland captain, Rachel Corsie told BBC, “I thought we were outstanding. We just weren’t going to get the decisions. The first goal was a foul, the third goal was ridiculous. We were making a sub and defending a free-kick and for some reason, she [the referee] has let play continue. We absolutely gave everything and I thought we were outstanding. We’ll bounce back because we always do.”
The Weekend is Full of Promise
With Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain, Australia, England, and France already securing their positions in the single elimination phase schedule, the following matches to be played today will decide the remaining eight that stay in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 and whom they play in the first round of elimination.
Cameroon-New Zealand: Group E, Montpellier, 18:00
Netherlands-Canada: Group E, Reims, 18:00
Sweden-USA: Group F, Le Havre, 21:00
Thailand-Chile: Group F, Rennes, 21:00
Whatever today’s outcomes are, over the weekend, keep an eye on the first match that Germany plays, which will probably be against Brazil (best among third in groups A, C, and D), on Saturday. Watch out for the 37th match of the competition this Sunday where Norway will fight it out with Australia at Nice.
With four points and a third position on the Group B table, China is awaiting the results of the four June 20 matches that will decide its schedule. It’s highly likely that it will take on England at Valenciennes on Sunday (June 23), while the match between Cameroon and New Zealand will decide Argentina’s fate.
Look out for team Netherlands’ performance in the coming weeks. Ranked eight on the FIFA list, they have currently secured their reservation in the knockout phase and are waiting to decide their berth – the four matches today would be deciding several fates. If Netherland wins, which the bots say are highly probable, they’ll take on Japan in their elimination phase match on June 25 at Rennes. It’s bound to be a ferocious one with the Asian powerhouse fighting with everything that they have, while the Netherlands will have skill and experience on their side. Head coach Sarina Wiegman was the first Dutch player to gain 100 caps for her country, and in 2017, she led this team to victory in the Euro cup on home ground.