04 June 2015

2015 FIFA Women's World Cup: Group Stage Predictions

Amid a decent amount of turmoil surrounding the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off this Saturday from Edmonton. Of course, this tournament has also been plagued by controversy, notably the idiotic and disgraceful decision that this tournament will not be played on grass but instead on turf. Alas, it wouldn't be FIFA without some self-inflicted controversies now would it?

That aside, the group stage will take place over the next two weeks with 16 teams advancing to the knockout stage. Who will be those teams whose hopes of winning the Women's World Cup will still be intact by June 20th? Here are my predictions.

TV Schedule
Parenthesis note FIFA World Ranking

Group A - Canada (8), China PR (16), New Zealand (17), Netherlands (12)
Canada is not only the best team in this grouping but they will also be playing in front of a home crowd in every one of their games. I would be rather surprised if they didn't win the group, let alone advance to the knockout stage. It will be a fun battle for the second position and you could likely see one of the wild card teams from here too. China is one of the youngest teams in the field but they have had some stability with their program and I think that will show. The Dutch have never appeared in a World Cup before but their skill will keep them out of the cellar as New Zealand's lack of experience in net does concern me.
1 Canada 2 China PR 3 Netherlands 4 New Zealand

Group BCôte d'Ivoire (67), Germany (1), Norway (11), Thailand (29)
The Germans are poised for a big bounce-back after a disappointing 2011 tournament and combining that with how much better they are than the rest of the group should mark easy sailing for them. There is also a noticeable gap between the Norwegians and the rest of the group as well. Thailand has struggled with teams outside of their region while Côte d'Ivoire has no experience with non-African nations. A pretty easy bet here.
1 Germany 2 Norway 3 Thailand 4 Côte d'Ivoire

Group C - Cameroon (53), Ecaudor (48), Japan (4), Switzerland (19)
Just like with Group B, it would be a pretty big surprise if the top two teams are not the Japanese and the Swiss, considering that Ecuador and Cameroon are among the weakest teams in the field. Even as the defending champion, Japan is no guarantee to finish highest in group as Switzerland has got a number of players capable to putting the ball in the net and Japan is not getting any younger.
1 Japan 2 Switzerland 3 Cameroon 4 Ecuador

Group D - Australia (10), Nigeria (33), Sweden (5), United States (2)
With three top ten teams from the latest FIFA rankings, you can rightfully call this the Group of Death. The Americans are certainly one of the favorites to win it all but they're no guarantee to win the group, although it would be surprising if they weren't in the top two. However, Sweden isn't entering the tournament too hot so I give the USWNT the edge there. The Aussies may not be deep enough to take out the United States or Sweden but their ability to score should propel them to the knockout stage as a third-place squad. Nigeria is coming along but they aren't quite there yet.
1 United States 2 Sweden 3 Australia 4 Nigeria

Group E - Brazil (7), Costa Rica (37), Korea Republic (18), Spain (14)
The Brazilians are going to benefit from a relatively weak group to safely advance to the knockout stage and it would be a decent surprise if they did not win the group. Brazil's issues, as the norm, will likely come in the knockout stage. Beyond that, it's going to be pretty interesting to see this group shake out. The Spaniards have never played in a World Cup before but they have looked tremendous during the qualifying stage and have a number of players that can light up the scoreboard. South Korea may be overly reliant on Ji So-yun but she's pretty darn good and they have experience in net as well. Las Ticas are also in their first World Cup but while they may have an uphill climb to advance, they did look good in qualifications.
1 Brazil 2 Spain 3 Korea Republic 4 Costa Rica

Group F - Colombia (28), England (6), France (3), Mexico (25)
This should be a fun group to watch due to a nice mix of solid teams. That said, England and France look like pretty solid bets to finish in the top two positions. Les Bleus are looking like a championship contender considering they return all of the key pieces from the 2011 tournament where they finished fourth, only with more experience this time. England shares similarities with their male counterparts as they are usually solid bets to advance past the group, and solid bits to flame out shortly thereafter. With a wild card spot likely on the line between the remaining teams, it will be a tough battle between Mexico and Colombia. When these two face off, look for rising star Yoreli Rincón to be the difference for the Colombians.
1 France 2 England 3 Colombia 4 Mexico

Teams in bold are advancing

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