After Australia and New Zealand, the co-hosts of the Women’s World Cup, started the tournament with victories, the focus now shifts to the next matches of group play, and to the three top contenders battling it out on the court: Canada, Spain and the United States.
Spain and the United States are no strangers to the final rounds of the Women’s World Cup, and they will have to put up with the pressure of getting a goal on their backs. Canada faces a different kind of pressure: its so far unfulfilled expectations at the World Cup stage. I played Nigeria to a 0-0 draw on Friday.
After these games, there will be a clearer indication of which of these competitors are willing to make a tournament, and which of them have problems that need to be addressed.
Spain vs Costa Rica
And Spain, whose roster includes many players from European powerhouse Barcelona, has lost only once in the past year. Spain is another program in battle with its federation: a truce was called before the team kicked off the tournament, but tensions remain.
When Spain and Costa Rica played in the opening match of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Costa Rica managed to hold the Spaniards 1-1, a performance they are looking to repeat.
United States vs. Vietnam
Vietnam, playing in their first Women’s World Cup match, have odds of winning the tournament at just 50,000 to one, but the team gave the highly rated German team a scare on June 24 by holding out for a friendly – with the final score at 2-1.
The United States came under fire after its opening performance in 2019, when the team beat Thailand 13-0. In the run-up to the Women’s World Cup, none of this year’s players will commit to a similar goal frenzy, and as a team looking to make history with a third straight title, the United States will win any way.
Nigeria versus Canada
Both teams put aside confrontations with their federations over equal investment and pay to play in their opening match, which ended in a goalless draw.
Olympic champions Canada qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2015 but lost in the round of 16 in 2019. Nigeria have won the Africa Cup of Nations 11 times but are heavily challenged in a group that includes host nation Australia.
Philippines vs Switzerland
The Philippines, in its first Women’s World Cup, features a roster of 18 American-born players. It lost on Friday to Switzerland, a team that has only made one appearance at the Women’s World Cup (in 2015). Neither team is expected to get far in this tournament.