Women’s World Cup: Round of 16 predictions and group stage takeaways
We may only be two weeks into the Women’s World Cup but there’s been no shortage of twists, turns, and shocks in Australia and New Zealand.
Some of the pre-tournament favourites have already packed their bags, with Germany and Brazil both failing to navigate the group stages.
Meanwhile, Morocco have forged another miraculous run in a World Cup, making it out of Germany’s group in their inaugural campaign.
Maybe most amazingly a Jamaican team that required a GoFundMe partially financed by Bob Marley’s daughter to travel Down Under have danced their way into the hearts of viewers.
We’re here to give you a recap of how this incredible group stage unfolded and offer insight into the imminent round of 16 too.
What’s going on with the USA?
The USA headed Down Under as heavy favourites but the Stars and Stripes have left much to be desired so far. They drew two of a possible three group games, both the Netherlands and Portugal limiting Vlatko Andonovski’s side to a single point in each game.
And while there’s no need for immediate panic from the Americans – they have still created the third-most xG at the tournament – it is an anomaly to see them struggling in the group stage at a Women’s World Cup. Their five-point performance is actually the USA’s worst group-stage performance in the nation's history.
But why are the Americans struggling to find their groove? Is it possible that the influential players of the past such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are on the decline? Or is it the rest of the footballing nations closing the gap between themselves and the former dominant force?
Well, it’s likely a mixture of all of these things. America’s shining lights have merely flickered so far in the tournament – with only Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith finding the back of the net – and both Netherlands and Portugal have proven to be some of the better sides that Europe has to offer.
Some of the responsibility must also fall on coach Andonovski. His modern way of playing perhaps isn’t ideally suited to the players he has at his disposal on the pitch, with a lack of attacking movement being a glaring omission when watching the United States.
And yet… the USA have proven that they can steamroll any opponent if they gather some momentum. They might be lacking that cutting edge so far but, intriguingly, as well as third-most xG they have allowed the second-least xG against; is it just a matter of time before they find their mojo again?
Their less-than-impressive start means they’ve slipped to third favourites to lift the trophy for a record-extending fifth time. If you think they’re about to find their form again the US are now priced at 9/2 with BetUK here
What went wrong for Germany and Brazil?
It’s hard to pinpoint a Women’s World Cup as shocking as this one for big group-stage exits. In past years, you could pencil both Germany and Brazil into the knockout stages before the tournament began; not since the mid-1990s had the Seleção departed in the first round while Germany never had.
But not this year. Star names like VfL Wolfsburg great Alexandra Popp and the legendary Marta are on their way home, so where did it all go wrong?
Germany were handed an early ticket home by South Korea – don’t worry you haven’t flashed back to the 2018 men’s tournament – Colin Bell’s Tigresses of Asia have indeed sent the Europeans packing from the group stages again in this one.
However, it cannot be blamed on the Germans’ goalscoring output. They racked up eight goals during the group stages – six of which, admittedly, came against Morocco in the opener – for a final tally that was matched by just five teams in the entire group stages. They all topped their sections.
They did, however, possess something of an over-reliance on star striker Popp. Since their dominating victory on matchday one, no other German managed to find the net across the games against both Colombia and South Korea.
Overall, lapses in defensive concentration proved the Achilles heel of Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side. After a clean sheet in the opener, Die Nationalelf let a crucial point slip through their fingers when they conceded a 97th-minute winner against Colombia.
Then they left themselves a mountain to climb when Cho So-hyun scored South Korea’s only goal of the tournament within the opening ten minutes. In both those final two games, their opponents had less than 33% possession but the Germans couldn’t convert pressure into points. That’s why they are heading home.
Much like the Germans, Brazil began the tournament well by dispatching Panama 4-0 in their opening game. But after a defeat to France and a scoreless draw with Jamaica, we were left wondering how Brazilian flair turned into a Brazilian failure Down Under.
Despite opening the tournament with an offensive clinic, one of Brazil’s main reasons for an early exit is how wasteful they were in front of goal. Throughout their limited time in the tournament the Seleção created the third-highest non-penalty xG (7.4) and yet they are the only team within the top nine of this category to be leaving in the group stages.
Their game against Jamaica exemplified Brazil’s fruitless forward line – even with both the legendary Marta and Debinha starting the game. Pia Sundhage’s side produced 18 shots on Rebecca Spencer’s goal but none of them found the back of the net.
It is, it must be said, a heartbreaking end to Marta’s storied international career but the Brazilians only have themselves to blame for their premature departure.
Is this now England’s to lose?
The Lionesses are now clear favourites for the title at 3/1 with BetUK after a perfect record in the group stage and some less-than-convincing displays from their rivals.
We've discussed the form of the USA here already and their former captain, the legendary Carli Lloyd, reserved particularly harsh words for her compatriots in the aftermath of their 0-0 draw with tournament debutants Portugal.
Lloyd opined: "There are too many distractions. There is too much emphasis on how many followers I have or doing photoshoots and doing this and doing that. You have to stay humble throughout the process."
All is not well in the American camp – and that surely bodes well for England given the US tamed the Lionesses in both 2007 and 2019.
|Goals + Assists
One of the pre-tournament dark horses, Germany, are also out of the competition after a shock group-stage elimination while Spain and France, although through to the knockouts, also dropped points with some questionable performances.
In contrast, England have looked solid defensively – they've conceded just once across the three games – and they found their scoring boots in a comprehensive 6-1 win over China in the final group stage game to register eight in total across the section.
One of the main reasons for optimism has been Lauren James. One of the tournament's leading scorers (with three goals) she is leading the charge for her country as arguably the brightest sparks of the tournament so far.
With a combined six goal contributions – she has also registered three assists so far – Chelsea star James will be key to Sarina Wiegman’s side’s chances.
The Lionesses have taken football home once – in the European Championships at least – can they bring the big one back too? The signs are promising.
How far can Jamaica and Switzerland go?
As Sir Alex Ferguson once said: “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” Both Jamaica and Switzerland built their group stages with sturdy defensive performances. Together, they are two of only three teams that failed to concede a goal throughout the opening portion of the World Cup – Japan being the only other team to boast such a record. The fortification of the Reggae Girlz’s backline has become one of the most surprising tournament storylines so far. Almost everybody expected Lorne Donaldson’s side to be porous at the back after conceding 13 goals in three matches at the most recent CAC Women’s games. The opposite has been true.
As 500/1 outsiders before the tournament began (now down to 120/1 here) Jamaica have built their on counter-attacking football and it has served them well in a group that contained a pair of top ten favourites before a ball was kicked in France and Brazil.
Switzerland themselves have impressed with their defensive output but, more importantly, their ability to dominate the ball. The Swiss have completed almost 80% of their passes and completed the fourth most in the tournament overall – behind only three of the top ten tournament favourites (Germany, Spain, and England).
A round of 16 fixture with fellow pass-heavy outfit Spain awaits Switzerland but they’ve already proven they can rain on a favourite’s parade by finishing ahead of Norway and co-hosts New Zealand. Like Jamaica, Lia Walti’s side were 500/1 underdogs before the tournament began; also like their fellow surprise packages their odds have shortened to 120/1 here.
It’s yet to see how far both of these teams can go but it would no longer be an almighty surprise if one or both of these nations continue to defy the odds Down Under.
Round of 16 Acca
The Round of 16 ties are set, and some juicy fixtures are on the docket. Here’s how it shapes up:
- Switzerland vs Spain (06:00, Saturday 5th August)
- Japan vs Norway (09:00, Saturday 5th August)
- Netherlands vs South Africa (03:00, Sunday 6th August)
- Sweden vs USA (10:00, Sunday 6th August)
- England vs Nigeria (08.30, Monday 7th August)
- Australia vs Denmark (11:30, Monday 7th August)
- Colombia vs Jamaica 09:00, Tuesday 8th August)
- France vs Morocco (12:00, Tuesday 8th August)
After looking at the tournament stats so far, we have compiled a juicy-looking Bet Builder. See what you make of it below (we will show our workings).
Hinata Miyazawa to score anytime for Japan vs Norway, Lauren James to score anytime for England vs Nigeria, and Spain to score fewer than 2 goals against Switzerland – 30/1 *
- Hinata Miyazawa was the leading scorer during the group stage, Lauren James bagged the second-most goals in the group stage, and Switzerland kept a perfect defensive record.