We continue our preview of the FIFA Women’s World Cup with a look at the group B teams featuring powerhouses such as Germany and China, as well as Spain and South Africa.


GERMANY


Germany last won the World Cup in 2007. Since then, they failed to get past the Quarter final on home soil in 2011 and lost in the semi-final to USA, eventually finishing fourth. Despite winning gold at the 2016 Olympics, the aforementioned results coupled with their quarter-final exit at the WEUROS in 2017 (the first time they have failed to win the competition since 1995) raises doubts about the superiority of the German team at the moment. But writing off a German national team is not among the smarter decisions in football, and so we won’t go that route. Despite their recent failings, they still navigated the Qualifiers with few hitches only losing against Iceland and winning their other seven games to see them top Group 5 with 21 points and a goal difference of +38.

They are favourites to qualify as top of the group which contains Spain, China and South Africa and it would be a mighty upset if they didn’t make it through.

The German team has been so revered because they have always has star names on the roster. The likes of Heidi Mohr, Birgit Prinz and Celia Sasic come to mind when we think of great German teams of the past. This year they also have quite a few names of repute. Players like Alendra Popp, Sara Dabritz and Liga Magull but all eyes will almost certainly be on Lyon attacking midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan.

The artful midfielder has been key to quite a few of Germany’s big moments since she came on board the national team in 2010, including scoring the winning goal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She’s known more for her playmaking however and that’s where she will look to make more impact for the national team.

Road To The Finals

6-0 home win vs Slovenia
1-0 away win vs Czech Republic
3-2 home loss vs Iceland
11-0 home win vs Faroe Islands
4-0 home win vs Czech Republic
4-0 away win vs Slovenia
2-0 away win vs Iceland
8-0 away win vs Faroe Islands


SPAIN

La Roja made their World Cup debut in 2015. It was a largely forgettable experience as they exited at the group stage in Canada, finishing with a single point from their three group games. However, a lot has happened in Spanish female football since then especially at the developmental levels and La Roja have benefited immensely from this.

They qualified for the U20 World Cup in 2016 for the first time since 2004. They reached the quarter-final on that occasion and in 2018 they placed second. In that time, the senior team reached the quarter-finals of the 2017 WEUROS, losing on penalties to Austria. They also won the Algarve cup that same year.

Testament of Spain’s good groundwork in the women’s game can be seen in the outlay of Spanish team going to France, with 11 of the 23 players named in the team being 24 and under. Most of them veterans of the 2016 and 2018 U20 World Cups. It can also be seen in the growth in the Liga Femenina Iberdola’s stature and the interest the game has garnered. In the 2018/2019 season, the game between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona broke the World record for the number of fans in the stadium.

The Spanish team breezed through qualifying, with a perfect 8/8 record, conceding only 2 goals. They’re faced with a more complex group at the World cup than they had during qualifying but that shouldn’t rattle the second highest ranked team in the group. A win in their opener against South Africa would really go a long way in their quest to qualify from the group stage for the first time in their history.

In Jenni Hermoso, Spain has an exceptional forward who very often is the difference maker for the teams she plays in. She was the top scorer for Atletico Madrid as they lifted the league title and also finished with the most goals for Spain in qualifying and in the friendly Algarve cup.

Road To The Finals

6-0 away win vs Israel
2-1 away win vs Serbia
4-0 home win vs Austria
2-0 away win vs Finland
1-0 away win vs Austria
2-0 home win vs Israel
5-1 home win vs Finland
3-0 home win vs Serbia


CHINA


China were once a powerhouse in the women’s game. They hosted the first ever official tournament in 1991 where they reached the quarter-final. In the next edition, they went a step further reaching the semifinals before losing to eventual champions Germany. By 1999 they had made it all the way to final but lost on penalties to USA. The Steel Roses would have been forgiven for thinking they would be winning the 2003 tournament by this progression, but they never even came close, losing on that occasion to Canada in the quarter-final. They have never made it beyond the quarter-final stage since then, but they’ll be hoping this could be the year they return to their glory days.

The Steel Roses qualified by topping their group at the 2018 AFC Women’s Cup. Finishing with three wins from three, 15 goals scored and only one conceded. They claimed third place at the tournament. Losing to eventual Champions Japan in the semi-finals before beating Thailand by three goals to one in the third place play off. They may not be the most fancied in the group, but if they can get a favourable result against Germany in their opener, then all bets are off as to where China can finish in the group.

One player immediately springs to mind when the Steel roses are mentioned and that’s Li Ying (not to be confused with Li Yang, who is a top player herself). She was the top scorer at the 2018 AFC Women’s Cup Scoring 7 times in 5 games to claim the golden boot and has carried her form into the new year, helping China to the Four Nations Invitational tournament Cup.

Road To The Finals

4-0 win vs Thailand
3-0 win vs Philippines
8-1 win vs Jordan
3-1 loss to Japan
3-1 win vs Thailand


SOUTH AFRICA

They came so close to dethroning Africa’s perennial champions Nigeria in the 2018 Africa Women’s Championship and will be hoping they can build on that performance in their maiden World Cup. They showed what they are capable of in the continental qualifiers for the World Cup, beating Africa’s top ranked team Nigeria before smashing Equatorial Guinea 7-1. They drew their final group game against Zambia and topped the group with 7 points. They secured qualification for France 2019 by beating Mali in the semi-final before falling at the last hurdle on their journey to a first AWC title.

South Africa are faced with the daunting task of overcoming two of the best sides in Europe and a Chinese side who have routinely ravaged them in previous encounters. Far be it from Banyana Banyana to be trepidatious though, as they have always shown a willingness to go toe to toe with any opponent they face. Their expansive, fast paced style of play is surely going to be a joy to watch in France and woe betide any team that makes the mistake of undertaking them.

In Thembi Kgatlana, Bayana Bayana have a real star. She was crowned Africa’s best female player in 2018. She was worthy of the award for her heroics at the African Women’s Championship where she carted away both the highest goalscorer and best player awards as well as the 2018 Cyprus Cup where she was named player of the tournament. She’s only 23, but she has played for the national team at the AWC, the Olympics and was part of the team that won the Cosafa Cup in 2017. The wily forward will be key to South Africa’s progress in France, and she and Bayana Bayana ate ever so keen to strut their stuff on football’s grandest stage for the first time.

Road To The Finals

1-0 win vs Nigeria
7-1 win vs Equatorial Guinea
1-1 draw vs Zambia
2-0 win vs Mali in the Semi Finals
Lost on penalties (4-3) vs Nigeria after a goalless draw

Article By: Ayoola Kelechi, @Ayoola_Kelechi

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