So France 2019 is finished and it saw the USA retain their World Cup title, with a 2-0 (as predicted in my preview blog) victory over the Netherlands. A fitting finale to a fantastic tournament, which for me has been the best Women’s World Cup ever, you could most definitely see the improvement in the quality on show from Canada 2015. In a hard fought final, where the Dutch got their tactics spot on especially in the first half, it turned on an inevitably, VAR penalty, which was correctly awarded, one mistake by a defender and that was that. Megan Rapinoe made no mistake and the Americans took control for a 20 minute period where they could have scored any number of goals. Rose Lavelle got the second to seal the game within this period. To be fair to the Oranje they never stopped having a go but their game changer players of Miedema and Martens just didn’t turn up on the day. It could easily be argued that woman of the match was Sari Van Veenendaal as the scoreline would have been a lot worst without her heroics in goal.
EUROPE DOWNED BY THE USA AND ELLIS VINDICATED
Interestingly it was Europe v USA from the quarter final stages onwards and is anybody surprised they saw it out with three outstanding performances to see off probably that continent’s strongest sides in France, England and then the European Champions Netherlands. Back to back World titles is an outstanding achievement, joining Germany who won the tournament in 2003 and 2007. Massive credit must go to manager Jill Ellis, the only one in history to retain a Women’s World Cup. She made key decisions through the tournament, starting off by sidelining, Carli Lloyd as a starter, knowing that she would be an outstanding impact substitute and was used brilliantly through the tournament. She was not afraid to rotate the team, especially in midfield picking a team to nullify the opponents instead of always picking the so called best players, Ellis was always about balance and what is best for the team. Her biggest key decision for me was playing Christen Press in the semi-final against England instead of star player Megan Rapinoe, the young replacement was outstanding scoring the first goal and made Lucy Bronze look ordinary. Press got game time in the final which was richly deserved after her contribution to her teams progress throughout the competition. A richly deserved 4th World Cup win for the USA and nobody can have any complaints about that.
Some personal thoughts below from myself:-
France 1 USA 2 – The hosts v the holders in what was a rip roaring contest watched by a capacity Paris crowd in the Parc des Princes. It was billed as ‘Le Grande Match’ and it lived up to its billing, even though it was disappointment for the home team. To be fair they could have no complaints the USA just showed their extra class, especially after breaking the deadlock after just 5 minutes. The French didn’t recover until they were 2 behind and though they scored late on, it was not enough.
The opening goal of the tournament scored by Eugenie Le Sommer. The French had started strongly in this game and it took less than 9 minutes for them to take the lead. Captain Amandine Henry pressed the South Korean defence got the ball drove into the right hand channel before a perfect cross to Le Sommer who smashed it home. Lift off for the hosts as the crowd went mad and the scorers celebration said it all.
Cameroon’s winner by, Ajara Nchout, against New Zealand with literally the last kick of the game. The game was at 1-1, but that result was no good for either side as each needed a win to secure a place in the knockout rounds or they were both going home. New Zealand were attacking but lost the ball, which ended up at the feet of the Cameroon player halfway inside the opposition half, she dribbled towards the goal, then turned a New Zealand defender not once but twice, leaving them on their backside and produced a sumptuous finish to win the match and guarantee qualification for the last 16. The celebrations said everything, what a goal and what a time to be a part of Cameroon Women’s football in whatever guise – player, management or supporter.
Crystal Dunn – From left back she has been out of this world for me. She can get up and down, tackle superbly and whilst she has pace, her positional sense, even in danger areas when a challenge needs to be made is excellent. Her partnership on her side with Megan Rapinoe was so dangerous and be aware that Rapinoe didn’t really track the right back so sometimes she had to deal with two players against her on that side, but dealt with any issues superbly. The USA had so many quality players in their team that it is easy to forget what an influence Dunn had within the side. She nearly scored in the final with a trademark lung bursting run, but was denied by the keeper, it would have been a fitting if she had ended up on the scoresheet, but this does not take away from her outstanding performances.
A FINAL MEMORY
One thing that has most been labelled at women’s football has been the goalkeeping. But France 2019 showed that the standards now are most definitely on the rise. The keeping in the tournament has been of a very good standard in my opinion, yes there have been mistakes, but that will always be the case. The key is that the goalkeepers have generally looked competent in their skill with some being absolutely outstanding. The most obvious being the Dutch keeper Sari Van Veenendaal, but there were plenty of others that impressed me, not least the Chilean and Argentine keepers Christiane Endler and Vanina Correa respectively who kept their teams in matches when things should have been over and done with. There are plenty of takeaways from this World Cup, but the improvements within the goalkeeping area have been there for all to see.
So we now head to, well we don’t know yet. The hosts for the next tournament will be named next year. Bids are expected from Africa, Asia, South American Countries as well as Australia and New Zealand. the decision will be made next year. FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has also mentioned the possibility of expanding the tournament to 32 teams for then, so we may have a few new countries challenging come 4 years time. One thing is for sure, wherever it is played and whoever qualifies they have a lot to live up to after France 2019. And most importantly will anybody be able to stop the USA doing their own personal threepeat.
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