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June 6, 2019 — An under-the radar Women’s World Cup look

Tomorrow, the opening game of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is played, as France takes on South Korea.

It’s the eighth Women’s World Cup, and each of the previous seven have taken on a distinct personality and set of storylines.

Here’s what I think will be the major stories coming out of this competition:

  1. Activism. Ada Hegerberg, the current Ballon D’Or winner as best player in Europe, is not playing for Team Norway in this World Cup, sitting out the tournament in protest because of the disparity in pay between men and women in soccer. It’s amazing to me that the social activism in this tournament isn’t led by Megan Rapinoe, albeit the entire U.S. team is currently litigating equal pay in court.
  2. Physical gifts. Twelve years ago, Abby Wambach’s devil-may-care attitude in the box caused many to wonder what the future of women’s soccer would look like, physically. I think this is going to be a big (so to speak) World Cup for Christine Sinclair, Julie Ertz, Wendi Renard, and players who love to crash the box.
  3. Field hockey. Have a look at the field of 24 teams. A number of the participating countries this year have had success in the recent past in women’s field hockey in major tournaments, and have now started seeing their women’s soccer teams developing success in another field-invasion sport. Holland and Australia are teams to watch this year, while Argentina and Spain (remember: they won the 1992 Olympics) are maybe a World Cup cycle or two away from being in the elites.
  4. Tactical offense. The United States, in recent friendlies, have shown little respect for opposing defenses, creating offensive formations designed to keep the ball in the attack end for long stretches of the game. I think it is because the States — and many other countries — consider this time period a down one for women’s goalkeepers. With the retirements of Hope Solo and Natalie Angerer, there are not a lot of goalies worldwide who are seen as being ones who can steal a game with a few good saves.
  5. Liberte, egalite, sororite. The host nation, France, is a good and dangerous side with speed and the willingness to use it. It would not surprise me at all if they are lifting the trophy at the end of the tournament.
  6. Veterans. Marta (33), Formiga (41), Carli Lloyd (35) and Megan Rapinoe (33) are amongst the oldest players in the tournament, and all will be counted upon in some measure to contribute towards their respective teams’ success.
  7. Referees looking over their shoulders. The institution of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has been universally acclaimed as a way to “get it right” when it comes to certain calls such as goal-line decisions and offside. But I think there’s going to be at least one situation in this Women’s World Cup whether either the VAR booth comes in too late with a review, the central referee calls for a review in a situation outside of where it is supposed to be used, or the central referee waves off the VAR booth entirely.

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