To celebrate one month until kick-off of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, we took a look at the biggest Group Stage matches that you won’t want to miss.
Group E: Netherlands v Canada
Like the game mentioned above, the final match day in Group E will also see the two group heavyweights—the Netherlands (rank 8) and Canada (rank 5)—facing off to determine who will likely top their group on June 20 at the Stade August-Delaune in Reims.
Having only played each other four times in their history, and not once since early 2016, both teams will be heading into the clash off the back of a number of confidence-boosting performances over the past 18 months.
These two teams have not been particularly dominant in World Cup tournaments, with the exception of Canada finishing fourth in 2003 (the Netherlands only qualified for the first time in 2015); instead, it’s their more recent campaigns, including European Championships and Olympic Games, that have shown what each nation is capable of.
The Netherlands surprised many by taking out the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championships, defeating Denmark 4-2, and then backing up that performance by winning the 2018 Algarve Cup.
Meanwhile, despite not doing particularly well in the last three World Cup cycles, Canada boasts two third-place finishes in the past two Olympic Games in 2016 and 2012, as well as being runners-up in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship in 2018 and the 2017 Algarve Cup.
The winner of this game will likely finish first in Group E and will progress to the Round of 16 where they will play the second-placed team of Group D, which may be one of either England, Scotland, or Japan. The second-placed team in Group E will face the second-placed team of Group F, likely either USA or Sweden.
Even though Group E may be one of the ‘easier’ groups this year, the path to the final appears to be difficult no matter which path they take.
Players to watch:
Canada: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyon)
Netherlands: Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal), Lieke Martens (Barcelona)
Head to Head:
April 2016: 1-2 (Canada win)
June 2015: 1-1 (draw)
March 2013: 0-1 (Canada win)
March 2012: 0-1 (Canada win)
Past 5 results:
Chile 7-0 (win)
Mexico 2-0 (win)
China 1-1 (win 2-4 on penalties)
Poland 0-1 (loss)
Spain 2-0 (loss)
Nigeria 2-1 (win)
England 1-0 (win)
Sweden 0-0 (win 6-5 on penalties)
Scotland 1-0 (win)
Iceland 0-0 (draw)
Group F: Sweden v USA
On the final match day of all groups, Group F heavyweights Sweden (rank 9) will take on long-time rivals USA (rank 1) on June 20 at the Stade Océane in Le Havre, with the winner almost certainly topping the group.
Like Australia vs Brazil, Sweden and the USA have a long, fraught history. They first played each other at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, where the USA would defeat Sweden 2-3, going on to win the entire tournament that year, and then twice more in 1999 and 2015.
However, Sweden has regularly been a thorn in the USA’s side, drawing 0-0 with them at the 2015 World Cup and most recently defeating them 3-4 on penalties at the quarterfinal stage of the 2016 Olympic Games; a result that pre-empted the ban and eventual banishment of veteran goalkeeper Hope Solo from the USA team.
While the USA has never finished below third place in a World Cup, making them the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, one shouldn’t underestimate the energy and spirit that this old rivalry could bring their final-match-day contest. Indeed, Sweden is no strangers to the further reaches of the World Cup, having finished third in 2011. They also finished runners-up in 2003, as well as runners-up in the 2016 Olympic Games, proving that they may not be so easy to brush aside.
The winner of this game will likely top Group F, meaning they will take on the second-placed team of Group B, which may be either Germany, Spain, or China. Meanwhile, the second-placed team in Group F will play the second-placed team of Group E, which will likely be the Netherlands or Canada. Whether these possible trajectories play into the team’s approach in this match is yet to be seen.
USA: Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals)
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea), Caroline Seger (FC Rosengård)
Head to Head:
June 2017: 0-1 (USA win)
August 2016: 1-1 (Sweden win 3-4 on penalties)
August 2015: 0-0 (draw)
March 2014: 1-0 (Sweden win)
March 2013: 1-1 (draw)
Past 5 results:
Belgium 6-0 (win)
Australia 5-3 (win)
Brazil 1-0 (win)
England 2-2 (draw)
Japan 2-2 (draw)
Austria 0-2 (win)
Germany 1-2 (loss)
Canada 0-0 (lost 6-5 on penalties)
Portugal 2-1 (loss)
Switzerland 4-1 (win)