Elin Rubensson (left, Sweden) and Megan Rapinoe (right, USA) at the 2015 World Cup. Photo courtesy of FIFA.
The World Cup took a big step forward to its arrival with the teams being drawn into their respective groups on Saturday. The 24 teams were drawn into six groups of four, which, as always, leads to a few interesting matchups to look forward to.
With just under six months to go there is lots of time to get deep into the tactical battles, so let’s take a quick look at the one big match in each group. Some of these will be based on national rivalries, historic significance between the teams, or simply a game with two big teams that should create a fun match-up.
The opening match of the tournament is the most obvious must-watch game, with France facing off against South Korea on June 7 in Paris. The French will face another test in Norway in their second match. Nigeria will be in for a challenge to advance and will be looking to upset either the Koreans or the Norwegians to get a third-place spot.
The powerhouse Germans shouldn’t be overly worried about China or South Africa, but their opponent could provide quite the test. Spain has been quickly building a strong program and has a deceiving ranking of only 12, but will give Germany all they can handle on June 12 in the second set of games.
Australia and Brazil continue to meet each other for the fifth major tournament in a row. Australia won in the round of six at the last World Cup, while Brazil won their match in the Olympics to knock out Australia. The Aussies will be looking to get past Italy while Brazil faces Jamaica in their opening matches. Australia and Brazil will meet on the 13th.
A rematch of a semi-final game from four years ago should be fun between England and Japan, with Japan winning four years ago in the final set of matches. England can’t look to far ahead, though, as they start with a game against their rivals in Scotland who are making their debut before a game against Argentina in the middle.
For the second consecutive World Cup, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands find themselves all squaring off again in the same group, this time joined by Cameroon instead of China (Group A). Number five (Canada) and seven (Netherlands) having a match at this stage is exciting, especially if they reach the final game with six points each. It was a draw last World Cup but the Dutch won the European championships in 2017 and have improved since 2015.
At this point the most predictable game of any World Cup is the United States vs Sweden. They have met five times — the most of any two teams — including now a fourth straight tournament. In other words, these teams know each other well. The other match on the last day in this group could decide a potential knockout round team: Thailand and Chile will be looking for an important three points if you like underdogs.