The 2019 Women’s World Cup gets underway in France on Friday, and many Africans will be rooting for the continent’s representatives, South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon.
Ethiopia’s president, Sahle-Work Zewde is attending the tournament opener between hosts France and South Korea, having delivered a keynote speech at the inaugural FIFA Women’s Football Convention held in Paris on Friday.
“Women football is young but growing. It doesn’t enjoy the same investment as boys’ does. We should invest more on women. I am confident that what we invest on women will pay off 100-fold, because women are capable,” she said.
About the World Cup
The Women’s World Cup, an international football competition contested by the senior women’s national teams of the members of FIFA, has been held every four years since 1991.
The United States are the most successful women’s football team, having won the World Cup three times and the Olympics four times.
Germany have won the World Cup twice, while Japan and Norway have each won the prestigious tournament once.
Nigeria, Africa’s most successful team, has made the most progress at the World Cup, having reached the quarter finals in 1999.
Brazil’s Marta has scored the most goals (15) at the tournament, and she will be hoping to secure a maiden World Cup trophy for a nation whose passion for football is legendary.
France will be hoping to emulate the United States to become the second nation to win as hosts. To do that they will have to outwit Korea Republic, Norway and Nigeria in Group A, before going all the way, in the tournament that features 24 teams.
The organisers are optimistic that the fact that selling out the opening game at the iconic Parc des Princes in Paris, and both semi-finals and the final, all to be played at the 69,000-capacity Groupama Stadium in Lyon, is a sign of a successful tournament ahead.
“We didn’t see it coming,” said Erwan Le Prevost, head of the local organising committee.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be used for the first time, Scotland, Chile, Jamaica and South Africa are making their debuts at the month-long tournament.
GROUP A: France (hosts), Korea Republic, Norway, Nigeria
GROUP B: Germany, China, Spain, South Africa
GROUP C: Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica
GROUP D: England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan
GROUP E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands
GROUP F: USA, Thailand, Chile, Sweden
Nigeria, who are the reigning African champions will be hoping to better their record at the Women’s World Cup and go all the way to the July 7 final. The nine-time champions of the continent however have to first navigate a potentially tough group that includes hosts France, one-time world champions Norway and Korea Republic.
South Africa, who are featuring at the Women’s World Cup for the first time, are the rising star of the continent. The Banyana Banyana have the reigning African player of the year, Thembi Kgatlana, who was the top-scorer at th Nations Cup (AWCON 2018) last year. The runners-up at AWCON 2018, will take on two-time champions Germany, Spain and China.
“Today you are good, tomorrow you are better and the other day you’re even greater,’‘ Kgatlana said.
Cameroon, who secured their place at the World Cup by beating Mali in the third place play-off at AWCON 2018, will take on European champions Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand in Group E.
“Like all lionesses going out hunting, we’re on a hunt and we’ll get our prey, because a lioness never comes home empty handed,’‘ said Indomitable Lionesses’ goalkeeper, Mireille Mambingo.
Stars to watch
- South Africa’s Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana, reigning African Player of the Year
- Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala, three-time African Player of the Year
- Cameroon’s Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene
- France’s Wendie Renard, a six-time Champions League winner.
- Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan, whose Lyon has won four straight Champions League titles.
- United States’ star forward Alex Morgan.
- Australia’s Sam Kerr, the record goalscorer in America’s professional league.
- England’s winger Nikita Parris who is the Football Writers’ Association’s Player of the Year.
- Brazil’s six-time World Player of the Year Marta.
- Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema won the Golden Boot in England’s top division last season.
The tournament will be staged in nine stadiums in nine different cities which include;
- Parc des Princes, Paris
- Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims
- Stade des Alpes, Grenoble
- Roazhon Park, Rennes
- Stade du Hainaut, Valenciennes
- Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier
- Stade de Nice, Nice
- Stade Oceane, Le Havre
- Stade de Lyon, Lyon
“It’s going to be a remarkable World Cup. The level of competition four years on from the last one has exponentially increased,” said Jill Ellis, coach of the US team, the reigning champions.
“Aside from USA, France and the Netherlands, teams like Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway are also playing very well,” German coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg told broadcaster ARD.
“I think this World Cup is a tipping point for the women’s game where I think it’s just going to go boom,” England manager Phil Neville said.
More than just football
A notable absentee from this year’s Women’s World Cup is the reigning best player in the world, Ballon D’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, who scored a hat trick for Lyon in the Champions League final.
She is boycotting the national team even though Norway pays women and men internationals the same, because she believes that more needs to be done to improve the way women footballers are treated.
The United States are also embroiled in a legal dispute with their federation, demanding equal pay with their male compatriots.
South Africa’s federation announced in May that the Banyana Banyana will be paid the same amounts fo participating in the Women’s Word Cup as the Bafana Bafana who will be contesting the African Nations Cup later this month in Egypt.
Also, while up to $30m will be awarded to participating teams at the Women’s World Cup this year, which is double the amount of 2015, it is still a long way off the $400m prize pot at the 2018’s men’s World Cup.
- 1991, year first tournament held
- 3 times, record champions USA have won
- $30m, prize money at 2019 tournament
- 24, number of teams at France 2019
- 3, number of African teams at tournament
- 9, stadiums and cities hosting matches
- 15, record goals scored at the World Cup (by Brazil’s Marta)
- France, hosts this year
- Quarter-finals, highest stage reached by African team (Nigeria)