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Utah Royals in France: Round 1 Review

Twelve games down, forty more to go.

Canada v Cameroon: Group E - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

We’ve played 12 games of football, so let’s talk about it. In terms of Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, and the United States, we’ll go team by team talking about each individual countries performance, and then at the end we’ll go game-by-game hitting some of the highlights.

***Worth mentioning, teams who win their first game go through to the round of sixteen 89% of the time

Scotland

A historic rivalry opened up the action for Group D. Scotland looked very dangerous within the first few minutes, but after conceding a handball and subsequent penalty in the 14th minute, the tone drastically changed, and England began to dominate. In the 40th minute, Rachel Corsie missed a clearance on a tackle, allowing the ball to bounce to Ellen White who put it in the back of the net.

Starting off the second half down 2-0, the attacking play wasn’t exactly inspiring, but defensively they looked much more compact. Starting at around the 70th minute, Scotland found new life, and Claire Emslie got one back in the 79th. While unable to grab a second goal to walk away with a point, the overall result is not a surprise and having a goal differential of only -1 means that Scotland are still in a position to make some waves.

Up Next: Japan, 7AM, Friday June 14th. Fox Sports 1

I’ve never been a huge fan of the phrase ‘must win,’ because in any competitive season if winning trophies is the goal, then every game is a must win. But.... this upcoming game against Japan is a must-win if Scotland want to get into the Round of 16. A loss will keep them at the bottom of the bracket, and assuming England nabs multiple goals against Argentina, it will put them in a position where they would absolutely have to win the game against Argentina and rely on some luck from the other groups. A tie will put them in a slightly more comfortable position but still needing a win against Argentina.

Japan is coming off of a 0-0 draw against an Argentinian team, which on paper they should have beaten. In that outing they showed some recklessness; the youth showed their nerves, and they were unable to finish. While it’s not necessary for Scotland to get off to a great start, it would certainly help, but the ultimate sticking point for me is consistency. The midfield outside of Kim Little cannot disappear for minutes at a time, and I highly doubt Japan will be as hesitant in the attack against Argentina this time around, so as long as Scotland can limit possession in the final third and spring on the counter, they should have a good chance.

Canada

Desiree Scott and Canada faced up against Cameroon in the first match of action for Group E. Heavy underdogs, Cameroon did not bunker and park the bus. They came out guns blazing trying to move the ball forward, and while the intent was there, the final pass to create the shot often wasn’t. On the other hand, Canada possessed the ball a lot, nearly 70% of the game, completing 522 passes compared to 158, but they didn’t do much with it generating plenty of corners but not much else. A lot of this is less to do with ability than it is tactics. A defense-first mentality is the nation’s trademark, and the seek and destroy capabilities from the double CDM pairing in Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt allows it to be incredibly effective. Ultimately, defense ended up being enough offensively as completely unmarked on a corner centerback Kadeisha Buchanan headed in the game’s sole goal at the end of the first half.

Up Next: New Zealand, 1PM, Saturday June 15th, Fox Sports 2/Fox Sports Go

While New Zealand will probably be a slightly stronger test compared to Cameroon, concerns about a consistent ability to score remain. As long as Canada can actually put the ball in the back of the net, they should be fine as New Zealand has one of the least dangerous attacking fronts in the tournament. A win will very likely secure them a place in the Round of 16, leaving the final game against Netherlands to determine who will top the group.

New Zealand

The Football Ferns came into this game knowing that the Netherlands would be an incredibly tough challenge, but they contained them incredibly well, exceeding expectations and making Shanice van de Sanden a non-factor. They additionally created several chances, one of which was denied only by the crossbar. Despite conceding the vast majority of the possession, the Kiwis continued to be incredibly effective at frustrating the Dutch attack and had the lion’s share of the better opportunities, forcing Sari van Veenendaal to come up big, that is until a deflating header from Jill Roord found the back of the net in the final minutes of extra time. A heck of a game for New Zealand, but it was just not meant to be. On the Katie Bowen watch, she was fantastic in the midfield, so composed on the ball, and would love to see more of that in gold.

Up Next: Canada, 1PM, Saturday June 15th, Fox Sports 2/Fox Sports Go

While Canada picked up a win against Cameroon, the inability to create high conversion chances and a reliance on Christine Sinclair up top are very concerning for the remainder of the tournament. Frankly, if they can play as defensively solid as they did for 91 minutes against Holland, this is a game the Football Ferns can get a point, if not more out of.

United States

Football, soccer, whatever you want to call it is a game of numbers. Only this instance #1 vs. #34. 39 shots to 2 shots. 75% possession to 25%. 663 passes to 209. Four goals in six minutes, ultimately scoring the most amount of goals ever in a World Cup winning 13-0. Ultimately, the storyline in this one, much like the majority of soccer, is about resource disparities, and this one was decided months ago when the groups were drawn.

On the Utah Royals watch, while her third World Cup, Kelley O’Hara got her first start and made several key passes which resulted in the ball in the back of the net. Christen Press came on for Tobin Heath in the 57th minute. Becky Sauerbrunn was ruled out with a minor quad injury which the federation has indicated to be a precaution.

Up Next: Chile, 10AM, Sunday June 16th, FOX/Fox Sports Go

While Chile ran with Sweden for the majority of their last match, Sweden did not play incredibly well, and this should be an easy blowout game for the reigning champions. Expect more of the same.


Group A

France v. Korea Republic

France pummeled the Korea Republic in the tournament’s opening game 4-0, with the 6’2 centerback Wendie Renard smashing in two beautiful headers. A centerback winning the golden boot, that would certainly be something, and I am going to continue to root for this.

Norway v. Nigeria

The second game of this group took place between Norway and Nigeria ending 3-0 for the Scandinavians where three goals, one of which was an own goal were scored in the span of 20 minutes. Former Utah Royals forward Elise Thorsnes came in as the first sub in the 80th minute.

Group B

Spain v. South Africa

The highlight of this group was undoubtedly the game between Spain and South Africa, which ended as a 3-1 win for the former. Undoubtedly one of the more thrilling matches of the first round, underdogs South Africa took an early lead with this fantastic piece of work from Thembi Kgatlana, although admirable grit would ultimately collapse come the second half, and thanks to two converted penalties from the boot of Jennifer Hermoso and a break away goal in the 89th minute from Lucia Garcia.

Germany v. China

The other game of this group between Germany and China was limited to only one goal, but it was a hack and slash game that should have had several more cards. A nice goal from Giulia Gwinn put the Germans in front in the 66th minute.

Group C

Italy v. Australia

In what was the first upset of the tournament, Italy buried Australia on an incredible Barbara Bonansea brace in the last minute of extra time. If it weren’t for being offsides earlier, it would have been a hat trick for the Juventus striker. Ultimately losing 2-1, many of the concerns about a weak Aussie defense have proven to be true, something that the Westfield Matildas will have to get under control fast if they still want to make a deep run. Former Utah Royals midfielder Katrina Gorry saw some action as a substitute coming in around the 69th minute for Hayley Raso.

Brazil v. Jamaica

Speaking of hat-tricks, Brazilian forward Cristiane bagged not only her first international goal since 2017, but three in the game against Jamaica. For a player who had previously quit over the unequal treatment between the men and women’s national teams, this is an exciting development. Another storyline of this match was not only the injury absence of Marta, but the inclusion of 41-year-old Formiga who officially became the first player to play in seven World Cups, making her first appearance before half of the Jamaican team was even born.

Group D

Argentina v. Japan

The game may have ended 0-0 but from an Argentine perspective who deals with a federation that fails to stand behind them, and if anything actively in front of them, this was a win. If you don’t believe me, watch the video, it’s a tearjerker. Predicted to be blown out and walking into this game with a -31 goal differential in the World Cup, Argentina picked up their first-ever World Cup point after previously appearing in the tournament twelve years ago. While they didn’t win the possession battle, the goal attempts battle, or the corner kick battle, they stayed compact enough to break up chances, yet high enough to push on a few counterattacks, none of which would have been possible without the incredible play of Estefanía Banini.

Group E

***See Above

Group F

Chile v. Sweden

In 2018, Chile played its first game in 981 days. In June of 2019, they kicked off their first-ever World Cup campaign. Chile played fantastic, and Christiane Endler had some incredible saves, and offensively, they even tested the Sweden defense on several occasions. Looking like they were going to get a draw or even a win, after a weather delay in the 72nd minute, everything post the delay was to the benefit of Sweden as they bagged in two goals, one in the 83rd minute and another in stoppage time. Minus the rain delay, who knows if they would have been able to reorient themselves and ultimately break through the Chilean defense.