We are less than a month away from the most important tournament for women’s Football – the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 – and it’s all anyone can talk about. If you’re finding yourselves without a thing to contribute to all the raving, fret not- here’s five things you need to know to be brought up to speed about the inception of this prestigious tournament, its history, and what’s in store for us in its 2015 edition, in chronological order. Binjal Shah collates what you need to know
1. The Women’s edition came much after the Men’s:
The Women’s edition of the FIFA (i.e. Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Cup, is just 24 years old. The first ever women’s World Cup- called the Women’s World Championship- was played in 1991, hosted by Guangdong, China from 16 November to 30 November 1991. The idea and execution of a women’s wing for the tournament came 61 years after the Men’s World Cup was inaugurated, back in 1930. Ever since 1991, the Women’s World cup, aping the format of its male counterpart, is quadrennial- i.e. it is played every 4 years. So far, 6 tournaments have been held, with the seventh set to be flagged off next month.
2. Participation and popularity have grown increasingly and exponentially:
The first tournament saw 12 participating national women’s teams- which were Nigeria, China PR, Japan, South America CONMEBOL, Brazil Oceania, Australia, Denmark, England, Germany, Norway, Sweden, North America, Central America & Caribbean, Canada and the United States. This trend kept up for the first 2 tournaments- until the 1999 contest, and the 2 after that, which saw 4 additions namely: Ghana, Russia, Mexico and Italy- which made a comeback from 1991. North and South Korea and Argentina came to the limelight albeit replacing some prominent teams, keeping the tally at 16 till 2007.
2011 saw the prospect of having 24 teams competing for the golden title- but it would have called for some major changes in the format, draws and duration of the tournament. While the idea of having 24 in the final tournament was ruled out, the initial draws let 24 compete to choose the best 16 for the official tournament. It gave way to Colombia and Equatorial Guinea to make their FIFA debuts -and China saw its first shocking disqualification. But 2015 made a breakthrough by finally officially increasing the number of competing teams to 24, thus hiking number of matches from 32 to 52, too. And now, competition levels are formidable as the following new teams enter the battlefield – Ecuador, Colombia, Thailand, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Cameroon and Ivory Coast.
3. USA and Germany are the Table Bullies:
6 global Tournaments have been held so far under this prestigious banner. The United States established their might in the very first contest, winning against Norway 2-1. Norway took care of unfinished business, by winning against Germany 2-0 in the sequential edition. USA resurfaced though, and following a neck-to-neck nail-biter, won their second title this time against China. The next two years belonged to Germany, the only team with two consecutive titles so far- as they won 2-1 and 2-0 against Sweden and Brazil respectively, in the next two slots of the tournament. Japan emerged as a new team to fear in the most recent edition of the world series, as it made its debut in the semis, finals as well as as the champions – by winning a tough match against the US. But overall, the table of top fours remains dominated by USA, Germany, Norway, Sweden – with stray instances of breakthroughs for Brazil, Japan and China.
4. Canada is Hosting 2015, on Artificial Grass:
The 24 team strong Seventh FIFA Women’s World Cup will be flagged off in Canada on June 6, and will continue for a month up to July 5, 2015. The cities of Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton have been selected to host tournament matches. Canada won the right to host the event in March 2011. The host’s performance in the past hasn’t been the most exemplary – they made top four once, in the 2003. And this is the first time that the tournament will be played on entirely artificial grass, or ‘turf’. This move has invited criticism from authorities and member players of FIFA, as turf is a difficult surface inducing more wear and tear- what with a jet lagged teams flying 1000s of miles across Canada for the matches.
5. Teams to Watch out For:
While big bets have been placed on your traditional favorities that exhibit the best track record and the best odds- like US, Germany, Japan, Neorway and Sweden, analysts everywhere wish not to underestimate some of the dark horses to pull a “Japan”. Switzerland, an underdog as of now, is the home team of arguably one of the best players in the world Lara Dickenmann. One can expect firecrackers being set off when she’s on the grass. (Or the lack of it, thereof, in this case.) Nigeria and Spain have also been under scrutiny, as their techniques and strategies might be formidable on paper at least. But the defending champions and reigning “bullies” are in as good form as ever- as their players do hardcore drills every single day in the form of professional leagues, to prep for the big one.
Image Courtesy: FIFA Official Website