Sam Kerr and the Aussies top Group C, which includes Brazil
The teams playing in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, with ranking, qualification, appearances, coach, players to watch, facts to know and the state of women’s soccer in each nation:
FIFA RANKING: 6
QUALIFICATION: Runner-up at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 1995 (12th), 1999 (11th), 2003 (13th), 2007 (6th), 2011 (8th), 2015 (7th), 2019.
COACH: Ante Milicic
KEY PLAYERS: Samantha Kerr, Lisa De Vanna, Steph Catley.
WHAT TO KNOW: Nickname is the Matildas. There has been some turbulence lately, with coach Alen Stajcic dismissed in January and replaced by Ante Milicic. The Australian federation said the decision was based on a confidential survey with players. Sam Kerr was among the players who spoke in support of Stajcic afterward. Kerr is considered among the best players in the world, and is known for backflips after goals. Kyah Simon was named a reserve.
STATE OF THE GAME: Australia has a thriving women’s professional league, the W-League, which has nine teams. The national team players boycotted matches in 2015 while fighting for better treatment and salaries, which they won.
FIFA RANKING: 15
QUALIFICATION: Won Group 6 of UEFA Qualification.
WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 1991 (5th), 1999 (9th), 2019.
COACH: Milena Bertolini
KEY PLAYERS: Sara Gama, Laura Giuliani, Barbara Bonansea.
WHAT TO KNOW: Italy hasn’t been to the World Cup since 1999, coming close in 2015 but losing in a playoff. The team clinched the trip to France with a 3-0 victory over Portugal, but then fell in the final match of qualification to Belgium. Nickname is the Azzurre. Italy has a tough group with Brazil and Australia. Italy went to the final of the Cyprus Cup this year but fell to South Korea on penalties after a 3-3 draw. Sara Gama is the team’s captain.
STATE OF THE GAME: The Italian Serie A league includes 12 teams, but it is a semi-pro league with a tight salary cap and some teams are still amateur.
FIFA RANKING: 10
QUALIFICATION: 2018 Copa America Femenina Champions.
WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 1991 (9th), 1995 (9th), 1999 (3rd), 2003 (5th), 2007 (Runner-Up), 2011 (5th), 2015 (9th), 2019.
KEY PLAYERS: Marta, Debinha, Cristiane, Formiga.
WHAT TO KNOW: Brazil has made the field of every World Cup but has yet to win one. Marta, the five-time world player of the year, is expected to play in her fifth World Cup. After the women’s team failed to medal at the 2016 Olympics as the home team, Vadao was replaced by Emily Lima, the first female coach of the team. But Vadao was re-installed after 10 months and led the team through qualification. Brazil won all its Copa America Femenina matches, conceding just two goals. Formiga, 41, is the oldest player at the World Cup.
STATE OF THE GAME: Women were banned from playing soccer in Brazil from 1941 to 1983. The country has what best could be described as a semi-pro women’s league, but players are paid only sporadically and often under the table.
FIFA RANKING: 53
QUALIFICATION: Finished third at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament.
WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 2019.
COACH: Hue Menzies
KEY PLAYERS: Khadija Shaw, Jody Brown, Konya Plummer.
WHAT TO KNOW: Nicknamed the Reggae Girlz, the team’s benefactor is Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella. Jamaica will make its World Cup debut in France after defeating Panama on penalties for third in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. The team was disbanded in 2010 and fell out of the FIFA rankings but was revived in 2014. Jamaica is the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a World Cup. Brown had four goals in qualifying.
STATE OF THE GAME: Jamaica has no women’s league, and the national team held fundraisers to help with the effort to get to France. Caribbean Airlines is among the sponsors to step up and help the team.
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