The United States’ women’s national team on Sunday won the 8th edition of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in France. The US defeated the Dutch team by 2-0. The 4th US victory came on the heels of previous ones in 1991, 1999, and 2015. With this achievement, the US team became the most successful team in the competition having won the trophy record four times.
Sweden had earlier beaten England by two goals to one in the third place match to win the bronze medal. On the whole, the tournament was a feast of football which lasted for one month. FIFA judged it the best women’s football tournament ever due to the quality of football displayed at the tournament.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup set new records. These included the US defeat of Thailand by 13-0 in their first group match and the 26 goals scored by the US in the tournament. It was the first time that a coach, the British-born US coach, Jill Ellis, won twice and back-to-back in the competition.
For individual awards, the US team’s captain, Megan Rapinoe, was the most outstanding player of the tournament, carting home the Adidas Golden Ball. She also scored six goals and gave three assists to win the Adidas Golden Shoe. Alex Morgan won the Silver Shoe for her six goals for the USA and Ellen White the Bronze Shoe for her tally of six goals too for England. The Dutch Goalkeeper, Sari van Veenendaal, was the safest hand of the tournament and took home the Golden Glove. Germany’s Giulia Gwinn emerged the FIFA Young Player of the tournament with host France bagging the FIFA Fair Play award.
The Netherlands’ team also did well in the competition having come 2nd. The team’s goalkeeper, Veenendaal, alongside other talented players like Vivianne Miederna, Martens, Danielle van de Dunke, should be watched in the game’s future tournaments. The English, French and Swedish national teams were very impressive too. They showed evidence of the progress made in the last few editions of the competition. Arising from this, FIFA has announced that it would expand the format of participating teams in the finals from 24 to 32.
Therefore, from the present three slots, Africa would have at least one more place in the expanded format of the Women’s World Cup. It would mean that the continent must improve in its performance at the tournament. Although the performance of Africa’s three representatives, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa was not so good, there is much room for improvement. The Nigeria Women’s national team, the Super Falcons, did not do so well at the competition. Having conquered the continent on a consistent basis hitherto, there was great hope that they could have surpassed their previous best performance which was a quarter-final finish in 1999. But that was not to be as they crashed out to their German opponents in the Round of 16 by three goals to nil.
That result was embarrassing as the local football authorities and team handlers did their best to give the Super Falcons the best preparations possible in the build up to the tournament. For the first time, the team benefitted from structured camping programmes and participated in first grade international competitions and friendly matches. It is hoped that the team would imbibe the lessons learnt from the outing and improve in future outings.
The preparation for the 2023 tournament should start now. The team should not be contented with being the continental champions alone, it must dream to conquer the world. The team handlers must review the 2019 edition and ensure that the team’s lapses are corrected before the next tournament begins. There is need to weed the team of tired players. This will make room for young and talented players to join the team. We believe that Nigeria can do much better than a second round finish next time.