The seventh FIFA Women’s World Cup is currently taking place in Canada as I am sure many of you will already know.
I have had the pleasure of covering the competition on my site, having covered the Palace Ladies for the last couple of seasons, as well as being a guest on the panel for the EPL Roundtable Podcast to discuss the games as they happen. It is the biggest Women’s World Cup yet and the expansion to 24 teams is a real sign of intent by those that run the game.
In truth, women’s football has been on the up for a few years now but it has had to battle hard against the comparisons so often made to the men’s game. That has been a big problem and arguably one of the reasons its growth has been stunted.
I know I am not alone in thinking that it should never be compared to the men’s game. If it continues to be then it will always be limited to how it can grow. Treat it as a sport in its own right just like in tennis for example, the men’s and women’s competitions are clearly defined in terms of talent rather than the difference in prize money. Don’t just place it alongside the mens game as football in general, regard it as what it is, a separate entity; women’s football.
It has taken too long to get anywhere near the level of funding that has only recently been achieved in the women’s football, but it remains nowhere enough. Regardless, the interest in the game is growing which is why the World Cup has been extended at just the right time. There will be a time in the future that the competition will be opened up to 32 teams but again, that timing has to be just right as well.
Just like the Cricket World Cup, for example, some will say that the minnows getting battered in top class competition will hinder them. Such games are certainly not classed as entertainment but so far in this World Cup there have only been a couple of these instances – Germany 10-0 Cote D’Ivoire, Switzerland 10-1 Ecuador and Cameroon 6-0 Ecuador.
However, there is an example of such results being detrimental to a nations growth. Take Argentina as a case in point. They lost 11-0 to Germany at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by China. They exited the competition with three losses, scoring a single goal and conceding 18. They failed to qualify for the next two tournaments suggesting that such a big defeat has had an effect.
I am sure that we will see Argentina recover and perhaps there is a bigger issue than losing a game by such a margin. For me, the smaller nations have to be given the opportunity to play against the bigger teams in a tournament environment in any sport. It is part of the enjoyment of any World Cup competition to see the smaller teams take on the big names, and it’s the only way that such teams will get to gain valuable experience while women’s football continues to progress domestically and internationally.
The progression going forward will be that move to expand the tournament to 32 teams. It is unlikely to happen for the competition that will be hosted by France in 2019, but it is a distinct possibility for 2023 if the growth continues at its current rate.
This World Cup has been littered with close games throughout. Going into the last round of group games only two teams had already qualified for the second round – Brazil and holders Japan. That truly is competition at its finest.
As for the women’s football, domestically, in England: growth and interest in the sport has seen the Women’s Super League evolve into two divisions with a third to be introduced at some stage in the future. Many complain about the grass roots in football suffering through lack of funding but this is all the more evident in the women’s game, although, it is improving. There is a set pyramid for clubs to follow and set their sights on. Many of the clubs are supported by the club in which they take their name, others do not have that security or support. Whether or not that helps or hinders the Ladies’ sides remains to be seen.
Having watched the superb victory by England over the hosts Canada in the early hours on Sunday morning, the reaction on social media was the best I have witnessed since covering women’s football. This will have a knock on effect once the competition is over, even more so should England progress to the final.
It is a fantastic achievement for Mark Sampson and his squad of players. Even though they are the lowest ranked team left in the competition, they have every chance of making the final. Then anything is possible! Standing in their way are holders Japan who have made their way to the semi-final stage a little under radar while everyone else has been preoccupied with talking about Germany, France and the USA’s sides.
I fully expect a lot more people to be tuning in at midnight on Wednesday to cheer on the ‘lionesses’. It really has been a great summer of positivity for the sport and hopefully has been brought into the conscious of the sporting public.
Women’s football is here to stay and it certainly deserves its place on the showing of this years World Cup…What’s more is, there’s still games to play!