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Women’s 2011 World Cup

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kicks off Sunday, hosted by Germany.  My knowledge of the women’s game is vastly less developed than the men’s, and with the passing into retirement of the USA’s golden generation, I don’t even have a solid handle on our own side beyond a couple key players.  That said, I’m going to, in typical ill-advised fashion, have a go at this nonetheless.  I’m hoping some commenters with superior knowledge will contribute to the dialogue.

First, the FIFA rankings of the women’s sides is based on a superior methodology than the FIFA rankings of the men’s.  It’s a truncated version of the ELO methodology, which I tend to rely on when scouting relative strengths of men’s teams rather than the FIFA rankings.  The women’s rankings aren’t too surprising, with a top 5 of 1. USA, 2. Germany, 3. Brazil, 4. Japan, 5. Sweden.  There are some surprises lower down, e.g. 8. North Korea, 9. Norway (I’d have thought Norway should be ranked higher), England only at 10th, Mexico only at 22nd.

My ill-advised predictions:

Group A: 1. Germany, 2. Canada, 3. France, 4. Nigeria. Frankly, Canada and France could go either way, but I’m going with Canada on the strength of their winning the 2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup, whereas France  have been uneven in the past few months (losing to the Netherlands, drawing with Scotland).  Yes, straws are being wilfully clutched.

Group B: 1. England, 2. Japan, 3. Mexico, 4. New Zealand.  My head tells me to go with Japan to win this group, but I have to go with my adopted country instead.  The Guardian writes glowingly about the side, and even ESPN speaks of an England side with newfound respect.  Oh, and England did beat the USA 2-1 in an April friendly (while Japan lost twice to the USA the next month).  Mexico and the Kiwis could go either way.

Group C: 1. USA, 2. Sweden, 3. North Korea, 4. Colombia. I’m not sure what to make of North Korea.  They have won the Asian Cup three of the past five, and only lost in 2010 on penalties to Australia.  However, Sweden have several players in the American league, face stiffer competition in Europe, and have a more reliable track record in terms of measuring achievement (who cares that North Korea beat Singapore 24-0 or some similar NFL score).  Sweden also beat the USA in January.

Group D: 1. Brazil, 2. Norway, 3. Australia, 4. Equatorial Guinea. This group is easy.

So, based on the predictions above, my quarter-final predictions are Germany over Japan, USA over Norway, England over Canada, Brazil over Sweden.  Semifinals: Germany over USA, Brazil over England.  Final: Germany over Brazil.

I’d like to see the USA win, of course, but Germany are roughly equal in quality to the Americans, and it’s in Germany.

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  • cpinva

    wow, if i were a brit, i’d be embarrassed that my women’s soccer team was only ranked 10th! this would be comparable to the USA’s women’s basketball team not being ranked in the top 5 internationally, a black mark on the national honor! someone’s head would have to roll.

    to make you feel better, i know zero about women’s soccer (ok, i know just slightly above zero about men’s soccer………..), so you’re wayyyyyyyyyyy ahead of me.

  • wengler

    The US women’s team has been losing of late. I’m not sure if it means anything, because there is such a wide gap between the top teams and the bottom teams at this tournament.

  • fledermaus

    I’d give the edge to Japan. They have developed quite the tradition supporting women’s national team sports. Should be a good tournament though. Soccer girls are so hot.

    • Bill Murray

      Several young players from the German national team appeared in the German version of Playboy. One wanted to show that athletes can be feminine not butch, or that they are normal girls and not lesbians

      • One wanted to show that athletes can be feminine not butch, or that they are normal girls and not lesbians

        Errrrrrrrrrrr, how would one know they are not lesbians?

        • DocAmazing

          Promise rings?

        • Bill Murray

          well the word used was butch, which I translated to lesbian.

          and if the couple of pictures I saw online are anything to go by, you show you aren’t lesbian by recreating 1930s era propaganda photos. They certainly hated homosexuality.

  • Niall O Murchu

    So your predictions seem eminently sensible to me… That said I have to confess to losing touch with the women’s game since being caught up in the excitement of the US team in 1999 and the subsequent retirement of the golden generation…

    As a card carrying nerd and soccer fan, I’d love to hear more political sociology on the relative strengths of the teams… We know the US is very strong because of the size of the country and Title IX — presumably alongside basketball soccer is the best funded women’s sport at the collegiate level…. we would expect Sweden and Norway to be strong because of their strong social democratic traditions of gender equality and — here comes the racist, sexist, and nationalist essentialism that’s permitted when we talk about sport — because those countries have some tall strong women and the women’s game is often based more on strength than on speed.
    England’s humble status is relatively unsurprising… Public funding for sports in that country is (presumably) nearly as appalling as in Ireland… Their’s is a boorish and sexist culture… The women’s clubs are the underfunded amateur wings of hte men’s professional sides…The fact that they might do well is a tremendous credit to their manager and their players…
    But if the relative rankings of the US, Scandinavia and England are unsurprising what are we to make of Germany and Brazil… Sure Germany’s a bigger country than any in Scandinavia but presumably they don’t have the same social democratic commitment to feminism… what’s the public infrastructure supporting investment in women’s soccer and its professionalization?
    And Brazil’s catching up on the world leaders is the most surprising to me. Sure they’re the most soccer mad country in the world and their economy is growing rapidly and economic inequality is falling…but it’s also a pretty macho place where women are (in my ill informed view) supposed to adorn soccer stadia and not actually compete… and it’s a relatively poor country…and only 10 years ago their players were beating each other up with pool cues, so how have the Brazilian women become contenders…

    So thanks Dave; your predictions seem eminently sensible and have got me excited about the tournament despite lacking a TV, but I’d really like some of your 135 commenters to give me some background analyses on the development of the women’s game in these countries.

    • Brazil has for years had several excellent players, including Marta, who IIRC has been FIFA women’s player of the year for 4 consecutive years.

    • rm

      My guess based on anecdotal personal experience is that in US youth sports, soccer is the only youth sports community that generally values girls and boys equally. More traditional sports come with more traditional attitudes. Softball, girls’ basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and so on get no respect in comparison to boys’ basketball, baseball, and football. However, the traditional jerks who hold that attitude feel that way about all soccer players. Within the soccer world, there is more equity.

    • dave brockington

      Niall,

      The ESPN article I linked above has this paragraph which I think succinctly captures the English attitude towards women’s soccer (and fortunately over the last generation has begun to subside; I have watched a couple Women’s FA Cup finals on the BBC no less):

      “The British Isles never had a Title IX moment, and in the 1980s women and soccer (read women and sport) were as synonymous as England and modern orthodontics. Women’s soccer was a marginal outsider pursuit played by a derided handful who, in the words of peerless Financial Times writer Simon Kuper, “were exiled to muddy park pitches, and jeered at as lesbians.””

      Kuper is a great footie writer btw, and I highly recommend his books.

      • Bill Murray

        I’ll second Kuper’s books being generally great. Ajax, The Dutch and The War is my favorite

        • Niall O Murchu

          I thought Football Against the Enemy was far stronger than Ajax, the Dutch etc., I haven’t read the stats book yet.

  • I’d argue that Norway loses to Australia going into the elimination round, but that’s just me.

  • The Matildas (or the Australian women’s national association football team, if you prefer) drew with Norway in their group match last World Cup and didn’t embarrass themselves against Brazil in the QFs (2-3), they’ve had a mixed record since but I wouldn’t rule them out.

  • Leeds man

    It’s a truncated version of the ELO methodology

    I’m just glad that Roy Wood is finally being taken seriously.

    Canada will win.

  • neli

    equatorial guinea are the best for the moment

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