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.