Someone asked if 2019 World Cup hosts France would get off to a good start on Matchday one against Korea Republic. They certainly did, with an emphatic 4-0 victory. But Les Bleues must now tighten the screw on their lead in Group A against an equally resolute Norway side who picked apart Nigeria in a 3-0 demolition.
$400 million was competed for by 32 teams at the men’s World Cup in Russia last year. France won the showpiece and took home $38 million. In contrast, only $30 million is up for grabs in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Once again, France are poised to gobble up the $4 million that goes to the eventual winners.
Despite the glaring gender disparity in football, the improvement of the women’s game is getting more pronounced by the day. Total prize money for the Women’s World Cup has risen by 100% and is set to go higher. For the 2019 edition, one question pundits are asking is, will France hold two categories of senior world cup titles come July 7th? This much points to the terrifying quality of Corinne Diacre’s French side.
Besides playing hosts, the Blues boast the most in-form squad in Europe with a brutal attack, a swashbuckling midfield and an iron-solid rearguard – all sprinkled with experience.
At the very least, there’s no question about France making it beyond Group A. In fact, the only team capable of preventing the French from claiming the number one spot in the group is Norway.
Up in attack for France is Lyon striker Eugénie Le Sommer. She’s won everything at club level with the dominant French League and European Champions. Sommer now has her eyes set on the biggest title of her career. The experienced number nine is 30, and you can sense her determination with that well-taken goal she scored against the Korea Republic.
While Diacre can count on Sommer for goals, it’s Amandine Henry who’s the glue, commander-in-chief and midfield marshall for the French. Henry captains Lyon too – her achievement with that team deserves a symphony. Henry’s also one with an eye for goal; her brilliant strike against Korea drives home the point.
At the back, 28-year-old Wendie Renard provides succour for the French. Also a Lyon stalwart, Renard is unarguably one of the best centre-backs in the world right now. She scores too – the lanky libero notched a brace from two fine headers on Matchday one.
Besides the three mentioned, the French have seven first-team players who play for Lyon. With that many players who play together week-in-week-out, you can sense cohesion won’t be a problem for France when they lock horns with Norway.
A way for Norway?
The Norwegians have started their World Cup campaign with genuine intent. But a win against the French would be a monumental upset. Can they pull it off?
Martin Sjögren likes to set up his Norway team in an attacking 4-4-2 formation. It helped them break Nigeria down in the first half on Matchday one. Against France though, that system could prove inimical. Les Bleues are masters of purposefully bombarding the channels. Norway could well be sliced open if they leave spaces at the back for France to attack.
However, Sjögren can make life difficult for France by deploying a defensive-minded 5-4-1 system. Norway has won the World Cup once [in 1995] but Sjögren’s team simply cannot go toe-to-toe against the host. Not in talent, experience or strategy. The Grasshoppers must defend for their lives to take anything away.
One key player Norway can rely on to get the defensive work done is Maria Thorisdottir who also plays for Chelsea. She’s a gem at the back.
For goals Rosengård’s Lisa-Marie Utland can be turned to – she’s already off the mark in the competition. Altogether Norway must play as a team to compete against France. But they can only try, Les Blues should win this one by at least two clear goals.