I have a confession to make. Before the recent women’s world cup, I had never watched a full game of women’s football. I believed that it wouldn’t capture my attention, or keep me entertained. I was wrong. By watching just a few games of the recent world cup, my mind was changed.
It is unfair to compare the men’s game to the women’s – both should be enjoyed individually. The men’s game has had the majority of the attention in the past, resulting in the men’s game having more wealth, higher attendances and more participation.
The women’s game is continuing to improve all the time. The evidence for this is the quality of some of the games in the recent world cup. It is the biggest growing sport in the world, more women are taking part, more coverage is now given and the quality is improving. I expect over the next few years, the women’s game will continue to develop, and it will be given the money and coverage to do so.
The competition was formed in 1991. The USA and Germany had dominated since it began, with two world cups apiece. The only other winners being Norway in 1995. But in 2011 the spell was broken, there was an Asian winner in Japan. This represented a victory for global football. The women’s game had spread across the world. The recent FIFA women’s world cup took place in Canada. With 24 nations competing, representing six continents.
All the favourites progressed from the group phase to the knockout rounds. Including previous winners Germany, USA, Japan and Norway. Along with highly fancied France and hosts Canada. The England women also qualified, beating Colombia and Mexico along the way.
The last 16 was where the tournament truly began. Germany, USA and France all eased to victory. The Canadians and Japanese also progressed. As did England. A 2-1 victory over Norway booked their place in the quarter-finals. The England women’s team had captured the attention of the nation. How far could they go?
In the quarter-finals, Japan and USA battled to 1-0 wins, over Australia and China respectively. The biggest match of the round saw Germany take on France. The French had their chances, but it was the Germans who eventually won on penalties. Last up was England against the hosts Canada. Two early goals for England, from Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze, was enough to send them through to the semi-finals. England 2 Canada 1. Could we now go on and win the world cup?
The Semi-finals saw England joined by three power-houses of the women’s game. Germany, USA and Japan. First up was USA vs Germany. The US showed their class in defeating their rivals 2-0. With goals from Carli Lloyd and Kelley O’Hara.
The nation was eagerly anticipating the semi-final against Japan. Expectations were high. England began well, pressing their opponents high up the pitch, not letting the Japanese play their favoured passing game. After 33 minutes, Japan were awarded a penalty. 1-0 Japan. Just seven minutes later England got a penalty of their own. 1-1. It took until the 92nd minute for the next goal. A ball into the box by the Japanese looked to have been cut out by Bassett, only for it to deflect off the crossbar and over the line. 2-1 Japan. England crashed out in the cruelest of ways.
The England women showed determination, passion and commitment throughout the World Cup. Victories over Norway and Canada prove just how far the game has grown in this country. A 1-0 victory over Germany in the 3rd place play-off was a deserved consolation. England had finished in the top three of the world cup for the first time ever, and we had beat the old enemy to achieve it.
The final was a repeat of the 2011 world cup final, and also of the 2012 women’s Olympic final – USA and Japan. The Japanese were the reigning world cup champions, the US were the reigning Olympic champions. It was expected to be a close encounter. It proved to be otherwise. The US raced into a 4-0 lead in just 16 minutes, with Carli Lloyd scoring a hat trick in just 16 minutes. It was game over from there on. The game ended 5-2. USA were once again the women’s world champions.
This world cup has proven that the women’s game demonstrates commitment, determination and skill. It is a game that is gradually improving in all areas, it deserves the chance to develop. The more that goes into it, the more that will come out of it. It should be given a chance just like any other sport. So watch it, enjoy it. After all what have you got to lose?