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New teams bring energizing unpredictability to Women’s World Cup


One of the things I am interested in seeing at this Women’s World Cup are the new teams and how they play. 

There are eight teams making their tournament debut, helped by the event’s expansion from 24 to 32 teams. These eight new teams — Philippines, Morocco, Panama, Vietnam, Haiti, Ireland, Zambia and Portugal — are certainly bringing excitement to the tournament.

Some, like Ireland, Portugal and Panama, have been to Men’s World Cups. Haiti qualified once in 1974, and Morocco qualified in 2022 and stole many hearts with their electric performance in Qatar just six months ago. For Vietnam and the Philippines, it is the country’s first appearance at any World Cup, men’s or women’s.

So while it’s been interesting to see these new teams qualify, it might not be too bold to suggest that although women’s soccer is more established in Canada, there are perhaps some things we can learn from other countries. 

WATCH: Was Sinclair right player to take penalty kick?

Was letting Christine Sinclair take the penalty vs Nigeria a mistake? | Soccer North

Host Andi Petrillo is joined by former Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbé to react to Canada vs Nigeria in the Women’s World Cup.

Not all maiden experiences are good ones. I watched the U.S. completely destroy Thailand, 13-0, in France during the 2019 Women’s World Cup in a manner that felt almost demoralizing.

There are a few key moments that stood out to me this first week. 

A few days ago, the U.S. beat Vietnam, 3-0, but not without a standout performance from Vietnam goalkeeper Trần Thị Kim Thanh. Thanh stopped Alex Morgan’s penalty kick with a tenacity that no one expected but delighted many. 

While the Americans dominated possession at 59 per cent, it is noteworthy that the score was not higher considering generational talent Sophia Smith scored twice in her debut performance with the U.S. team.

In their debut performance, the Philippines fell to Switzerland, 2-0, and earned the admiration from Swiss manager Inka Grings.

“They were a very disciplined team. A big compliment — a dangerous team, and I think they presented themselves well and displayed sportsmanship,” Grings said after her team’s win, adding she would be keeping her eye on them.

The notion that a team catches your attention is important in tournament play because upsets happen and teams that no one considered can get results that beat the odds. 

The Philippines played a friendly against the U.S. last week, which appeared to lead to a lineup change for the Americans with the addition of Savannah DeMelo for their World Cup opener.

That the performance of the Philippines impacted the strategy of the reigning world champions cannot be ignored. Strong performances by Vietnam and the Philippines also tell us that women’s football is being strengthened in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Maybe they will join the ranks of Japan and China as global women’s football superpowers.

Ecosystems of sport were not meant to be restricted. They need to grow, be paid, supported and thrive. New teams create precedent for other countries dreaming of competing.

One of the most fascinating results was the 1-0 win by England’s Lionesses over Haiti. 

“You know what, they challenged us,” said England’s Georgia Stanway. “They were very dangerous on the counter-attack, so that’s something we’ll work on in training this week.”

If the European champions feel you’re dangerous then that should give pause. Walking in and steam-rolling over an opponent is not exciting. It is delightful to have matches that not only capture attention but amplify players who are on the cusp of breaking into the world spotlight at the tournament.

Haiti’s Melchie Dumornay is one such player. Anyone familiar with Division 1 Féminine — and more specifically Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon) — knows of her recent transfer from Reims. Dumornay is a young player with so much potential who has been on the radar of top scouts for the best clubs in the world.

That Haiti has never played in a Women’s World Cup perhaps renders it more difficult for coaches from more dominant countries to prepare. There is an unpredictability there. More traditional programs might have a particular style of playing, such as Canada being known for a solid style of defence. But if a team doesn’t have that reputation established, it could be challenging to set expectations. 

Ireland is the highest ranked new team at the tournament and we will see how they match up with Canada in Perth in each team’s second game in Group B on Wednesday.

They might not have the tournament experience required to finesse their attacks, but Ireland, which can be described as plucky, stuck it out on defence. They lost to Australia, 1-0, in a very physical game in their opener, but after 50 years of vying for a spot at the tournament, the Irish are here to stay, and ready to fight. 

WATCH: Ireland’s journey to the Women’s World Cup:

Republic of Ireland’s journey to the Women’s World Cup | Soccer North

Soccer North looks at the Republic of Ireland’s women’s national team’s journey to the Women’s World Cup and how they will shape up when they play against Canada.

Passion for the beautiful game is at an all-time high and I am so happy to be in the thick of it. Having giants in this space that dominate is not uncommon, but a fantastic and energizing underdog story is always one of my favourites.


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