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What to watch at the Women’s World Cup now that Canada is out


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Yesterday’s devastating 4-0 loss to co-host Australia eliminated Canada from the Women’s World Cup. But, even with the Olympic champions gone, there are many reasons to keep following the tournament. Such as:

The United States’ three-peat hopes are on a knife edge.

The world’s top-ranked team came in as the betting favourite to win its unprecedented third consecutive World Cup title. But, after beating newcomer Vietnam 3-0 and settling for a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands, the Americans needed a win or a tie today in their group-stage finale vs. Portugal to advance. They got it, but just barely, eking out a scoreless draw against a 21st-ranked team that did not qualify for the playoff rounds.

The U.S. finished second in Group E, behind the ninth-ranked Dutch, and scored just four goals in its three group matches. At the last World Cup, in 2019, the Americans racked up 18. But the current roster is quite green (14 players are World Cup rookies) and this tournament might have caught the team in a transitional phase. Veterans Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, who each scored six goals in 2019, have yet to find the net while rising star Sophia Smith hasn’t scored since her pair in the opener vs. Vietnam.

The Americans’ first playoff opponent looks like it will be a tough one. Probable Group G winner Sweden took silver at the 2021 Olympics, is currently ranked No. 3 in the world and heads into its group finale vs. Argentina on Wednesday with a perfect 2-0-0 record, including a 5-0 rout of Italy.

If the Americans get past the Swedes, their quarterfinal foe will likely be Japan — a team looking much stronger than its No. 11 world ranking suggests. The Japanese rolled through Group C, winning their three matches by a combined score of 11-0, including yesterday’s 4-0 drubbing of No. 6 Spain. Midfielder Hinata Miyazawa scored twice in that game and leads the tournament with four goals.

The only other team to win all three of its group matches so far is fourth-ranked England. The European champs crushed China 6-1 today to win Group D and set up a round-of-16 date with Nigeria.

Is Jamaica better than Brazil?

Sounds crazy, but the small island nation known for producing Olympic sprinters is outperforming the soccer giant so far in this tournament.

After stunning fifth-ranked France with a scoreless draw, 43rd-ranked Jamaica defeated Panama 1-0 to earn the first victory by a Caribbean team in Women’s World Cup history and move into a virtual tie with the French atop Group F. Jamaica now needs just a draw or better Wednesday vs. eighth-ranked Brazil to reach the knockout stage for the first time ever.

Brazil’s women’s program is not nearly as strong as its men’s. The latter has won the World Cup a record five times while the former has reached the title game just once, losing to Germany in 2007. But the Brazilian women have advanced to the knockouts six consecutive times while the Jamaicans had to scrape together money just to get to Australia. The Reggae Girlz turned to crowdfunding to pay for their travel expenses after their country’s soccer federation failed to provide them with proper support.

Jamaica’s resolve and unexpected success might not bode well for Canada, which must defeat Jamaica in a two-leg playoff in September to qualify for the 2024 Olympics.

Colombia is turning heads.

There have been quite a few surprising results in this World Cup. Along with Jamaica’s draw against France, 72nd-ranked Morocco upset No. 17 South Korea, the 46th-ranked Philippines defeated No. 26 co-host New Zealand, No. 77 Zambia beat No. 36 Costa Rica, and No. 40 Nigeria shocked 10th-ranked co-host Australia and tied No. 7 Canada to steal a knockout-stage spot from the Olympic champions.

But the best Cinderella story might be 25th-ranked Colombia, which is 2-0-0 after defeating South Korea 2-0 and then shocking No. 2 Germany 2-1 Sunday on a goal in stoppage time. Many consider that the best match of the tournament so far, and Colombia’s first goal — a top-corner strike by young forward Linda Caicedo — is probably the prettiest.

Caicedo herself is a great story. After making her pro debut at the age of 14, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 15. But she made it back from surgery to remove the tumour and joined Real Madrid this year. Now playing in her first World Cup, the 18-year-old has scored a goal in each of her team’s two games so far. Colombia can win its group with a draw or better vs. Morocco on Thursday.


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