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Women’s World Cup 2019: Group E preview

Is this finally Canada’s time to live up to their potential, or will the Oranje win the day?

Panama v Canada: Semifinal - CONCACAF Women’s Championship Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Netherlands are a serious contender in Europe (has the shine worn off of that Euro trophy yet?), but they haven’t quite peaked on the international stage. They’re close though, extremely close. Even four years ago this group could have been about Canada not messing up and losing out on first in group, but now the team to beat might definitely be the Oranje.

CANADA

Rank: 5

Recent record: Canada just tied Spain 0-0 and took victories over Mexico, Nigeria, and England. Aside from Mexico, though, they were all pretty narrow results. New coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller has them playing a better, more deft style that doesn’t rely so hard on Christine Sinclair to always be full Christine Sinclair, but they’re lacking some killer finishes in the final third.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: Jessie Fleming is going to make some club team very happy once she graduates from UCLA. But her primary competition being NCAA doesn’t seem to limit her too much on the international stage, and this summer she could actually be the lynchpin to Canada’s midfield, either by controlling the space with that preternatural calm presence on the ball, or by doing some scoring herself.

CAMEROON

Rank: 46

Recent record: Cameroon spent some time in Spain playing games to prep for the World Cup, playing Spanish club Alhama and beating them 4-0 after thrashing Real Murcia 8-0. They also played the Murcia U-17 boys. If that doesn’t sound like the best prep for the World Cup, you would be right. But for all that, Cameroon is a country that can throw a serious spanner in the works.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: One ball over for Ajara Nchout and it could all be over. But she’s also able to receive with her back to goal and turn with some brilliant feet, and she can score from distance. So basically, don’t let her on the ball anywhere past the halfway line.

NEW ZEALAND

Rank: 19

Recent record: The Ferns managed a 2-1 win over Mexico a couple of weeks ago and luckily edged a struggling England 1-0 to start June. But they went down after that to a late goal from Wales and, perhaps tellingly, got beat 5-0 by the United States in mid-May. The Ferns are a scrappy team under former US (!) coach Tom Sermanni but with their middling defense, they’re simply not in the same weight class as the tournament favorites.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: Erin Nayler could be the player to keep the Ferns in it when all else is going wrong, particularly with a defense that might be prone to making mistakes. If they manage to close up that gap for the tournament, great, but don’t count on it.

NETHERLANDS

Rank: 8

Recent record: Netherlands have got quite a roster; you can expect to be delighted by their attacking between Van de Donk, Van de Sanden, Miedema, Martens, Groenen, and more. The Euro 2017 winners beat Australia 3-0 at the start of June, and took Chile for a 7-0 ride. But they also lost to Poland and Spain at the Algarve. If you can solve or disrupt their midfield and keep Shanice van de Sanden isolated - and there’s at least one time in this group that has a shot at it - Oranje could be in for a stultifying time.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: Shanice van de Sanden is a menace to any team’s flank. You better hope you have someone capable of taking her on one-v-one because if she opens any kind of gap in the back line, there’s a bevy of scorers waiting for her cross. Also, she’s fast as hell.


Who do you have pegged as the winner of Group E? Canada has been lackluster two World Cups in a row, so can they put together a result to send off captain Sinclair? Will the Netherlands run riot over this group? Perhaps Cameroon could sneak into that #2 spot? Let us know what you think!