Never underestimate the underdogs at the FIFA Women's World Cup
The GIST: Two key storylines are emerging after a thrilling opening WWC weekend. First, the gap between top- and lower-ranked teams is closing fast. Second, reliable forwards are failing to convert from the penalty spot, while Video Assistant Referee (aka, VAR) appears to be awarding more penalty kicks (PKs) than ever before. Let’s dig in.
Underdogs hold their own: No. 43 Jamaica made history yesterday, holding No. 5 France to a 0–0 draw, earning the Reggae Girlz their first-ever WWC point. The tie creates a real disruption in Group F, which Les Bleues and No. 8 Brazil were expected to exit with ease. Now, Jamaica can play the ultimate spoiler, possibly stealing a knockout stage spot from a Top 10 team.
- Earlier in the day, singers No. 54 South Africa scored their second-ever WWC goal, nearly walking away with an unprecedented win over No. 3 Sweden, before the Blue and Yellow’s 90th minute header solidified their 2–1 comeback victory.
PK pressure: Speaking of, two captains — No. 7 CanWNT’s Christine Sinclair and USWNT’s Alex Morgan — failed to convert PKs in their respective opening matches. In Sinclair’s case, the fumble cost Canada two points, as the Thursday game ended in a 0–0 draw against No. 40 Nigeria, a costly error against the lowest ranked team in the “Group of Death.”
- On Saturday, the eighth PK in as many games was awarded via VAR as No. 4 England faced No. 53 Haiti. After Les Grenadieres goalie Kerly Théus made the initial save, VAR indicated she stepped off her goal line early, allowing the Lionesses to retake the penalty, this time scoring to secure the nail-biting 1–0 win.
- With VAR’s assistance, we could see a record number of penalties awarded at this WWC, fundamentally altering the beautiful game.
TL;DR: Soccer is a game of moments. And with parity on the rise, it’s crucial that teams capitalize when they have the chance. Never underestimate an underdog.