It’s the Women’s World Cup! Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Holy wow, lovely dew drops, it’s June! June in the year 2015, which makes it — for a certain subset of the population including me, my friends, my soon-to-be-new-bar-friends, and at least one of your friends if not you yourself — Women’s World Cup month. A little behind on your Women’s World Cup news? Coming in fresh-faced and need a primer? Read on, players, read on.

Teams to Watch

I mean, all of ’em.

canada-china

All right, I get it if your schedule can’t accommodate all the games, and maybe you want the highlighted Cliff Notes. In that case, check out the top ranked teams going into the tournament: Germany, USA, France, and Japan. Pia Sundhage, who coached the US team to two Olympic gold medals and runner-up in the 2011 World Cup, returns to the World Cup as the head coach for fifth-ranked Sweden. Canada, the host team, is tied for eighth with South Korea, and England and Brazil rounding out the top 8. Marta is still playing for Brazil, though the team has been suffering a lot of injuries lately, France has been looking good since the Algarve, and as for Team USA, I’m so outrageously patriotic for this team I cannot say anything with journalistic integrity about it.

But ranking are just rankings! So many other things go into making a game interesting: upsets always happen, playing styles clash, etc, which is why I advocate watching as many as possible. The game has changed since the early days of the Women’s World Cup. While America was known for its physicality and former domination, the rest of the world is catching up and finding ways around that physicality. This will be the first World Cup appearance for eight teams — Ecuador, Costa Rica, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Thailand — and some of their styles are a bit of a mystery to the rest of the tournament. Norway may have won decisively in their first matchup against Thailand, but Thailand was unexpectedly fast and still fun to watch.

Navigating Group Play

Y’all, this bracket. Y’all:

via Eight by Eight, click through for a bigger version

via Eight by Eight, click through for a bigger version

I was raised around college basketball, and I am SKEPTICAL about the integrity of this type of bracket. I mean, I can make sense of it, after a fashion, it bears some resemblance to the thing I know, but. Well. They do things differently in different sports. In the FIFA bracket, the qualifying teams are randomly assigned to six groups of four. Each team in the group plays each other, earning 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and no points for a loss. At the end of group play, the top 3 point-scoring teams advance from each group, and then they’re placed in a playoff-style bracket with the rest of the teams. (ETA: it’s been pointed out that this means 18 teams advance, which is not the case! I messed up! It’s the top 2 point-scoring teams from each group, and then the top 4 point-scoring teams from the rest.) Okay! So what does this mean for your team?

Well, position coming out of group play determines a lot. Clearly, ideally, you want your team to emerge at the top of the group, and have to face the third-ranked team from another group. For a team like Japan, in a group with newcomers Cameroon and Ecuador, I’d peg their chances of finishing at the top at like, 95%. For a team like the US, in Group D with the tougher opponents, it’ll be harder to secure the top position (Group D is unofficially the Group of Death for a reason). If Team USA ends up second, they’ll likely face a challenging Brazil. If USA ends up first, though, they’ll face a much easier third-place opponent. Hopefully, we’ll follow statistical predictions, but soccer’s full of surprises.

Like a March Madness bracket, this setup means that some matchups may be impossible. Like, I’d love to watch USA play Canada, but they’d both have to make it to the finals for that to happen.

All About That Turf

Regardless of national affiliation or preferred style of play, there’s one thing pretty much everyone can agree on when it comes to this World Cup: the turf. Y’all, the turf! That damn turf! Let me tell you that turf is no good! For the first time in history, all of the these World Cup matches will be played in stadiums with artificial turf as opposed to natural grass. There’s no definitive study on the differences between playing on turf and grass, but players from multiple national teams have voiced opposition to turf — citing greater chance of injury (turf is a harder surface, which is more unforgiving on sliding tackles and game-long runs), longer recovery time on injuries, and inconsistent ball behavior. There’s also a correlation between goalkeepers who have been diagnosed with cancer and who also play on turf, though causation hasn’t been established.

In 2014, a group of over 40 international’s women’s players filed a lawsuit against FIFA, citing gender discrimination. Men’s World Cup matches have always been played on grass, and 2018 and 2022 World Cups are also set to be played on grass. What’s more, The Scott Company in Canada offered to seed the fields with grass for free, if cost were the objection, and FIFA (shifting some of the responsibility to the Canadian Soccer Association) declined. Ultimately, the lawsuit was subject to innumerable delays, several players were pressured to withdraw by their home national federations, and the group had to withdraw the suit altogether. Abby Wambach, the leader in international goals scored for men and women soccer players and a member of the suit-bringing group, noted that they lacked leverage — national men’s team players can afford to threaten boycott in the unlikely event that they’d be forced to play on turf, while players on the women’s teams couldn’t.

Now that the tournament has started, we can see directly how this particular turf is affecting players. On the day of opening matches in Edmonton, the average air temperature was around 75 degrees Farenheit, but the playing surface itself reached 120 degrees (natural grass would’ve stayed cooler than the air). That’s only two degrees below the temperature deemed “unsafe for sustained athletic use.” Prolonged skin-on-turf contact could cause burns at that point. Whether teams are holding back on sliding tackles or their plays affected by ball bounces — we’ll see as they play more games.


As I’m writing this, the USA is in the middle of its first game against Australia, and I just came off the really exciting Nigeria-Sweden match. Since Saturday, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, and Norway all won their opening matches. It’s been a great few days of play so far, and I suspect it’ll only get better. Let me know your thoughts on the tournament so far!

Robin doesn't lean in, she spreads out. Her skills include talking up the movie Spice World to strangers. In any situation, she would prefer to get campy. She's a hedonist, lady dandy, and lazy academic. She has a twitter and a tumblr.

Robin has written 43 articles for us.

53 Comments

  1. The turf issue really pisses me off, but obviously given how sexist and exceptionally corrupt FIFA is, I am obviously not surprised.

    Plus, ALL THE OUT QUEER LADIES!

    I hate living so many time zones away from Canada right now.

  2. Soccer, that’s always a funny word.

    Yeah, I know, Football for americans is another sport, an sport that almost never uses the foots. I also know that the name comes from Rugby Football, because your american footbal is a rip-off of Rugby.

    But for 99.99% of the world soccer is Football, Fútbol, Futbol, Balompié, Futebol.

    • I mean if we’re gonna get into the varieties of games that go under the name of “football,” can we talk about Australian rules football? As far as I can tell, it is the closest regulated sport we have to Calvin Ball, and I am delighted by that. Can an expert weigh in and reinforce this notion?

      • I was not familiar with Calvin Ball, but after a little search, you may be right about that, although no-repeating rules or coming about with the rules along the game is not there.

        The origin of Australian Football and Football (soccer) is almost the same: Folk/Mob Football in the Middle Ages.

        • Not that I know anything about the history of the game, but I am confused as to how Australian Rules Football can be from the middle ages, when it was created by the colonists who weren’t even in Australia yet then!?!

          I grew up in Australia with a European father who always shook his head and said “how can they call it football when they run around with the ball in their hands” (about Rugby league, Rugby Union and Aust Rules – the 3 codes that are called ‘football’ in Aust) so this comment resonates!

          Real ‘Fußball’ all the way! 🙂

          • My reply doesn’t say that Australian Football was created in the Middle Ages.

            The first records about Australian Rules Football can be found on 1858, as some variation of Football (an sport that did has its origin in mob-football).

      • Sorry if my comment offended you, but I’m from Argentina. Almost every woman, man and child in here breathes fútbol. You can put 2 teams of roaches in a box to play it and we will watch it.

        • hey, nah, the “soccer”/”football” thing comes up all over the internet! and I get that it’s a bigger deal pretty much everywhere besides where I am, so stuff like that matters. just figured while we’re on the topic, I’d bring up another “football” thing that I was curious about. Sport history is interesting!

      • Hello! I have never commented here before but am Australian & very passionate about Aussie Rules so I can be your expert. It was kinda created borrowing a lot from Indigenous Australian ball games, and was originally a way for cricketers to stay fit over winter, but has since taken over! The rules are set, but the rule document is, like, 100 pages long, and most fans are pretty sure not even the umpires know them all. But basically the ball is like a rugby / American football ball, and you can kick or handball (which is pretty much punching it off your palm?) and wanna kick the ball between the bigger sticks (6 points) rather than the small ones (1 point).

        Anyway, check it out, it’s very exciting, plus there’s a women’s league in the pipeline which will hopefully be up and running in a few years!
        and go the Matildas 😉

      • That’s exactly how I like to describe it. By the way, there’s a women’s aussie rules football league in the US with teams in New York, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, and Columbus, with other players to be found here and there. Footy is as fun to play in real life as you always imagined that calvin ball would be. We’re looking for new players all the time. Check out

        http://womensfooty.com/

        or

        http://usafl.com/

        for more info.

    • It’s a funny word because it comes from slang. Football Association gets shortened to Assoc which becomes socca then socker and finally soccer. Not too different to the word rugger.
      Speaking of rugby, rip-off is just a bit rude. I know America is a world power and all imperial and shit, but we’re built of spare parts borrowed and changed things from oceans away. Our football is one of those things. It’s not just a rip-off it’s our own thing thank you. Annoying over blown thing that annoys everyone else in the world, but we grew it.

  3. Go Germany!

    That being said, I hate FIFA with all my guts. Apart from the turf thing, apparently all players have to go through gender testing at this World Cup. You’d think these greedy bureaucrats would have something else to worry about now that they’re under intense investigation for all the corruption scandals!

    If the final of the 2018 Men’s World Cup will be played on natural grass (the appointed venue, Luzhniki Stadium, has a turf surface, but did install a natural grass pitch when they hosted the 2008 UEFA Champions League final), I’ll probably go picket FIFA’s headquarters in Zürich.

  4. Can’t make it all the way to Canada… but my wife and I do have tickets to the Men’s friendly Germany vs USA in Cologne tomorrow night!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Los geht’s Deutschland!

  5. I am a Canadian, and I am STILL bitter about Canada’s loss to the USA in the 2012 Olympics, but I am also a queer lady, and so I can’t help but love the queer ladies on Team USA. So I will cheer for the USA in any game where they are NOT playing Canada, while desperately hoping for a Canada-USA match-up in the final.

    Canada is my Ireland, and Megan Rapinoe is my Viktor Krum.

          • I would love to see Costa Rica advance out of this round, just because they haven’t been getting as much government support as a lot of the other teams. It sounds like it would do so much for the state of women’s athletics there.

            Did you hear the announcers say one of the forward’s parents took her to a psychologist when she said she wanted to play soccer?

          • Wait, I’m a liar. I was switching back and forth between stations, and I probably heard the psychologist comment while listening to the other station.

          • oh wow nope I just heard the commentator re-state it, you definitely heard right. Really hope they make it through, I feel like this team has been growing steadily and in spite of an evident lack of support

  6. Ah, so many loyalties! Im in Canada and raised, so I bawled when they won against China! But the USA team kinda made me fall in love with women’s football, so I cheer for them too! But…I was born in France so I feel obliged to cheer when they won against England, but my parents are from Cameroon so I was beyond estatic when they won 6-0!

      • Cameroon was awesome in their opening match against Equador!! They played so well. I get to see them again on Friday! Also, I am Canadian and live here, and will be attending all games in Vancouver, so my heart is with them. But I love watching the American women’s team, who are awesome and full of babes. And I am French-Canadian, so do have a spot in my heart for France.

        You have lots to cheer for 🙂

  7. I’m really excited to talk about this here! I hope you guys are covering the whole tournament.

    I can’t believe Germany won 10-0! I mean, I know they’re #1 in the world but that’s just insane! The last time I saw that score was during the men’s 2013 Confederations Cup between Spain and Tahiti. The fact that two different players scored hat tricks is what really gets me.

    Also I refuse to cheer on the Dutch after the Men’s World Cup last year (no era penal), but Lieke Martens’ goal was damn impressive.

    Currently watching Mexico vs Colombia

  8. That’s not quite how the groups stages or ‘brackets’ work

    The top 2 teams from each group go through automatically to the next round. Then the top 4 teams with the highest points go through. Hence 16 teams going through and not 18.

    • As a Matildas fan I’m feeling quite bummed about the “highest ranked” 3rd placed team scenario. Given the group of death, it could be quite possible the 3rd placed team in this strong group loses out to other groups where there has been one particularly weak team helping with points and goal difference for their 3rd ranked teams. Kinda screws over any group where all games and teams are competitive. But then again, I guess anything can happen in the remaining group games so who knows.

      • Honestly Sweden is absolutely beatable. Their defence was roasted all day by the speed of the Nigerian forwards, and the Aussies have youth and speed and LDV on their side. Further, the Swedish midfield was invisible in the Nigerian game.

        I think it’s definitely possible for Australia to place second in group, or even first, depending on how much USA can get/keep their shit together (god knows I love the USA and they’re my team but good god stop with the damn long balls to Mary who can do nothing with them).

        • Oh yeah, I’ve not ruled the Matildas out and still think they have a great shot of progressing. Just generally bummed about the system, regardless of what team (or worst case teams) miss out from this group.

  9. Don’t forget that FIFA women players are still subjected to absurd, inaccurate, invasive, and discriminatory mandatory sex testing to make sure they are female. The men are not subjected to similar testing.

  10. I read in the local news that the every player in the 2015 wk was required to be gender tested to see if they were ‘real’ women. Not surprisingly there’s no such test required for the men. I knew they did testing sometimes in the olympics and it’s always grossed me out. Also, on a genetic level, those tests basivally make no sense.

  11. I’m still annoyed that the BBC didn’t show the opening ceremony and I was denied live Tegan and Sara. Also the time difference SUCKS, due to having to work the next day I’m missing a few key matches such as USAvMatildas. If only I could take a holiday to stay up and watch *sigh*
    EnglandVFrance was a weird one not loving our 4-1-4-1 formation, also not impressed that the BBC decided to add a male pundit to the panel for this match to mansplain everything, after only using female former international players up to that point.
    The turf situation is just so bad, it was obvious from the opening match. I’m unsurprised about all the FIFA based BS due to the ridiculous amount of corruption that has finally come to light in recent weeks, and I fully expect they were given a huge backhander to make the women play on astro.

  12. Is anyone else annoyed by the Fox commentators? I like Cat Whitehill but the dudes with US accents doing the play by play are extremely underwhelming. And why Tony DiCicco??? I miss Ian Darke and Julie Foudy. Also Fox’s stream is super inconsistent.

    But YAY WORLD CUP! So many epic athletes!

  13. I’m missing most of the games this year because of the time zone/my night job but just wanted to say how excited I am for the coverage here!

    Also, if anyone else is going to the final in Vancouver next month we should def meet up there!

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