Next on our list of World Cup previews is group E – this one houses Canada, Holland, Cameroon and New Zealand. With the world’s fifth ranked side, Canada as well as the European champions, Holland, in the group, it should be an interesting one to follow for the neutral.
Coach: Kenneth Heiner-Moller
Unlike their male counterparts, Canada’s women are one of the heavyweight nations in world football. Currently ranked at number five in the world, they come into this tournament as one of the favourites to take glory. With star striker Christine Sinclair surrounded by talented footballers, Canada are definitely one to watch.
Christine Sinclair is closing in on Abby Wambach’s all-time scoring record of 184 goals. She is heading to France having reached 180 and if Canada are to go and claim victory, they will need to have Sinclair fit and firing. However, one of the problems Kenneth Heiner-Moller’s side have been enduring lately is getting service up to Sinclair.
Oftentimes, in games where Canada are maybe outmatched in the middle of the park, Sinclair has to track back into the midfield to get the ball. When she does that, she’s obviously out of position and not in the right place to get goals. To stop that from happening, the likes of Janine Beckie, Jordyn Huitema, Deanne Rose and Jessie Fleming will all have to be at their best.
Perhaps the biggest strength Canada have is their ability to keep clean sheets. Of the six games they’ve played so far in 2019, they’ve managed to keep a mighty impressive five clean sheets – that despite playing against top 20 opposition in Scotland and England.
Coach: Sarina Wiegman
Holland come into the what is surprisingly only their second World Cup as European Champions and as a lot of people’s “dark horse” for the competition. With a team laden with stars, some of whom play in the WSL, some in France as well as others, the Dutch are a real contender.
Despite having to qualify for the tournament the hard way after losing out to Norway in qualifying, Sarina Wiegman’s team are very well stacked. With one of the world’s best strikers Vivianne Miedema up top, flanked by the likes of Shanice Van de Sanden and the diverse Lieke Martens, Holland are one of the tournament’s premier attacking forces.
Their one Achilles heel so to speak, is the defence. Centre-back in their only real problem position with Stefanie van der Gragt often on the sidelines. They have kept clean sheets in their last four games, all of which were friendlies, but it remains to be seen how a dodgy defence will cope against the stronger opposition, i.e Canada, at the World Cup.
Coach: Tom Sermanni
New Zealand come into this tournament on the back of a great 1-0 win against England in Brighton last weekend. They’re looking good at the moment, a far cry from where they were just a year ago. Under Andreas Heraf, the Ferns were celebrating being made equal to the New Zealand men’s team in terms of pay and travel arrangements etc.
They played a friendly against Japan, an occasion billed as a celebratory event – but it quickly turned into a nightmare. Heraf set his team up to defend against a very impressive Japan side, but the negative style of football went down like a lead balloon across New Zealand. As Heraf refused to change his ways, some of the veteran Ferns players including Abby Erceg took strike action and refused to represent their team until he was removed as boss.
Erceg made her feelings known and told media “You can see how I couldn’t stand to wear that fern on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.” More and more players were taking action, demanding Heraf lose his job – he eventually did.
Since then, the Ferns have appointed Tom Sermanni as boss. The former USA coach has brought a fluidity back to the football of New Zealand and has brought the good feeling back to the team. Player such as Abby Erceg and Katie Duncan have returned, bringing a wealth of experience with them.
They come into this tournament as oceanic champions, they beat England 1-0 at the AMEX in Brighton last week, and have also picked up a win against Norway. There’s a spring back in the step of this New Zealand team, they’re certainly not to be underestimated.
Coach: Alain Djeumfa
Cameroon come into this, their second World Cup, after having impressed at Canada 2015 and gaining a respectable third placed finish at AWCON last year. They’ve been drawn in a difficult group so it’s difficult to see them progressing to the KO rounds again, but an upset or two is not beyond them.
A team filled with attacking flair, Alain Djeumfa’s side prefer to play counter-attacking football utilising the hard-working nature of the midfielders and the pace of the attackers. Two players to look out for in this regard are Gabrielle Aboudi Onguéné and Ajara Nchout Njoya – they will both be a pain in the backside for opposition defenders all tournament long.
Cameroon’s record goalscorer, Madeleine Ngono Mani is also in the squad. Although, considering she is now 35-years-old, it’s difficult to see her getting much game time. She’ll start matches on the bench and play small parts at the back end of matches to try and capitalise on the tired legs of defenders.
The star of the Cameroon side is striker Gaëlle Enganamouit. Currently playing her football in Sweden, she won the domestic golden boot this past season and with her tall frame, she can cause all sorts of problems for defenders the world over. She’ll turn 27 just before Cameroon’s campaign gets underway on Monday when they take on Canada in Montpellier.