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Karen Bardsley: The unprecedented competitiveness of this Women’s World Cup

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This Women’s World Cup undoubtedly tops the list when it comes to the level of competition and thrill it has offered.

The playing field has evened out more than ever, leading to an incredibly fascinating tournament. Is this the year we witness a new champion emerge?

Traditional football powerhouses like the USA have struggled to assert their dominance over underdog teams, yet they’ve managed to survive the group stages by battling hard for every win. Historically, they’ve stepped up their game in the knockout rounds, but this year feels different.

The elimination of the formidable German team in a group featuring Colombia, Morocco, and South Korea underscores the heightened competitiveness of this World Cup.

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So, what led to this competitive parity?

One key factor is the increased realization among various federations that investing in women’s football can yield significant improvements in a short span of time. The elevated visibility that the Women’s Super League has gained through free-to-air broadcast deals is a testament to this.

The global perception of women’s football is also changing, with female players gaining more empowerment and recognition than ever before.

In terms of gameplay, the quality of football has seen substantial improvements in this World Cup. We’re witnessing a tactical and technical evolution in strategies, with improved defending, goalkeeping, and transitional play leading to more intense games and surprising results.

Teams that show adaptability have a competitive edge, thus, calling for more inventive coaching.

Why teams are playing with greater confidence

The days of witnessing a team like Thailand being decimated by the USA, as we saw in 2019, seem to be behind us.

Countries like Colombia and Jamaica have entered this tournament with more than just participation in mind, a sentiment echoed by several other teams.

Their words felt more credible this time, knowing they have talented players who could potentially make a difference.

I have to admit, I didn’t foresee Jamaica performing as well as they did – managing to keep Brazil at bay to secure their spot in the last 16 – a testament to their newfound belief.

The pace of the game has been on an upward trend for a while, but now it’s skyrocketed. Colombia, for instance, has been extremely impressive with their vigorous gameplay.

Their 2-0 triumph over South Korea surprised me. Colombia completely dominated the game! Their star players, like Mayra Ramirez and the young talent Linda Caicedo, were exceptionally effective.

Understanding how different nations have prepared for the World Cup is intriguing. Morocco, for example, identified potential players of Moroccan descent who could represent the country with pride, even if they weren’t playing in the domestic league. Such strategic squad building and investment have paid off.

Coaches are gaining more experience at the top level and devising ways to neutralize threats posed by stronger teams.

Teams have also become more defensively robust, realizing that consistent success in a tournament doesn’t always come from scoring a multitude of goals but from maintaining a strong and structured defense.

Are dominant teams overlooking their advancing competitors?
The USA narrowly escaped elimination following a nail-biting 0-0 draw with Portugal in their final group game.

The USA has traditionally led in physicality but has been less than stellar tactically.

Over time, the physical prowess of European, Asian, and Central American teams has caught up.

Growing up playing football in the USA, I’ve always experienced their unwavering confidence in their skills.

Although they’ve honed their technical skills, this USA team lacks cohesion. In contrast, when England triumphed 6-1 over China on Tuesday, their team synergy was evident. They were less predictable, and hence, more challenging to play against.

It appears the USA is now falling behind tactically, perhaps due to underestimating the skill level of other teams.

Germany’s early exit after a shaky performance against South Korea, who exploited their weak defense, has stirred conversations about diverse tactics. This also opens up unique possibilities in the draw, with top teams now potentially facing each other later in the tournament.

Such outcomes instill a sense of belief in lower-ranked nations, convincing them that they too can take down top-tier teams. This opportunity to possibly win the World Cup could serve as great inspiration back home.

There have been plenty of wake-up calls, indicating that other top teams need to adapt. This signifies the tremendous improvement in the global quality of football in a remarkably short span.

Imagine the possibilities if all teams had equal resources…

Japan’s performance has been striking

With the USA struggling and Germany eliminated, Japan has been a standout team.

Their unexpected 4-0 victory over Spain was particularly impressive. Spain’s early 3-0 win over Costa Rica had stirred conversations, but they also squandered many opportunities.

Japan, on the other hand, has been simply outstanding. Their speedy gameplay, confidence in their game plan, and ability to switch formations against Spain have caught everyone’s attention.

We’ve rarely seen Spain struggle with overload situations because not many teams can retain ball possession as efficiently as Japan did. Despite only having 23% possession against Spain, they managed to score four goals from five shots on target!

Their performance against Spain was a huge surprise and has created a stir in the women’s football community. It goes to show that possession doesn’t necessarily equate to control of the game.

Former England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley shared her insights with Sport News Center’s Emma Sanders.

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What does Karen Bardsley say about the current Women’s World Cup?

Karen Bardsley notes that this Women’s World Cup is unprecedentedly competitive and exciting. Traditional powerhouses like the USA have struggled to dominate as in previous years, and new teams are emerging as strong contenders. The gap between teams has significantly narrowed.

What are some reasons for this increased competitiveness, according to Bardsley?

Bardsley points out several reasons: increased investment in women’s football, changed global perceptions towards female players, and substantial improvements in the quality of gameplay. She also highlights tactical and technical evolution, improved defending, goalkeeping, and the increased intensity of games.

How does Bardsley view the performance of the USA and Germany in the tournament?

Bardsley believes that while the USA has always excelled in the physical aspects of the game, they’ve fallen behind tactically in this World Cup. Germany’s early exit after a shaky start also stands out, with their lack of a backup plan proving costly.

What does Bardsley think about the performance of lesser-known teams?

Bardsley is impressed by the performance of lesser-known teams, particularly mentioning the advancements of Colombia, Jamaica, and Morocco. She praises their strategies, increased intensity, and the belief they showed in their capabilities.

Which team has particularly stood out for Bardsley?

Japan has stood out for Bardsley. She mentions their unexpected victory over Spain and their efficient gameplay despite less ball possession, making them a team to watch.

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