FROM THE US WOMENS NATIONAL TEAM:
LAUREN CHENEY, ALEX MORGAN, ABBY WAMBACH, CARLI LLOYD
The men had their turn on the world soccer stage last summer, and now it’s almost time for the ladies to show us how the game is played. The FIFA Womens World Cup kicks off this Saturday, June 6, in Canada, with the best teams in the world competing for one of the most coveted trophies in sport. All games will be televised, and the majority will be shown in the US by Fox Sports 1. CLICK HERE for the schedule and TV listings.
For all you soccer fans, and those who want to know what to know, here’s your SOS Guide to the Womens World Cup:
FIFA Under Fire.
Unfortunately as the tournament begins, soccer’s global governing body, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, has been headline news. Last week, Swiss police arrested several FIFA officials and the US Justice Department charged 14 officials with corruption, bribery, fraud, and money laundering, dating back to the 1990s. The accepted bribes and kickbacks are estimated at more than $150m, including an alleged $10m bribe South Africa paid in exchange for support in its 2010 World Cup bid. Switzerland is also investigating whether FIFA officials were bribed in their selection of Russia and Qatar, respectively, as the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts.
Two days after the scandal broke, FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter was re-elected to a fifth term, but on Tuesday he announced his resignation. Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organization) has since filed wanted person notices for six people involved in the Department of Justice’s indictment, and yesterday Chuck Blazer, a former FIFA exec, admitted he (and others) accepted bribes when choosing the World Cup venues in 1998 and 2010. This developing story will surely continue to be the center of conversation as the Women’s World Cup tournament begins.
CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: THE OFFICIAL BALL, ADIDAS CONEXT15; TEAM BRAZIL; THE OFFICIAL POSTER; HOMARE SAWA OF JAPAN; SCREENGRAB FROM UA SPORTS FIFA 16; ANNOUNCING THE DRAW
Now Back to the Game.
This year, the Women’s World Cup will feature a new, expanded format. In the Group Stage, 24 teams will compete in the largest tournament ever. There will be six groups, lettered A-F; the top 16 teams will go on to the Round of 16. The top 8 teams will meet in the Quarter-finals on June 26 and 27, with winners advancing to the Semi-finals on June 30 and July 1. The two teams who lose in the Semi-finals will play in a match for Third Place on July 4, and the tournament will wrap up with the Final game on Sunday, July 5.
On the Ball.
The Adidas Conext15 is the official match ball, and features the same ground-breaking technology that was used so successfully with the Brazuca, the ball the men played with in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The unique symmetry of the six identical panels provide improved grip, touch, stability and aerodynamics on the kick. The ball features a new green, red and blue ribbon design inspired by the elements of nature: earth, wind and fire.
The Reigning Champs.
Japan is the reigning World Cup champion. Homare Sawa, one of Japan’s most cherished athletes, is returning to Japan’s national team after a yearlong absence for her sixth World Cup appearance. Coach Norio Sasaki had previously dropped Sawa, who scored the game-tying, extra-time goal against the US in the World Cup final in 2011, from the team’s roster. The New York Times compared her importance to Japanese soccer to Mia Hamm’s influence on the United States.
That’s German for “first place,” which Germany is ranked in the 2015 Women’s World Cup. They are without their star player however, Fatmire Alushi, who will miss the tournament as she is expecting her first child. Germany won consecutive World Cups in 2003 and 2007, as well as eight European championships, and will look to add another World Cup title despite the major loss of Alushi.
USA v. “Group of Death”
The U.S. women’s team is seeded No. 2 and considered a favorite; however, their group, Group D, is being called the “Group of Death.” Group D includes the United States, Sweden, Australia, and Nigeria, and has the highest average of FIFA ranking points of any group. Three of the four teams are ranking in the world’s Top 10. Led by veteran fan favorites Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, and Abby Wambach, the US opens the tournament with a match against Australia on Monday, June 8 at 7:30pm..
All Eyes on Brazil.
As Brazil gets set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, organizers will aim to get fans more excited about Brazil’s national sport – soccer. The Brazilian team is ranked No. 7 in the Women’s World Cup, and led by two dominant players, Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva and Marta Vieira da Silva, commonly known as Cristiane and Marta. Marta is tied for the Women’s World Cup all-time goal scorers’ title with 14 goals. She could take sole possession of the title in Canada, but US forward Abby Wambach is right on her heels with 13.
The Women Get Unreal.
EA Sports will include women’s soccer for the first time ever in their 2016 edition of FIFA. Twelve national teams will be available on FIFA 16 when the video game comes out in September this year: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. EA Sports invited four top US players to capture player movement. Sydney Leroux, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe helped to build new locomotion for women in FIFA 16 including new walks, runs and sprints. EA Sports’ mobile headscanning unit also travelled to women’s tournaments around the world to capture facial features including hairstyles to ensure players look as realistic as possible. CLICK HERE for a previewby Kristen Leen