It’s day two of six in the great Leading the Line Women’s World Cup Sticker pack unveiling. A quick reminder that the idea is to cover 30 topics in relation to this summer’s tournament, so without much further ado, let’s crack into pack two!
Sticker 1: Brazil Squad
Brazil come into this summer’s tournament having never lifted the trophy despite often being lauded for their style of play and being led by one of the greatest women’s players of all time in the shape of Marta. They progressed to France with a perfect seven from seven winning record in CONMEBOL qualifying scoring 31 times and conceding just twice but it’s perhaps their form post qualification that should really be noted. They have won only once in eleven games, with their two most recent defeats coming against emerging nations Spain and Scotland. Their group game against Australia on the 13th June could prove to be key but Italy will also fancy their chances against As Canarinhas. France 2019 is shaping up to be a key moment in the timeline of women’s football in Brazil and a poor showing could spark the kind of crisis that their male counterparts are currently going through on the global stage.
Sticker 2: Hannah Wilkinson, New Zealand
It wasn’t known if Vittsjo GIK striker Wilkinson would even make the tournament after she suffered a second career ACL tear during a Swedish Cup tie against second division Jitex BK in October last year. The fact that she has recuperated from that injury enough to be included in the Football Ferns squad is a tribute not only to her powers of recovery but also her importance to the squad in adding depth behind first choice striker Sarah Gregorius. As well as boasting an impressive scoring record of 25 goals from 87 internationals she brings a wealth of experience having featured in every major tournament since her big time debut during the 2007 World Cup.
Sticker 3: Lola Gallardo, Spain
One of five Atletico Madrid players in the Spain squad goalkeeper Gallardo goes into her side’s World Cup campaign with the number one jersey on her back with her battle with Barcelona’s Sandra Panos transferring from the Primera to the national side. She was part of the squad for the last edition of the tournament and the former Sporting Huelva player’s big game experience and success with Atleti will stand her in good stead for the tournament to come with many, including me, expecting the Spanish to go well.
Sticker 4: Argentina Squad
They may be the second South American side from this pack unveiling but their path to the final was a little more complicated when compared with their Brazilian counterparts. They finished third in the Final Group Stage with losses to Chile and Brazil meaning that a play off with CONCACAF side Panama was required to book their place in France. A 4-0 victory in Sarandi followed by a 1-1 draw away in the Caribbean ensured the Argentines qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2007. They will be looking to their final group encounter against Scotland in Paris as their best chance of progression with Japan and England forming formidable opening opposition. A side that have been subject to severe underfunding they will be hoping that Levante midfielder Estefania Banini can help cause some ripples in Group D. With the AFA announcing that the Argentine Primera Division will be going full time in June a strong performance in France would only go to help in growing the game after years of negligence from the governing body.
Sticker 5: Sweden Squad
Sweden are one of the nearly men of Women’s World Cup history with two third places and a runners up spot in 2003 the closest they have come to lifting the trophy. Their trip across the Atlantic to participate in the 2015 tournament in Canada was not a success as they were eliminated in the Round of 16 having had a record of played four, won none, drawn three and lost one. In a squad packed with experience coach Peter Gerhardsson will be looking to the likes of Kosovare Asilani and Caroline Seger to guide them through a group where they will expect to finish at least second ahead of Chile and Thailand with a final group game encounter against the United States in Le Harve most likely in determining who takes top spot. With nations such as England, France and Australia emerging it will be interesting to see if the Swedes will be able to keep pace both on and off the park in the coming years starting at this summer’s championships.
Packs Opened: 2
Shinys: 1 (Scotland Emblem)
Doublers; 1 (Argentina Squad)