Graphic by Michael Alesich.

Group F: USA, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

Average Group Ranking:  20.75

The defending World Champion and current world number 1, the United States headline Group F as they look to add a fourth WWC title to their trophy cabinet and prove the doubters wrong once again.

The blockbuster match-up in this group will be old foes USA and Sweden doing battle for what will be the sixth time in WWC history, and the fifth Group stage meeting in a row.

It’s likely these two will advance as the top two finishers, but that may not come as easily as some many suggest.

Newcomers Chile and Thailand in their first and 2nd World Cups respectively have shown over the last 18 months, they are more than capable of pushing and beating top ten sides and third place here could be enough to clinch a spot in the knockout rounds.

Group Schedule

  • 12 June: Chile v Sweden (Rennes, 02:00 AET)
  • 12 June: United States v Thailand  (Reims, 05:00 AET)
  • 16 June: Sweden v Thailand (Nice, 23:00 AET)
  • 17 June: United States v Chile (Paris, 02:00 AET)
  • 21 June: Sweden v United States (Le Havre, 05:00 AET)
  • 21 June: Thailand v Chile (Rennes, 05:00 AET)

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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) – CONCACAF

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw-NhbMlRKu/

Coach: Jill Ellis
Captain: Alex Morgan
Ranking: 1
Average Age: 28.4
Average Caps: 80
Previous WWC: Group Stage:

3-1 win vs Australia

0-0 draw vs Sweden

1-0 win vs Nigeria

Round of 16:

2-0 win vs Colombia

Quarter finals

1-0 win vs China

Semi Final:

2-0 win vs Germany

Final:

5-2 win vs Japan

Last 5 Matches: WWWWW
3 Key Players: Defender: Kelley O’Hara

A lock in as first choice right back, O’Hara brings consistency

Midfielder: Julie Ertz

Physically strong with wonderful vision and passing ability , Ertz will be the U.S attacking style of play. A player equally who as a central midfielder or in the heart of defence gives the side the ability to switch from a back four to a three in attack.

Forward: Alex Morgan

Having recently become the 7th USWNT player to reach 100 goals there’s no doubting just how vital she is to the team.

Her pace and a relentless eye for goal, hunger and work ethic with or without the ball both in attack and defence has lead to her appointment as captain.

 

As the most decorated Women’s World Cup team with three titles, and especially as defending World Champion, the United States comes into the tournament with the greatest weight of expectations.

While they struggled in the group stages four years ago, and were under immense criticism for their one-dimensional attack, a tactical tweak against China in the round of 16 enabled Carli Lloyd take up a more free-roaming role, with the midfielder picking up three consecutive Player of the Match awards to propel them to the title.

That momentum was brought to a disastrous end 12 months later where the newly-minted World Champions were famously knocked out of the 2016 Olympic tournament in the quarter-finals by Sweden, whose deep-lying defence thwarted their opponents’ play and eventually saw them progress on penalties.

With her team’s frailties exposed in Brasília, coach Jill Ellis has tinkered with personnel and formations, looking to produce the free-flowing, all-out attacking style of football she believes can see them win consecutive World Cup titles.

One player who typifies this transition is North Carolina Courage wing-back Crystal Dunn, who is off to her first World Cup after narrowly missing out in 2015. Having been reincarnated as a left back, her immense work rate and instinct to get high up the park in attacking positions has seen her lock down one side of defence.

Similarly, Ellis’ team will try and overload their opponents’ penalty area by pushing attacking midfielders such Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle further forward, as they did with success in the recent friendly against New Zealand.  

The United States’ 2019 roster is an all-out attacking one, but the banana skin of an opponent with an effective low block remains, with all three opponents capable of deploying such tactics.

THAILAND (THA) – AFC

Coach: Nuengruethai Sathongwien
Captain: Duangnapa Sritala
Ranking: 34
Average Age:
Average Caps:
Previous WWC: Group Stage:

4-0 loss vs Norway

3-2 win vs Ivory Coast

4-0 loss vs Germany

Last 5 Matches: LLLWL
3 Key Players: Kanjana Sungngoen

Capable of playing as a midfielder and a forward, Kanjana’s pace and goal scoring ability played a major part in the team’s first ever qualification to a World Cup, an achievement which resulted       

Suchawadee Nildhamrong

American born and raised, Nildhamrong made her national debut in 2017, and along with Kanjana played a crucial role in guiding Thailand to their 2nd consecutive WWC.

She then played a role in the 2018 AFF Women’s Championship title in Indonesia, scoring six goals in five appearances during that tournament, and is looking forward to playing against the country of her birth with the chance to play against the best in the world, including her idol Alex Morgan during the opening game of the World Cup.

 

Thailand surprised everybody at the 2018 Women’s Asian Cup by pushing a heavily fancied Australia to the brink of a boilover and a spot in the Final by sitting back before hitting them on the counter attack through the pace of Kanjana Sungngoen.

It’s this template that Thailand will no doubt use against the likes of USA and Sweden, and look to get a positive result off of Chile in the hope of possibly going through to the next round but it will be a tough ask but on the back of a 4th placed finish in the Asian Cup, their best in 32 years, optimism will be in the air.

CHILE (CHI) – CONMEBOL

Coach: José Letelier
Captain: Christiane Endler
Ranking: 39
Average Age: 24.9
Average Caps: 11
Previous WWC: First appearance.
Last 5 Matches: DLDLL

Chile 1-1 Colombia

Netherlands 7-0 Chile

Scotland 1-1 Chile

Jamaica 3-2 Chile

Jamaica 1-0 Chile

2019 has started will encouraging performances from Chile having only been beaten by more than a single goal margin once, a 7-0 loss to European Champions the Netherlands coupled with draws against Scotland and Colombia.

3 Key Players: Christiane Endler:

Captain and goalkeeper, Endler’s freakish ability to pull off magnificent saves played a large role in Chile’s upset victory over Australia.

Her experience and knowledge of the venues in France, currently plying her trade with PSG will also be a help.   

Karen Araya and Pancha Lara have been the beating heart of the Chilean midfield since they made their debut in 2009 and were key to the side’s first ever Women’s World Cup qualification.

Both currently play in Spain’s  Liga Femenina with Sevilla where coming up against the likes of Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona, will provide them with ideal preparation for France this coming June.

On the back of an impressive Copa America as the host nation, Chile qualified for the World Cup after finishing in 2nd place behind Brazil, the only team to inflict defeat upon them.

The La Roja then backed this up by coming to Australia and inflicting the first home defeat in three years.

This was thanks largely to their star goalkeeper and captain Christiane Endler who showed why she’s on the books at Paris Saint Germain, pulling off some truly remarkable saves to win them the match.

Chile sat deep with desires to frustrate Australia into making mistakes and it worked.

It’s a tactic the World number 39 could use again against the likes of the USA who play a similar style of attacking, free flowing football to Australia.

With the experience of Endler as their leader, La Roja Femenina will be looking to build on what has already been a remarkable achievement thus far. Inactive in 2015, the team’s qualification for France 2019 has already captured the nation and attitudes are beginning to change in a country where football isn’t really seen as a sport for women.        

SWEDEN (SWE) – UEFA

Coach: Peter Gerhardsson
Captain: Caroline Seger
Ranking: 9
Average Age: 26.9
Average Caps: 54.0
Previous WWC: Group Stage:

Drew 3-3 with Nigeria. Drew 0-0 with USA, drew 1-1 with Australia.

Round of 16:

Lost 4-1 to Germany

Last 5 Matches: WLLLW

Austria 0-2 Sweden

Sweden 1-2 Germany

Canada 0-0 Sweden (Canada won on penalties)

Portugal 2-1 Sweden

Sweden 4-1 Switzerland

3 Key Players: Defender: Nilla Fischer

The 2018 Swedish Women’s footballer of the year is the glue, of the backline bringing winning experience having won the UEFA Champions League, Bundesliga x 3, DFB-Pokal x 5 all with German side VfL Wolfsburg.

Midfielder: Caroline Seger

Captain and a vertertain of 93 caps for her county, Serger is the midfield who can also contribute with goals and along with Fischer brings that belief and big game experience both on and off the park.

Since taking over the leadership full time in 2009, she has guided Sweden to a lofty 3rd place at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, though missed a large chunk of the knockout stages through injury and suspension before mixed in with a disappointing WWC campaign in 2015 before arguably her crowning moment to date, Olympic Silver in Rio.

The 2019 Tournament will be her 4th and likely last World Cup, Serger will be looking to go out on the best possible note.    

Forward: Kosovare Asllani

Blessed with pace and control, Asllani is the highest current goal scorer in the national team post Lotta Schelin and the weight of a nation will be upon her if Sweden are to have success in France.

 

The 2003 runners up have been a mixed bag in recent years.

After taking home  2016 Rio Olympic silver the top ten ranked Sweden failed to get past the round of 16 during EURO 2017, going down 2-0 to eventual winner and host nation Netherlands.

At the Algarve Cup this year, a 4-1 thrashing of Switzerland was followed up by 2-1 loss to Portugal before a loss to Canada on penalties left them finishing 4th.

Improved performances in a 2-1 loss against heavyweights Germany and a 2-0 win over Austria in recent friendlies suggest encouraging signs are there as talismanic captain Caroline Seger suggested to FIFA.com

We have confidence in our football. We just need to keep working on what our coaching staff tell us, both in defence and attack, and continue to bolster our self-confidence.”

The keys for their success in France will be largely reliant on their most experienced core of Goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, defensive linchpin Nilla Fischer, Seger controlling and contributing goals from midfield and the pacy Kosovare Asllani.

Asllani will now bear the brunt of the nations expectations as the current active highest goalscorer with the retirement of Lotta Schelin.

Sweden will take confidence from their last major tournament meeting with familiar foes USA, having successfully frustrated the world Champions out of the Rio Olympics back in 2016, a recipe that could be used again when they meet in their final group match on June 21.