WC Countdown: Group F – Thailand

Next up in group F is no other than Thailand!

It was only back in 2015 that Thailand made it to their first World Cup, and their first run at it was not the most successful, as they had to say goodbye after the group stages. The team, also nicknamed Chaba Kaew, qualified for France after making it to the semifinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where they ended up finishing fourth – their best result in 32 years. Thailand began the tournament by losing out 4-0 to China, but then they won against Jordan and the Philippines to make it through to the last four, where they tied 2-2 with Australia and only just missed out on the final after losing on penalties. In the game for the third place they came up against China again and lost, this time 3-1.

Kanjana Sungngoen is one of the most important names in the squad, having secured their qualification for the 2015 edition of the tournament with two crucial goals against Vietnam. The forward was also a very important puzzle piece for Thailand’s qualification this time around, and she contributed with three goals at the Women’s Asian Cup. Sungngoen is extremely fast, and her movements on the pitch are at times undetectable, as she seems to move without moving. Another crucial name in the squad is Rattikan Thongsombut, the midfielder with a high work rate who is used to putting in a shift on the midfield as well as scoring goals. She scored against Australia in the semifinal of the Women’s Asian Cup and her goal would’ve taken them through, had it not been for the Matildas’ 91st-minute equalizer.

Thailand women's national football team
Celebrating their qualification, source

Coach Nuengruethai Sathongwien is one of only nine female coaches going to the World Cup this summer. She has already coached the team once, leading them to their first ever appearance at a World Cup in 2015, as well as their first win in the tournament when they beat Ivory Coast 3-2. She then left the position but returned in October 2017 and has managed to repeat the feat of qualifying her team for the finals. She doesn’t seem to have a consistent style in her choice of formation but rather prefers to mix it up in the months leading to the tournament. A 4-2-3-1, as well as a 4-4-2, has seemed to be working well for the team so far.

In June last year, they played the AFF Women’s Championship, where they mopped the floor with opponents like Cambodia and Malaysia, and they even beat Australia twice. They also played the Women’s Asian Games but ended up losing all three games. In Thailand’s first time participating at the Cyprus Women’s Cup, that is a warm-up tournament in the spring ahead of the tournament involving teams from all over the world, they only managed to win against Hungary but lost out to Mexico, Italy and Nigeria. Thereafter they played friendlies against France and Belgium, which they both lost.

That’s a roundup on Thailand, the second team in group F. They’ve got quite a tough lot to go up against, with the likes of the USA and Sweden battling it out for a first place in the group. Do you believe that Thailand could upset any of these teams? Leave a comment below!

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WC Countdown: Group F – USA

It is time for the last group, and we only have DAYS until the biggest tournament of the summer kicks off! Four teams remain to be reviewed, and first up in group F is no other than the USA.

This is a team and a nation used to winning. Ever since the first inaugural Women’s World Cup took place in China in 1991, which the US won, they’ve come to set the tone for what is possible to expect from this team. They’ve won three World Cups in 1991, 1999 and 2015, which is the most out of any team, they’ve won four Olympic women’s gold medals, eight CONCACAF Gold Cups as well as ten Algarve Cups. To add to this, they’ve gotten a medal in every World Cup and Olympic tournament from 1991 to 2015 (until the Olympics in Rio 2016 when they were kicked out in the quarterfinals by Sweden). That is quite a silverware collection this team has got so far, and they’ll be looking for more. They cruised through the qualification tournament, beating Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and at last Canada in the final to secure their ticket to France.

The US is known for developing star players, and this team is no exception. In a country where a lot of the resources are devoted to women’s football, the game is flourishing and a lot of talent has the possibility to come through, important key points that have allowed the US to dominate the women’s football scene for a long time. They simply invest in the game and in their players, and it’s impossible to know where to start when talking about the star players on the national team since they’ve got such depth. Do you start with Alex Morgan, the fighter striker feared by goalkeepers? Or do you start with Mallory Pugh that is such a promising young goalscorer, or why not Carli Lloyd, the veteran who will go into her fourth World Cups and became a legend after her hat trick in the WC final 2015? Or Lindsey Horan, Kelley O’Hara, Meghan Rapinoe, Christen Press or Tobin Heath? There is simply no shortage of talent in this team, especially on the attacking side.

The United States women's national soccer team
Celebrating a goal, source

Unfortunately, despite everything this team has done, they’ve still got to fight against a lot of stereotypes and unfair treatment and recently the team filed a lawsuit, a gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation, requesting equal pay. This feels especially frustrating considering the fact that this team is without a doubt one of the biggest nations in women’s football in 2019 who have to go up against their own boss, US Soccer, because they’re still paying the men more than women, even in a country where men’s football is very scarce and their men’s national team didn’t even qualify for the WC in 2018. Meanwhile, the women have – over the course of only seven World Cups in the women’s game – won it three times. Talk about superiority. But that doesn’t protect them from being treated unfairly by their own federation. A numbers example: in 2014 when the United States men’s team were kicked out of the World Cup in the last 16, they received nine (9) million dollars. When the women’s team won the World Cup 2015, they received two (2) million dollars.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the lawsuit, but it’s hard not to argue the fact that they had to file it at an uncomfortable time, adding more pressure to their already pressured World Cup campaign, going into the tournament as defending champions.

Jill Ellis has been in charge of the team since 2014 when she took over from Tom Sermanni (who now coaches New Zealand), and she first led them to their World Cup victory back in 2015. Ellis, who is from England, did not play any organised football until her family moved to the US when she was 15, as such a thing as football for women did not exist for girls in the 70’s, but she went on to play a lot of football. She has previously worked for different college teams and was the assistant coach for Pia Sundhage during her reign at the national team, and she has also worked with the US U-20 and U-21 previously. Ellis likes to play it very consistent with her 4-3-3 formation and has had success with it so far.

The USWNT has played a few friendlies this spring leading up to the tournament. They participated in the SheBelieves cup back in March on home soil, winning over Brazil but drawing with Japan and England, and they did not have a chance at the title. Since then they’ve played Australia, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand and Mexico, winning against all of the teams and only conceding against the Matildas.

That’s a quick round-up on the US women’s national team. The Americans are favoured by many to grab another title and make it back-to-back cups, but first, they have to get out of their group, which can prove to be tricky with several good teams in the way. Do you think the US can do it again? Let us know in the comment section!

From Hysterical Fernando Torres Girl To Occasional Football Freakout Woman

This is a story of my transition into womanhood which, as we know in part thanks to Britney Spears and our own experiences, can be quite confusing, and it’s easy to feel ‘caught in the middle’.

I grew up as a football fan. My formative years, my teenage years, were strongly influenced by the identity of being a football fan, and it has brought me so much, but there’s also so much that I know now, that I wish I knew back then. For example, the number of times I compromised myself because I didn’t know better, because I wanted to fit in and be ‘one of the guys’, and I thought that being told that ‘you’re not like other girls’ was a good thing (ugh). Thankfully now I know better, through experience and meeting wise people I’ve realised that I want to be JUST like other girls because we are fantastic, and the term was coined in an attempt to alienate women from each other, as we’re too powerful together. I’ve learned that I’m allowed to take up space, I’m allowed to let my female self flourish also in an inherently male space, without having to conform to masculine ways. I don’t need to adopt an exterior that makes me pass as a “valid” football fan but instead, I can be the flawed, bad football fan that I am.

Everything that I knew about what it means being a girl, becoming a woman, I learned through the lens of football fandom

But all of these lessons came with a price. Everything that I knew about what it means being a girl, becoming a woman, I learned through the lens of football fandom, and occupying these male spaces on a daily basis … it was exhausting. Beautiful, but exhausting. There were so many times I felt alone, ruthlessly alone. As I’m sure most women can sign on, being a female football fan is difficult, as we encounter so many issues men simply don’t understand – I wrote about some of them here.

Emma with Torres shirt on
So proud over my first shirt

There was one man that introduced me to the world of fandom and came to define those years. This man is Fernando Torres. As I was entering my teenage years, I had Torres there accompanying me. From buying my first football top (his Spain shirt, on a trip to Greece) and plastering my room with posters of his face, the topic of Torres also acted as a great bonding topic for two shy and alone football fangirls, equipping me with a life-long friend. I had my first kiss at a football tournament I was playing abroad. I had Torres’ name on my graduation hat. Being a football fan gave me an identity, something that I, like most young people, was desperate for.

But he was actually not the one that introduced me to methodically follow football on an international club level, that was the making of Rafael Van der Vaart and that, my dear friends, is why I’m not a Liverpool or a Chelsea fan, but ended up supporting a fantastic club called Tottenham Hotspur (I definitely feel like it was meant to be).

Tottenham cap on the ready!
Reppin’ Tottenham in Madrid

You could say that Van der Vaart took over from Torres, who in many ways was a girl’s mega-crush whereas VDV brought me a level deeper. He wooed me with his fantastic technique, passion and endless grit at the World Cup 2010 and afterwards left me wanting more, so I started following his progress in his new team, and I fell hopelessly in love with Tottenham, their style of play (Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Van der Vaart all together, I mean …) and the history of the club, and as VDV left the club, going back to his old club Hamburg SV, I followed. I started watching Bundesliga and HSV on a more regular basis, admiring the special style of play in the German top league. This ultimately led to me moving to Germany a month after finishing high school, fully immersing myself in German football and culture. Two and a half years later, as it was time for me to break toxic routes, an opportunity opened up for me in Madrid and coincidentally it was (allegedly) Torres’ last season in Atletico Madrid.

This led to me packing my bags and heading to Spain without a second thought, as it was an amazing opportunity to get to see him play on home soil, at the club that he loves the most. By now I was, although still finding myself, more comfortable in who I was, and my extreme, hysterical fangirl-self only broke out occasionally, like the time that I got to actually be face to face with him, only centimetres separating us, and we actually exchanged words! And he signed my shirt! It was the ultimate fangirl moment.

Fernando Torres signed shirt
Don’t know if you can tell that I was happy here?

In one sense my Torres-fandom came full circle the moment our eyes met. By this time I had been in a few mixed zones and already had my ‘omg-footballers-are-actually-normal-deadly-people’ moment, but it was something different locking eyes with my first ever footballing hero. It solidified a moment in time in which, looking back, something shifted in me, and I knew it was time to do something about my dreams. It was like a chain reaction; as one dream came true (me meeting Torres), my other dreams wanted to be fulfilled as well and as a result of that, things started to move slowly but surely.

When Lucas Moura scored that vital winner in the 96th minute I literally peed myself I was screaming so hard

I’m no longer hysterical over Torres (only when he posts nice things on Instagram), and I don’t sit and sob in the sofa after Tottenham has lost a Premier League game (yes, there’s actual footage of this) but there are undoubtedly moments when those strong feelings still overwhelm me and have to come out somehow. The second leg of the semifinal between Ajax – Tottenham was certainly one of those times. When Lucas Moura scored that vital winner in the 96th minute I literally peed myself I was screaming so hard, and the redness in my face was at a dangerously high level. But none of that mattered because my team were going through to the Champions League final for the first time! In Madrid, on June 1st another circle will close, as I’ve been blessed to see my team work so hard throughout the season and fulfil every Spurs fan’s dream, and I’ll be watching, ready to freak out no matter how it goes and continue to chase those dreams.

WC Countdown: Group E – Netherlands

We are now on the last team in the second to last group in the World Cup Countdown, and the tournament is only a few weeks away. Let’s take a look at the Netherlands!

The Netherlands, also called the Oranje Leeuwinnen (the Orange Lionesses), come into this tournament grasping onto one of the last straws, having had to qualify for the last spot. The Euro winners, who claimed the title on home soil in 2017, have only qualified for one World Cup before and that was Canada 2015, where they didn’t get further than the round of 16. But this time around they will come in with some confidence, having beaten several tough teams to get to that last sweet qualification spot, and surely the magic of their Euros win still linger over them. They played Northern Ireland twice, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Norway, winning every game but the one against the Scandinavians, which was enough to place them only second in the group, after Norway who qualified directly. This meant they had to qualify for that last spot, playing both Denmark and Switzerland over two legs, winning both games 4-1 on aggregate.

When looking at the Leeuwinnen squad, there is one star that shines very bright indeed. Lieke Martens, the midfielder/forward who is one of the best female footballers in the world, has been the one leading her team through the qualification process. With her dribbling skills and her intelligent plays, she contributes a lot on the field and not just in terms of goals. She was a vital cog in the team that won the 2017 Euros and she was voted The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017. We also have an up and coming star that just doesn’t seem to be able to stop scoring. The young but already oh-so-mature Vivianne Miedema scored seven goals in the nine games she represented the Netherlands in on their qualification journey, and in England, where she represents Arsenal in the WSL (Women’s Super League), she was the top scorer of the season with 22 goals in 20 games. Talk about lethal!

Danielle Van De Donk, a teammate with Miedema in Arsenal, will also be an integral presence in the team, as she can contribute with vital goals as well as set her teammates up thanks to her creativity on the pitch. Shanice Van Der Sanden, Lineth Beerensteyn and Sherida Spitse are other important influences contributing with goals.

Defender Kika van Es spoke to FIFA about the importance of the Euros win and what an impact it’s had on the team in terms of expectations, and the perception of women’s football in the Netherlands.

“We want to be underdogs and we are telling everybody that because this is only our second World Cup.

“The World Cup is so different to the EUROs, being world champions will be very difficult, so we see ourselves as underdogs, which is better for us,” she said.

“Before the EUROs, nobody knew who we were, and then a month later it was crazy.

“Little kids can now dream of being a professional and it’s now easier to play football with other girls. We also showed parents that football is also for girls, not only for boys.

“For us, we think it’s good that we are playing in the north of France, so a lot of Dutch fans can come and support us. I think it is going to be a great World Cup and a great year,” she continued.

Sarina Wiegman
Head coach Wiegman, source

Head coach Sarina Wiegman is one of the reasons for the team’s huge success, and she’s had a massive impact on the team since she arrived in January 2017. With only a few months to go until the Euros kicking off on home soil and after having been an assistant coach and interim coach to the national side during several years, it was finally her time at the helm, and she did a fantastic job leading the team to victory at the Euros, raising the confidence and the attitude of the team and encouraging them to play a more attacking style of football, which took well amongst the group of players and they gave back to their coach by playing very attractive and winning football.

The team seems to have a strong and successful identity with the 4-3-3 formation, allowing their creativity to flood on the wings and build from a strong defensive foundation.

The Leuuwinnen has had a few games leading up to the tournament. They won against South Africa 2-1 back in January, they featured in the Algarve Cup where they lost against Spain and Poland, and drew 1-1 with China, winning on penalties. They’ve also played Mexico and Chile in two friendlies, winning 2-0 and 7-0, and are going up against Australia in a send-off match before the tournament begins in France, that game being played on the 1st of June, kick off 18:15.

That’s a wrap on our Orange Lionesses, who will go up against some tough competition in group E. How do you think that they will do? Let us know in the comment section!

WC Countdown: Group E – New Zealand

We head deeper into group E and next up is New Zealand.

The Football Ferns, which is the nickname of the island’s beloved team, will head to their fifth World Cup, having qualified for their first back in 1991 for the inaugural cup in China. It would then be a 14-year long wait until they qualified for their next one, the 2007 edition, and they’ve qualified for all the others since, although never being able to make it out of the group stages. The road to France was quite a straightforward one for the Ferns, as they went through the qualification with 42 goals scored and 0 conceded in their five games. They went up against  Tonga, Cook Island, Fiji and New Caledonia, winning with numbers like 11-0 and 8-0 in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup.

Ali Riley is one of the names to look out for in the squad, as the vastly experienced fullback is looking to add another World Cup to her belt, having already played in three World Cups and three Olympics. The team captain is a strong presence at the back, and with her knowledge of big tournaments, she’ll be a huge asset. This is quite the comeback squad that coach Tom Sermanni will bring to France. Striker Hannah Wilkinson suffered a serious ACL-injury back in October, but thanks to her grit and determination she has managed to work her way back to match-fitness and is one of the 23 players named in the squad going to the World Cup.

hannah wilkinson
Wilkinson representing the Ferns, source

“I am so honoured to be named in this squad. It was an amazing feeling last week when I got the call from Tom. I am also really proud of myself because I know that I have worked really hard to get back,” she said.

“The first thing I thought about when the injury happened was France. That my World Cup dream was over. But my mentality from the get-go was to focus and work hard every day. I had doubt coming from all areas so that was a real test to listen to my inner self and my inner belief. Month after month I saw the progress. Suddenly we hit five months and I was looking pretty good to come back. There have been a lot of important lessons and it has been quite a journey,” she continued.

Another forward who has made it into the team is Emma Kete, who got the spot ahead of other strikers despite only having her first appearance for the Ferns since 2015 earlier this year.

“Emma’s comeback is a great lesson in maturity and how you can really play your way back in. If you are really focused, work hard and look to do the right things, you have got an opportunity. She has come back into the fold after being away from the team for a long time, but she has shown her intent to be a part of this squad,” coach Sermanni said of the forward.

Another important player to have on the team is defender Abby Erceg, a real veteran who has more than 100 senior appearances for the Ferns and who came out of retirement for a second time in January, only to be selected for the team for a fourth World Cup.

The Scottish coach Sermanni has a lot of experience in the women’s game, and this will be his fourth World Cup, having started his illustrious career with Australia back in 1995. He rejoined the Matildas to lead them to the quarterfinals in 2007 and 2011, took over the United States women’s national team for a year, was amongst the staff for the Canadian women’s national team during the World Cup 2015, then Orlando Pride for two years, before returning to international duty in October 2018 with the Ferns.

The Scot is a welcome refresher in the team after the previous coach Andreas Heraf caused a lot of drama. The Austrian coach spoke after the team lost 2-0 to Japan back in June 2018, saying that New Zealand “will never have (the) quality to compete” with the likes of Japan, which caused a lot of upset and lead to serious allegations emerging about the coach. The players association sent the NZF a letter voicing concerns about the coach, and 13 players had signed the letter saying they did not want to work under him anymore, as the coach allegedly upheld a ‘culture of intimidation’ and Ercag, the retired player who returned, described him as ‘delusional’.

Sermanni seems to change in between formations, depending on what kind of team they’re meeting, and against the likes of Norway and Australia, where he seemed to feel the need to be more defensively rigid, they played a 5-3-2, and they’ve also played the likes of 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1.

New Zealand participated in the Cup of Nations, which is a friendlies tournament consisting of four teams – Australia, Argentina, South Korea and the Ferns themselves, who suffered losses to the Matildas and South Korea but beat Argentina 2-0. They also played a friendly against Norway, which they won 1-0 and is considered a huge win for the side. New Zealand is going to play some more last minute friendlies before the World Cup, going up against the US on the 17th of May, England on the 1st of June and Wales on the 4th of June, before they kick off their World Cup campaign on the 11th.

That’s a wrap on the New Zealand team, and this inspirational group of athletes is surely one to keep an eye out for. But will they be able to make it past their group that contains tough opponents like Canada and Cameroon? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

List: Female Managers at the World Cup 2019

We have a World Cup just around the corner and right now the teams are deep in preparations. The players are getting ready mentally and physically for the biggest tournament in football, and the coaching team is in the closing stages of figuring out the squad that they will bring to France – which players will be allowed to go and who will have to stay home.

Female managers at the World Cup 2019The manager is the person that has the most influence when it comes down to the squad, even as they are surrounded by assistant coaches, attacking coaches, goalkeeper coaches and so on. It is the manager that decides what formation they want to play, who will play in what position in order to get the best out of everyone, and what tactics they will use – quite a powerful position in other words. And more often than not, this position is inherited by a man. Times have slowly changed and there are by now quite a few recognised female managers who have gone on to do great things, but there are still so few of them. Not to mention the fact that in the men’s game it is still (more or less) unheard of to have a female manager managing a professional men’s team. (Actually, two of the women on this list have managed professional men’s team but they are extremely rare).

I find it very important to put focus on the women in the game, and the ones on the sideline are no less important. To no one’s surprise, only 37,5% of the managers that will be present at the World Cup this summer are women – a mere nine out of 24 managers. All the more important to get to know them a bit better! So here is a list of the female managers that will do their best to lead their team to success in France this summer:

Corinne Diacre – France

The French coach, who will do her best to guide her team to success on home soil, is a former defender for ASJ Soyaux who also represented France internationally. Diacre became the first woman to coach a professional men’s football team in a competitive game in France back in 2014 when she took over Clemont Foot.

Martina Voss-Tecklenburg – Germany

Voss-Tecklenburg, who coaches her native Germany, is one of the biggest names amongst German female footballers, having won seven national titles and six DFB trophies as a midfielder and striker for club and country during her playing days. As a manager, she has previously coached FCR 2001 Duisburg, FF USV Jena and Switzerland women’s national team, before taking over Germany in 2019, notably after they had already qualified.

Desiree Ellis – South Africa

Desiree Ellis head coach South Africa women's national team
Desiree Ellis, source

Ellis has a long playing career behind her, retiring from the game at the age of 38. The midfielder played for Spurs Ladies for 11 years and played over 300 games for the side, and they ended up being the first club that she managed, staying with the London team for 10 years. Then in 2016 she took over the South Africa women’s national team, which she was one of the founding members of. Ellis played in the team’s first ever international match, and in her 32 caps for South Africa, she won 23 of those games, drew two and only lost seven.

Milena Bertolini – Italy

Bertolini is a huge name in Italy who has done a lot for football in Italy. The former defender played for several Italian teams, amongst them Reggiana, Bologna, Modena and Pisa, before then going into the coaching side of things. She ended up going back to her beloved Reggiana, where she stayed for seven seasons, before taking over Brescia for five years, until the national team called in 2017. Bertolini is the only female coach, together with Carolina Morace, that has the UEFA Pro license which allows her to coach a professional men’s team, a step she has yet to take.

Shelley Kerr – Scotland

Michelle, better known as “Shelley” Kerr is a former centre back who captained her native Scotland and played in clubs such as Kilmarnock, Doncaster Rovers Belles and Hibs, racking up every domestic honour that Scotland has to offer, and she also featured in the UEFA Women’s Cup. She went on to become a manager, winning the Continental Cup and FA Women’s Cup double with Arsenal in 2013. She also attained the UEFA pro license and became the first female coach to manage a professional men’s team when she took over Stirling University F.C.

Asako Takakura-Takemoto – Japan

During her active playing years, Takakura-Takemoto was an energetic and decorated midfielder, winning the L.League four years in a row with Yomiuri Beleza, getting selected as MVP two years in a row and getting selected in the ‘best eleven’ seven times. When she was 16 she debuted for the Japanese national team, featuring at World Cups and the Olympics. Her coaching career took off as she managed the Japan U-17 team, then the U20 and then the senior side.

Sarina Wiegman – The Netherlands

Wiegman started her playing career as a central midfielder but ended up drifting into the role of defender, spending her playing days in Ter Leede and was the first Dutch footballer to gain 100 caps for her country. Her managerial career began in the same club she represented as a player, Ter Leede, and from there she went on to have a few assistant and interim positions in the Netherlands Women’s national team until she finally got to take over the senior side as manager. To prove that the federation was right to entrust her with this position, she went on to guide the team to win the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 on home soil.

Jill Ellis – USA

Jill Ellis head coach usa women's national team
Jill Ellis, source

Ellis, who is originally from England, did not play any organised football until her family moved to the US in 1981, as organised football did not exist for girls in the UK in the 1970s, and she went on to feature as a forward for William & Mary, but it was coaching that grasped her heart. She started out as an assistant coach for several universities, before going on to lead UCLA to eight NCAA Final Fours and won six straight Pacific-10 Conference titles. She went on to coach the US national U-20 and U-21 teams, as well as being an assistant coach and stepping in as interim coach for the senior side on several occasions, before becoming the head coach of the team in 2014. Ellis guided her team to glory as they won the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

Nuengruethai Sathongwien – Thailand

Sathongwien was the first woman in charge of the national team, and became the first coach to lead a Thailand national team, men or women, to a World Cup as her team qualified for the 2015 Canada edition, despite receiving a lot less funding than the men’s team. She had to step down from her post in less than three months, as her team failed to get any further than the second round in the qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics. But in 2017 she returned to her position and has once again managed to get Thailand to a World Cup.

That’s an account of the nine female managers that will go to the World Cup 2019. What seems to be a common denominator amongst all of these women is the level of success they’ve had. They’re all strong and fierce, breaking barriers and being trailblazers, paving the way for future generations to come. By being visible on the big stage, these women show young girls that they can aspire to one day be the ones, on the pitch and on the sideline, guiding their team to glory.

WC Countdown: Group E – Cameroon

After Canada in group E, our second team out is Cameroon.

The Indomitable Lionesses as they are called are returning to the world stage after their first World Cup endeavour back in 2015, where they beat Ecuador and Switzerland and lost to Japan in the group stages. They were allowed to advance to the last 16, where they were kicked out by China. This time around they’re up to similar tough opponents in their group, facing Canada, Netherlands and New Zealand.

Cameroon’s road to qualification in the Africa Women Cup of Nation was quite straightforward. They flew through the group stages, breezing by Mali and Algeria and drawing with Ghana before being halted on their way by Nigeria, who have stood in their way in the two previous Cup of Nation editions. The game ended 0-0 and had to go to penalties, where Nigeria won. Cameroon then had to go up against Mali again for the third place spot and the last qualification spot, which they claimed with a 4-2 victory.

Gabrielle Onguene is one of the big names in the team. She showed what she’s made of at the 2015 World Cup and with a great performance, she managed to help her team through to the last 16. The attacking midfielder has grown into a top name in African football and contributed two goals on their road to qualification. Christine Manie is another name to remember. She has been the one sending the team to the World Cup on both of the occasions that they’ve qualified, thanks to crucial goals scored in overtime, against the Ivory Coast back in 2014 and then again against Mali in 2018. She also contributed Cameroon’s only goal in their 1-1 draw with Ghana which, for a defender is pretty good.

Cameroon women's national team
The lionesses in a huddle. Source

Alain Djeumfa coaches the senior side, after taking over from Joseph Ndoko. Djeumfa, former fitness coach in the team, had to step in as manager in January 2019, after Ndoko had already led the team through the qualifying stages. It is not the first team that Djeumfa has coached, as he’s been with several top-flight clubs before, and on top of that, he’ll not be alone in France, as he’ll be assisted by the former Cameroon captain Bernadette Anong.

Djeumfa has not really had much time to implement his own playing style on the team just yet, and it does not get easier as the Cameroon football association, Fecafoot, have difficulties prioritising and setting up friendlies for the Lionesses to give them enough time to prepare ahead of the World Cup.

“The girls haven’t been consistent in their preparation. Training should’ve started a long time ago, not now. There should’ve been more friendlies. Look at Nigeria and South Africa, they have played several international matches and now both sides are in the Cyprus Cup. We have to do better.

“The Lionesses have a good coach in Alain Djeumfa but things aren’t made easy for him. The women’s league hasn’t started and it’s difficult for him to scout for players.

“We have to be pragmatic. I fear with such poor preparation we may have a poor output in France,” Victorine Fomum, former footballer turned analyst, said to BBC Sport.

After a winter and early spring without many signs of friendlies, the Lionesses managed to get to China and play the inaugural Wuhan International Tournament. The four teams in the tournament were China, who won, Cameroon, who finished runners up, Croatia and Russia. Cameroon ended up playing one game against Croatia, which they won, that in turn advanced them to the final against China, which was a 1-0 loss.

That’s a bit on Cameroon! Going into their second World Cup, they’ll be looking to better their results of ending up in the last 16. Can they make it? Let us know in the comment section below.