Lost in the flurry of news coming out of FIFA’s Executive Committee meeting in South Africa this week was an announcement that the FIFA Women’s World Cup will expand from 16 to 24 teams from 2015 onwards (there will be no change for the 2011 World Cup in Germany).
As I mentioned on Twitter, receiving a varied and interesting reaction, I’m unsure if this change is positive for the profile of the women’s game.
On the one hand, it obviously is: more participants means more exposure for the women’s game in more countries, and more opportunities for more players to shine. One commenter on Twitter pointed out that expanding the rugby World Cup had helped the ‘minnow’ nations grow enormously.
On the other hand, it’s hard not to notice that across nations and especially in certain positions (goalkeeper being the most obvious), the depth of talent simply isn’t consistent. How much does the women’s game suffer if there are a series of high profile blunders? How many lopsided games will there be in the tournament if Germany and the U.S. are picking on even lower ranked teams?
In the 2007 World Cup, Argentina were hammered 11-0 by Germany, 6-1 by England and also lost 1-0 to Japan. This was not an isolated incident: Ghana lost all three of their games with a -12 goal differential, and New Zealand all three at -9. If anyone knows about Argentinian or Ghanaian or New Zealand’s women’s football, it would be interesting to know how the sport has developed there since: were these painful appearances a boon or a hindrance?
I’m not sure of the answers to these questions, and would love some feedback for those who know more about the depth of the women’s game worldwide than I do. Is this a good development for the sport?