Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Japan's triumph a symbol of growth in women's game
by Ridge Mahoney, July 20th, 2011 2:02AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ
TAGS:  women's world cup

MOST COMMENTED

[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT] By reaching and winning the Women's World Cup final in its first appearance, Japan brought some credibility to assertions that the women's game is more competitive than the men's at the senior level.

The statistics don’t really bear this out, though comparisons are difficult because the women’s game is still growing and unlike the men’s game, its Olympic and World Cup eligibility rules are the same. The men’s Olympic tournament is an under-23 competition (plus three overage players) and so only the World Cup is valid as a reference point to women’s international soccer.

Comparisons between the two versions are also complicated by the much more arduous qualifying schedules played by men’s teams. In recent World Cups, traditional powers such as England (1994), France (1994), and the Netherlands (2002) have failed to even qualify for the final tournament. Greece, host and winner of the 2004 European Championship, didn’t make it to the World Cup held two years later.

Only China, host of the first women’s world championship in 1991 and runner-up to the USA in the 1996 Olympic competition and 1999 WWC, has fallen from prominence among the major powers in women’s soccer.

In the 10 major women’s competitions held since the inaugural women’s world championship in 1991, Japan is the fourth winner. The USA leads the way with five titles: the 1991 and 1999 WWC crowns, and the 1996, 2004, and 2008 Olympic gold medals. Germany has won the Women’s World Cup twice, and Norway has captured one of each. The USA is also the only nation to reach the semifinals in each of those 10 women’s competitions.

Three years ago, Japan became the eighth different country to reach the semifinals of a major women’s competition, which it used as a springboard to its 2011 world championship. It played the USA twice in that Olympic tournament, losing, 1-0, in the group phase and, 4-2, in the semifinals. In between, it stunned host China, 2-0, in a quarterfinal that radically altered the women’s game not only in Asia, but globally as well.

France’s appearance in this year’s final four increased that number to nine and also clinched the French a spot in next year’s Olympic women’s competition. As Japan has shown, rapid improvement is possible.

On the men’s side, in the past 10 World Cups, 17 countries have filled the 40 semifinal slots. Many more nations have fielded men’s teams than women’s teams during that period and since 1998, 32 nations have contested the World Cup, as opposed to 16 for the recently concluded WWC.

The Olympic women’s tournament started in 1996 with just eight teams, and only 12 competed in 2008, so direct comparisons are of limited validity. What is encouraging is not just Japan’s triumph and France’s advancement, but first-time participants Mexico and Colombia.

By reaching the Women’s World Cup, Colombia also qualifies for the 2012 Olympics along with Brazil and can continue to build on its debut. Mexico’s initial participation in a major women’s tournament increases competition for the two Concacaf Olympic slots to be hosted by Canada next January.

Six men’s teams have won the World Cup in the 10 competitions held since 1974. Unlike the USA’s dominance on women’s side, the titles have been spread out: Argentina, (West) Germany, Italy and Brazil have each won two; and France (1998) and Spain (2010) have broken through to win the trophy for the first time.

The World Cup has also produced surprise semifinalists: Bulgaria and Sweden in 1994, Croatia in 1998, co-host South Korea and Turkey in 2002, Uruguay in 2010. Despite fewer participating nations and greater obstacles to overcome, the women’s game is getting deeper as well as better.



0 comments
  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: July 20, 2011 at 9:05 a.m.
    Good stuff, Ridge. Nice take on how much soccer has grown worldwide. Thank you!
  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: July 20, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.
    The women's Olympic tournament should be changed. I don't see the point of having two essentially parallel competitions, with performance in one serving as qualifier for the other. Make the Olympic tournament an under-23 + 3 tournament, just like the men, and ensure that the World Cup is THE championship.
  1. Paul Bryant
    commented on: July 20, 2011 at 4:51 p.m.
    Ramon, it's about the quality of play. Thats why professional players participate on Olympic teams in hockey and basketball.
  1. Bruce Moorhead
    commented on: July 20, 2011 at 6:32 p.m.
    Ramon - CONCACAF has a qualifying for the Olympics. It will be Jan in Vancouver. It is a matter of lack of money and support in other continents. Ridge - Greece did not host the 2004 Euro. It was in Portugal. Overall a great article from you!

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
What They're Saying: Jason Kreis    
"The importance of the win has nothing to do with the opponent,. It wasn't about me, ...
MLS Talking Points: Timbers will be tough to stop    
The Portland Timbers definitely left a wakeup call for the rest of MLS that they will ...
Video Pick: A forward flips out to beat keeper    
In Colorado high school ball, Columbine junior Dylan Prichett-Ettner won a one-on-one with ThunderRidge's goalkeeper thanks ...
What They're Saying: Jurgen Klinsmann    
"They need to get the job done in St. Vincent, and then see how we can ...
USMNT: Loss of Dempsey and Zardes complicates matters    
No captain Michael Bradley for Friday's game -- suspended for yellow-card accumulation -- we've known that ...
U.S. Abroad: Americans battle for top spot in Mexico    
Michael Orozco started and Paul Arriola was a late sub as Tijuana beat UNAM, 1-0, to ...
NWSL: Hope Solo granted 'personal leave'    
The Hope Solo saga took another turn on Saturday as her NWSL team, Seattle Reign FC, ...
MLS Week 25: Results & Standings    
Montreal ended Toronto FC's seven-game unbeaten streak (six wins and a tie) when Ignacio Piatti's goal ...
Video Pick: Wood strikes in Bundesliga debut    
It took 23-year-old American Bobby Wood, who scored 17 second division goals for Union Berlin last ...
U.S. Abroad: Johansson returns in crushing Bremen defeat    
Aron Johannsson returned to action in the Bundesliga for the first time in 11 months, starting ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives