"Best ever" World Cup France ushers in new era for women's football

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-08 01:54:53|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by sportswriters Su Bin and Zhang Han

LYON, France, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Hailed as "the best Women's World Cup ever" by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, France 2019 concluding with the United States repeating their success here on Sunday is set to bring in more to expect for women's football future.

"This Women's World Cup in France has been phenomenal, emotional, passionate, fantastic. The best Women's World Cup ever," Infantino told a press conference ahead of the final.

A total of 146 goals have been witnessed across 52 matches.

Benefitting from their mouthwatering firepower and squad depth, the United States became the first team to reach the final on three consecutive occasions, finishing the tournament with a record-extending fourth title in eight editions up until now.

The U.S. team notched a record 26 goals, doubling that of their nearest rivals England, hugely thanks to their 13-0 rout of Thailand to set a new record winning margin in a single match.

Something interesting is that during their first six games in France, the United States managed to score a goal in the opening 12 minutes, which laid a solid foundation for the wins.

Co-captains Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe scored six goals apiece for the U.S.. However, that could not tell all stories about offense of the U.S. team. Christen Press, introduced in instead of injured Rapinoe in the semifinal, headed to break the deadlock to see off an ambitious England.

Standing as the oldest team with an average age of 28.6 years old, the United States showed experience in steadying under pressure with Morgan, Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd in the sqaud, especially in tussling knockout stage.

The 24-year-old Rose Lavelle proves to be a constant threat on the right flank with speed and technique. Left-back Crystal Dunn restrains opponents' strikers in a decent manner.

"As an older player and captain of the team, seeing younger players' rise to these occasions has been incredible, and just to see the way that everybody stepped up and embraced their role," an emotional Rapinoe said at the pre-final press conference.

The Dutch side has wowed the world in their second appearance by reaching the title contention, two years after becoming the European champions.

"The potential for the Netherlands has been there for a long time. Since 2007, when the Eredivisie started and players got better facilities and could train more, the players developed so much that they improved. And then when you're at big tournaments, like European Championships and World Cups, they develop even more," explained Dutch head coach Sarina Wiegman.

The tournament welcomed Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa as debutants. Despite falling out in group stage, the quartet would without doubt benefit from their World Cup debut.

VAR has been introduced in its maiden appearance at a Women's World Cup. For Infantino, the use of VAR is a success.

"The good news is that things can improve. Things are only going to get better because VAR is here to stay," Infantino mentioned.

Women's football has been enjoyed unprecedentedly around the globe throughout the competition. More than one million fans swarm into nine stadiums to watch on site, and the quadrennial tournament reaches over one billion viewers across all platforms and the average global live match audience is expected to double that of Canada 2015.

"Many people around the world tuned in for the first time to watch a women's football match. What other event, other than the men's World Cup, can unite one billion people around the world to come together like this?" asked Infantino.

Not completely sinking in the success of present World Cup, the FIFA leader has a bigger plan in mind to develop women's football.

He introduced five key proposals, highlighted by the expansion of World Cup participants from 24 to 32 teams possibly from the 2023 edition, as the FIFA decided on men's sides from 32 to 48 as of 2026.

Infantino said, "Looking at how many teams who didn't qualify for this World Cup, we need to give them a chance as well."

Infantino revealed that the FIFA intends to double the prize money for the next Women's World Cup, and double the investment committed to women's football over the next four-year cycle, from 500 million to 1 billion U.S. dollars.

He also thought about the creation of Club World Cup for women as soon as possible and Women's World League for more exposure of women's football on both national and club level.

"There will be a before and after the Women's World Cup 2019 in terms of women's football. It's up to us to make sure that we seize the opportunity and do something about it. We have to start working from now.

"A lot of fantastic things will happen in women's football," Infantino insisted.

So, women's football, just Dare to Shine!