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  • Writer's pictureKinsey Manchester

The Top Dogs & The Underdogs: Group F Preview

A group that includes France and Brazil, plus two younger teams in Jamaica and Panama is no easy group. All four teams will be battling it out for the two spots into the knockouts with Jamaica and Panama looking to make history, while France and Brazil are looking to break through for a title.


France

France makes their fourth consecutive World Cup appearance as strong contenders to not only make it out of the group stage of play but to make a run for the title. New head coach Hervé Renard took over in April 2023 after many French players announced they would not play under former coach Corinne Diacre. While under Diacre, France suffered a tough loss to Germany in the Euros Semifinal, as well as another loss to the German side and a thrashing by Sweden in friendly matches. Since April, France has looked tough, beating the reigning Olympic Gold Medalists, Canada. The biggest question mark for them is whether this cultural shift has come too late and whether their talented squad can finally come together and show up in tournament play. Ranked fifth in the world, they will look to make their case early on in this group.


Player to Watch:

Kadidiatou Diani

28-year-old Diani is one of the most exciting forwards in the game right now, but she’s still working back into play after breaking her collarbone. This season at Paris Saint-Germain, Diani was the French league’s top scorer with 17 goals in 23 games. With her speed, vision, and finishing prowess, a healthy Diani is frightening to any defense and could help lead her team far in this tournament.

Kadidiatou Diani in game for France. Photo courtesy of @kady944 /Twitter

Jamaica

Jamaica plays in their second World Cup in a row and hopes to improve upon their previous performance by making it out of the Group Stage. They are also playing despite a lack of faith in their federation, with members of the team turning to crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to raise money for their trip to the World Cup. Their team will be much stronger this go around with the addition of star striker Bunny Shaw, who will play in her first World Cup. Jamaica came in third overall at the 2022 CONCACAF Tournament but has had mixed results internationally since then. Big losses to Spain and Australia in February 2023 show just how hard the “Reggae Girlz” will have to work to beat the odds set against them. Jamaica could come away with their first World Cup win against Panama but are unlikely to make it into the Round of 16.


Player to Watch:

Khadija “Bunny” Shaw

Bunny Shaw is a prolific attacker whose name is well-known by many fans of women’s soccer. As a member of Manchester City in the 2022-2023 season, Shaw scored 30 goals in 31 appearances across all competitions and was named the club’s Player of the Season. As Jamaica’s all-time top goalscorer, Shaw certainly knows how to find the back of the net. If Jamaica can get Shaw on the scoreboard, they have a much better chance of success.

Bunny Shaw (#11) celebrates goal in World Cup qualifying. Photo courtesy of @bun_bun10 /Instagram

Brazil

The Brazilian team enters into their ninth World Cup ranked at number eight and with a fire lit under them. They came home with the Cópa America title and have since beaten top teams such as Norway, Italy, Canada, Japan, and Germany. They lost to the defending USWNT in a tight 2-1 game and lost to Euro champs England on penalty kicks, proving just how hard they are to beat. With a combination of experience and young talent, this squad has the depth and drive to go far. While Brazil has long been known for its technically strong football, they seem to finally have that last piece that they’ve been missing. At 37, there is a possibility that this could be Marta’s last World Cup, and the Brazilian side has already made it clear that they want to bring home the ultimate prize for their fearless leader.


Player to Watch:

Kerolin

Kerolin has been a force to be reckoned with in her NWSL play over the past two seasons and the 23-year-old forward looks to make her mark in this tournament. Coming off a hat trick performance in early June, NWSL fans recognize Kerolin for her fancy footwork, dangerously bending shots, and vision on the ball. If Brazil’s team of playmakers can make space for Kerolin to run at backlines, they will be hard to beat.

Kerolin shouts in SheBelieves Cup game against the United States. Photo by Ely Garcia for WSX.

Panama

Panama’s first appearance at the World Cup comes in a tough group, with two of the teams ranked inside the FIFA Top 10. As the last team to get a bid to the World Cup, they beat Papua New Guinea and Paraguay in the FIFA Interdivisional Playoffs to earn their debut. In their past year of play, they have found success against teams such as Ecuador, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Panama has yet to prove themselves on the big stage, but their youth and fearlessness can certainly ruffle some feathers. Their best shot at a win will come against fellow CONCACAF competitor Jamaica, a team with whom they are familiar.


Player to Watch:

Marta Cox

A young Panamanian side will benefit greatly from Marta Cox’s experienced and calm presence in the midfield. Cox, who plays for the Mexican Liga MX Femenil Pachuca squad, has racked up a number of full 90-minute performances for her club team. With 20 international caps, she will be crucial to Panama’s success and they will look to play through her.

Marta Cox dribbles past two defenders in World Cup qualifying game for Panama. Photo courtesy of The San Diego Union-Tribune via Martin Hunter/AP

GROUP SCHEDULE


Sun, Jul 23

France vs Jamaica

⏰ 6:00 AM

🏟 Sydney Football Stadium

📍 Sydney, Aus

📺 FOX


Mon, Jul 24

Brazil vs Panama

⏰ 7:00 AM

🏟 Hindmarsh Stadium

📍 Adelaide, Aus

📺 FS1


Sat, Jul 29

France vs Brazil

⏰ 6:00 AM

🏟 Lang Park

📍 Brisbane, Aus

📺 FOX


Sat, Jul 29

Panama vs Jamaica

⏰ 8:30 AM

🏟 Perth Rectangular Stadium

📍 Perth, Aus

📺 FOX


Wed, Aug 02

Jamaica vs Brazil

⏰ 6:00 AM

🏟 AAMI Park

📍 Melbourne, Aus

📺 FS1


Wed, Aug 02

Panama vs France

⏰ 6:00 AM

🏟 Sydney Football Stadium

📍 Sydney, Aus

📺 FOX



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