Jill Ellis, World Championship-winning coach, left astonished by the ‘unpredictable’ nature of the World Cup

    Two-time world championship-winning coach Jill Ellis admits that even she is amazed at the sheer unpredictability of the 2023 tournament, which has already seen six teams from the top 20 eliminated from the group stage.

    The most shocking of these disappointments came on Thursday night when world No. 2 Germany were eliminated from Group H after never missing a quarter-final in their previous eight tournaments.

    Countering the disappointed faces of the two-time champions were those of group rivals and debutants Morocco, who, in a viral clip, huddled around a phone on the pitch before exploding with delight at the knockout of their world number 72 team. .

    “It’s been great so far,” said Ellis, who led the US to consecutive titles in 2015 and 2019 and now leads the tournament’s technical research team.

    “I think we all feel it. Gone are the days of total predictability. Progress is very clearly underpinned, and of course one can feel the competitiveness. [with] Giants are eliminated in the game, we see debutants advance to the next round, which I think makes this championship one of the most unpredictable and possibly exciting World Championships we have ever seen.

    “To be honest, I’m really surprised. I think when you suddenly see Germany or Brazil drop out of the World Cup in the group stage.

    “I don’t think any of us could have predicted this. I am delighted with the development, of course, for sure. But I guess, I thought it was another iteration of the World Cup before we start to see even more parity that we are starting to see right now.”

    Olympic champions Canada (seventh) and Brazil (eighth) were the other two top 10 teams that were sent to the top 10 after the group stage, joining China (14th), Italy (16th) and South Korea ( 17th). -ranked teams dropped out.

    For the first time, three African countries – Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa – made the playoffs, and Jamaica made history by making it to the round of 16 for the first time despite an ongoing dispute with their federation over pay, resources and terms. this led the players to express their discontent in an open letter on social media prior to the World Cup.

    Nigeria and South Africa are among other qualifying nations that have been embroiled in pre-tournament disputes with their respective federations – a group that also includes England, which has vowed to focus fully on winning the inaugural World Cup before resuming talks with the Football Association over about the bonus. payment and commercial structures.

    Each country participating in this World Cup also received US$960,000 (£753,830) solely for preparation costs.

    While some parties seem to defy the odds, Ellis and her panel of experts have generally pointed to a clear relationship between investment, resources and productivity.

    The Royal Moroccan Football Federation, for example, has invested heavily in women’s and women’s football since a system overhaul in 2009 and set up a women’s football academy six years ago, where players have access to the same facilities as the men’s national team.

    Ellis said: “I was struck by the object. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments I’ve ever seen and it just made me realize that yes, there are federations that take this very seriously.”

    FIFA data after the group stage also reflects an increase in pool competitiveness. The share of goals scored in the first half of matches increased by nine percent compared to the 2019 tournament, and the share of goals scored in the first half by teams that did not advance increased by 18 percent, from 5 percent in 2019 to 23 percent in 2023.

    At the same time, Ellis’ team has also seen an increase in the quality of goalkeeping, with the average save percentage increasing from 70% four years ago in France to 77% in 2023, and the percentage of matches ending in a draw has increased from 8% to 21%.

    Add to that more players signing with clubs from resourced leagues and national teams that have developed a clearer tactical identity based on their individual strengths and weaknesses, and this will be perhaps the most open Women’s World Cup yet.

    Ellis added: “We hear this constant comment about spaces and where the spaces are. It is safe to say that there are no gaps. That any day a team can come out here and compete with another team.

    “And so it will be incredibly interesting to see how it plays out.”

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