Sweden takes on World Cup first-timer Chile in the opening round of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup on June 11, 2019, at Roazhon Park in Rennes, France.

“Soccer" Sweden (FIFA Rank: 9)

Sweden entered the previous four World Cup tournaments ranked in the Top 5 in the world. But even after ousting the United States and winning the silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Swedes were forced out of the Top 10 in the rankings one year ago before getting back to their current #9 spot in the rankings. Sweden suffered its first qualifying loss since 2003, a surprise defeat against Ukraine. Despite that, they still managed to book a World Cup spot rather easily. They won their group by five points and in the six games they won on the field ( they won by forfeit against rival Denmark), they outscored their opponents 9-1.

Below is Sweden’s 23-woman squad for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup:

  • Goalkeepers: Hedvig Lindahl, Jennifer Falk, Zećira Mušović
  • Defenders: Jonna Andersson, Linda Sembrant, Hanna Glas, Nilla Fischer, Magdalena Eriksson, Amanda Ilestedt, Nathalie Björn
  • Midfielders: Lina Hurtig, Kosovare Asllani, Julia Roddar, Caroline Seger, Anna Anvegård, Elin Rubensson
  • Forwards: Madelen Janogy, Sofia Jakobsson, Stina Blackstenius, Julia Zigiotti Olme, Fridolina Rolfö, Mimmi Larsson, Olivia Schough
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“Soccer" Chile (FIFA Rank: 39)

Chile was a team that was eliminated before the first phase of qualifying in South America four years ago. But in 2018, they qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever and they did so in front of their countrymen at the Copa America Femenina. However, it wasn’t that easy. Chile finished second place in its group after forcing a draw with first-placed Colombia. This enabled them to advance to the final four group stage together with Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. They finished second to Brazil in the tournament after scoring a 4-0 win over Argentina in their final game of the tournament and thus giving them an automatic berth to this World Cup.

Chile’s first-ever team to the Women’s World Cup is made up of the following players:

  • Goalkeepers: Christiane Endler, Natalia Campos, Ryann Torrero
  • Defenders: Rocío Soto, Carla Guerrero, Valentina Díaz, Su Helen Galaz, Javiera Toro, Camila Sáez
  • Midfielders: Francisca Lara, Claudia Soto, Karen Araya, Yessenia López, Daniela Pardo, Ana Gutiérrez, Elisa Durán
  • Forwards: María José Rojas, María José Urrutia, Yanara Aedo, Javiera Grez, Yessenia Huenteo, Daniela Zamora, Rosario Balmaceda

“Soccer" Who Wins?

Although the soccer betting odds have put them as heavy underdogs in this matchup, Chile won’t be overwhelmed with the level opposition in the World Cup. That’s because unlike the other lower-seeded teams, Chile played a total of 11 games against fellow World Cup teams since they qualified. Their brutal scheduled included two games against the United States and Australia plus a match against the Netherlands. The key match in that schedule was a 3-2 win over Australia in Sydney. In that game, they displayed the ability to play good defense while not losing their offensive focus. Other than that game though, they found it hard to balance offense and defense and hence they were blown out by the United States, the Netherlands and Australia during their second encounter. Chile gave up a total of 19 goals in those four games.

Yanara Aedo is a player to watch out for on Chile’s side. She was once a member of the Washington Spirits but never played a game in the National Women’s Soccer League before transferring to Spain. Aedo is Chile’s top goal-scoring option and given that they grouped together with the United States, she may have something to prove. Christiane Endler has a crowded goalkeeper situation at PSG. But in Chile, she is the top option and we can’t look far from their 3-2 win over the Aussies in Sydney to know her worth.

European legend Lotta Schelin has retired after 88 goals and without her around, Sweden doesn’t have proven scorers although they have many options at forward. Pia Sundhage has also left as their coach and Sweden’s current coach Peter Gerhardsson has taken over an organized program that didn’t need to be overhauled. Sweden is a team that is comfortable playing defense and counter-attacking but they will need the likes of Kosovare Asllani, Stina Blackstenius, Fridolina Rolfo, and Sofia Jakobsson to make up for Schelin’s loss.

Jakobsson is tall, quick, has long strides and is comfortable out wide. She was a good goal scorer for Montpellier in France but sat out the Euros with an injury. This could be the perfect tournament for the 29-year old to break through. Hedvig Lindahl is playing her fifth World Cup and she is the last link to the 2003 World Cup Runner-up team of Sweden. She is probably the most reliable goalkeeper in the world right now as she organizes her team’s defense with her vast experience.

Sweden is getting a World Cup rookie in Chile for its first assignment. And a game like that is more daunting for the rookie than the veteran. But not only does Sweden have the edge in experience, but they are also the more complete and cohesive team here. Prediction: Sweden

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