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Has the Women's game become more competitive?

Spain's narrow 1-0 victory over England sealed World Cup glory and saw the World Cup draw to a close. Let's reflect on what has been an unpredictable, thrilling and record-breaking tournament.

It has been impossible not to notice the energy and passion shown from the fans inside the stadiums with nearly 2 million fans having attended the World Cup, smashing any previous record. The average attendance has also increased at 30,911 which is nearly 10,000 more than the previous World Cup in 2019.

Not only have the fans in the stadiums been breaking records but the amount of people watching the World Cup on TV has reached new heights. BBC report that 21.2 million people watched their coverage of the World Cup as well as a peak audience of 12 million viewers for the final between England and Spain.

With a clear increase in spectatorship at this World Cup, let's explore if the standard and competitiveness has also improved.

World Cup debutants

This World Cup was the first to expand to 32 teams with 8 nations making their World Cup debuts. Previously, 11 of the 17 teams to make their Womens World Cup debuts this century failed to win a match at their first World Cup. Despite this, 4 of the 8 new nations secured a victory in the group stages. Morocco was the highest achieving debutant nation, qualifying for the knockout stages ahead of pre-tournament favorites Germany with 6 points.

The newcomers defied the odds and made history with their performances at this World Cup, and this is a massive indicator that Women's football is becoming more competitive.

It wasn't just the debutant nations that made history. South Africa and Jamaica both qualified for the knockout stages for the first time ahead of Italy and Brazil. Nigeria also impressed beating hosts Australia in a 3-2 thriller and keeping a clean sheet against Canada to qualify for the last 16. They went toe-to-toe with European champions England and were unfortunate to lose 4-2 on penalties with the scores level at 0-0 after 120 minutes.

Big upsets

Further evidence that the women's game is becoming more and more competitive arise from the big shocks we have witnessed in the last month. For example, Germany failed to reach the knockout stages for the first time in their history. USA, who many tipped to win the World Cup for the 3rd time in a row, crashed out in the round of 16 when they suffered a 5-4 penalty loss to Sweden.

Jamaica's journey

The improvement in the women's game since the last World Cup is nicely depicted by Jamaica's journey from their World Cup debut in 2019 to their performances at this World Cup. In 2019, they finished bottom of their group having lost all three games and finishing on a goal difference of -11. This time around they qualified for the knockout stages ahead of Brazil, who had beat them 3-0 in 2019, and kept a clean sheet in their three group stage games. This is especially impressive considering Jamaica (ranked 43rd in the world) drew 0-0 with both France (5th) and Brazil (8th).

Overall, this World Cup has shown that the women's game is rapidly growing, both in terms of its following and the competitiveness on both international and national stages. There is no doubt that significant improvements will continue to be made in women's football in the next 4 years.

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