Argentina and Japan begin their 2019 Women’s World Cup on Monday as they face off in a Group D matchup. The two women’s national teams have experienced vastly different levels of success in recent years, with Japan making the last two World Cup finals while Argentina has had mostly middling results as financial difficulties effectively put the team on hiatus before the 2018 Cope America, according to CBS Sports. This match is effectively a must-win for both teams, as groupmates England and Scotland are among the highest ranked in the world and are the early favorites to make it through.
Argentina returns to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years after defying odds that go beyond the pitch. Between the 2015 Pan Am Games and the 2018 Copa America, the team played nearly zero matches as investment issues pushed the women’s game to the brink of its existence. In their return in the Copa America, they managed to put aside any lack of chemistry in the squad and did well enough to make it to a two-legged World Cup qualifier against Panama. After brushing aside the Panamanian women 5-1, Argentina makes their return with an underdog squad aiming to raise the profile of women’s soccer in their native country.
Japan is perhaps the most successful women’s soccer team of the past decade, having secured the 2011 Women’s World Cup title along with victories in the U-17 World Cup in 2014 and at the U-20 World Cup in 2018, making the country the only ever to win championships at all three levels. That championship DNA is evident in the current Japanese squad, with half the team having played in the underage victories along with some veterans from 2011. The women have developed a signature style of play where they work hard and execute skillful technique. Their slow, patient buildup and savvy pressing have been giving opponents headaches for years, but there are signs that the rest of the world is catching up with the giants.
Under manager Asako Takakura, Japan has achieved a woeful record of three wins, five draws, and 11 defeats against opponents ranked in the FIFA top 10 and have never been able to come from behind to win in matches against any of their opponents. If Japan is to make it to the World Cup final for the third consecutive tournament, they may need to revert to a more pragmatic style but against much easier opponents in Argentina, it’s hard to see them dropping the opening match.
Date: Monday, June 10
Time: 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET
Venue: Le Parc des Princes, Paris, France
TV Info: Fox Sports 1 (U.S.), BBC Two (UK)