why is the world hierarchy so different from that of the men’s teams?

In a women’s football in full swing, Brazil, Italy, Argentina are not among the major nations, unlike the United States and Sweden.

The reigning American champions started the World Cup on Saturday 22 July with a clear success against Vietnam (3-0). Transposed to the masculine, this sentence would be fiction. When Team USA has been the juggernaut of women’s soccer since the inaugural World Cup in 1991, the men’s team has evolved at a fairly leisurely pace on the global stage. The example of the United States is an almost perfect illustration of the hierarchy in soccer practiced by women, and its very approximate parallel with that of the opposite sex.

While the United States women’s team has won four of eight World Cups in history, including the last two editions in 2015 and 2019, the men’s team hasn’t reached the quarterfinals since 2002, with only one appearance in the last four at the inaugural 1930 World Cup.

The example of Brazil, a sporting or sexist reference

A truly large gap, almost as revealing, is observable when we cast a eye about the most successful nation in men’s soccer: Brazil. Crowned with its five stars on its shirt, the Seleção is still cool among women. When the carioca country had Pelé as the true idol of the people between the 50s and 70s, women were outlawed if they ever thought of stepping on a lawn.

Legislative decree 3199, applied between 1941 and 1979, qualified certain disciplines such as football, rugby or weightlifting as “incompatible with female nature“. This provision marked the Brazilian society and it took many years after its repeal for the professionalization of football to be well seen. And this, despite the rare popularity of this sport and the already existing infrastructure.

More generally, almost all of South America constitutes a paradox, where football is often on a par with a religion. If Lionel Messi’s Argentina won the title in Qatar last December, the women’s Albiceleste has never won a World Cup match, earning their first points with two draws at the 2019 World Cup after accumulating six defeats in their other two appearances in 2003 and 2007. Uruguay, its two World Cups and its 14 men’s caps, are still waiting to see their women play their first match at the World Cup.

The phenomenon is not limited to South America. Italy and its four men’s titles is only a modest female selection, absent from the World Cup between 1999 and 2019. Holland and Spain are still emerging in the women’s selections, with only two participations in the last two editions.

Scandinavian forerunners

Conversely, the Scandinavian women’s nations are world benchmarks in football. Sweden, 23rd in the men’s FIFA ranking, takes the women’s podium. The country was a forerunner by establishing a government program of “sport for all”, giving pride of place to equality in 1969, and then to women’s football. In 1980, there was approximately one female licensee for every five men playing football. Fifteen years later, there were more licensees in a football club than in France, in a country still 6.5 times less populated.

At the highest level, this sporting culture was anchored early on and the investments made – as well as the lag of other countries – pushed Sweden or Norway to the top of the women’s plateau. Like the United States therefore, Canada (7th nation among women in the Fifa ranking, 45th among men), China (14th among women, 79th among men) or Japan, crowned in 2011 among women, but which has never exceeded the round of 16 among men.

Major football countries of all genres are almost an exception. Germany, the second most successful nation for both men and women, or France are among them. It’s up to Hervé Renard’s Bleues to follow the path traced by the gangs of Aimé Jacquet and Didier Deschamps, and climb to the top for the first time.

Add a Comment