This year, FIFA welcomed eight new countries to participate on the biggest stage in soccer. The eight new teams include Haiti, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Vietnam and Zambia.
The Women’s World Cup has never seen a larger participant pool, with 32 teams at the starting line this year.
However, as exciting as a first time berth into the tournament is, oftentimes debutants face struggles and hardships. Analysts often reduce their chances of emerging from the group stage, sometimes going as far as to characterize each nation’s first time out as a “baptism of fire.”
With the group stage phase of the tournament soon coming to an end, let’s look back at how these eight teams performed, and see for ourselves whether their fate was sealed from the get-go, or whether they are defying the odds.
The Republic of Ireland and Philippines, both debuted during the first day of group stage play on July 20.
Ireland faced a tactical Australian team to start off. Although Ireland put up an awfully strong fight, in the end it was a penalty granted off an Ireland foul that allowed Australia the 1-0 advantage that carried them to victory Not necessarily a “baptism of fire,” but certainly not a win for Ireland.
That same day, the Philippines faced a quick-paced Switzerland team. Switzerland was able to get ahead in the match off of a controversial foul that granted them a penalty kick in the 45th minute.
Regardless, Switzerland played at a level that the Philippines simply couldn’t keep up with, granting Switzerland a second hard fought goal in the 64th minute.
Vietnam was next to make their debut, but certainly got the worst draw of the debuting nations as they faced the USA. An experienced red, white and blue team was quick to dominate the match, finishing 3-0.
Next in line to make their debut was Zambia’s first match against Japan. This match proved to be quite disheartening for Zambia fans. The debutants took zero shots and went home goal-less, while Japan on the other hand scored five times. A baptism of fire may not fully capture Japan’s dominating performance that featured excellent passing and finishes.
Haiti was next at an attempt to defy the odds and prevail through a treacherous match. With only seven shots and two of those on target, Haiti had no luck in putting any numbers on the board against England, who wasted no time getting ahead. England took the match at 1-0 in the 29th minute but certainly proved to be hungry for more as they took shot after shot throughout the match.
Portugal made their debut against the Netherlands a day later. Displaying a similar struggle to Haiti, Portugal simply couldn’t keep up, losing 1-0.
Finally, Panama was faced with Brazil, who showed no mercy on the first-time participants. With a final score of 4-0, Brazil dominated the match having taken a total of 32 shots compared to Panama’s six.
Morocco also later faced Germany, losing 6-0, and Zambia fell again to Spain, 5-0, failing to shake the woes that World Cup debutants historically face .
The Philippines managed to take a game against New Zealand, making it their first-ever world cup win. Morocco also defied the odds when they beat South Korea. Even Zambia took down Costa Rica 3-1 and Portugal tied with the USA.
After the group stage, just one debutant nation will advance to the round of 16. Morocco became just the fourth-ever debutant nation to advance after salvaging two 1-0 wins following its crushing defeat to Germany.
For the nations that failed to advance but saw themselves compete in the World Cup for the first time, their growth and experience in the tournament will prove valuable in the years to come.