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World Cup Recap: Barbie Edition

Hi Barbie (and Ken)! Wake up, a World Cup is going on and the skinny of the group stage is that no one can predict who’s going to win. If the early start times mean you missed some of the action, don’t worry, below is a recap of every team’s performance, Barbie themed.


Switzerland: This Barbie is frustrating

Making it out of the group stage with a win and two draws, Switzerland is frustrating both in their inability to score and their patience in the buildup. More than that, despite knowing what to expect, teams are unable to break down the Swiss defense, with Switzerland keeping a clean sheet in all of their matches. Committed to a game plan that has worked thus far, Switzerland will rely on defense to give their forwards a chance to win the game 1-0 and frustrate opponents.

Norway: This Barbie is figuring it out in real-time

Norway lost their opening match to New Zealand, had their star player Ada Hegerberg pull out minutes before the second game, and had controversy before their second match. Their response to all of that? Winning their final game with six goals and looking like a team that was on its way to solving the questions surrounding them. If Norway can continue to figure out their finishing and chemistry only then will they give Japan a real test in the knockout round.

New Zealand: This Barbie is winning hearts

New Zealand opened the tournament with a surprise win over Norway and then lost to the Philippines, unable to find the clinical finishing needed to produce the goals required to advance. There was a tangible desire to do something big with the moment, present in the scrappiness of each of their matches. Playing with heart, the necessary finishing touch eluded them, and their defense couldn’t keep the Philippines off the board. Not the World Cup New Zealand wanted, but one that won hearts regardless.

Philippines: This Barbie is organized

Here’s the thing about the Philippines: most of the time you wouldn’t know they’re World Cup debutants. Playing as a unit, the Philippines secured their first-ever World Cup win against New Zealand and, for the most part, rolled with the punches of goals getting called back due to VAR decisions. Committed to defense, oftentimes their undoing was mistimed runs that betrayed the relative newness of this team. Three points in their debut is a testament to the organization found across the entire team.


Australia: This Barbie is better under pressure

The Matildas won their opening match, lost the second, and then completely dominated a must-win match against Olympic gold medalists Canada. Nagged by injuries, Australia found a way to take the game to Canada, pressing forward relentlessly and lighting up the scoreboard (all without Sam Kerr). The World Cup co-hosts tend to start a little tentative, but as the pressure increases, Australia rises to the occasion in smashing fashion.

Nigeria: This Barbie is all gas, no brakes

Nigeria pulled off the win against co-hosts Australia and tied Canada and Ireland on their way to the round of 16.  Playing an all gas, no breaks kind of game designed to tire out opponents, Nigeria also plays with a consistent belief in themselves that grows throughout the game, leading to things like their goals against Australia. Unafraid to put their bodies on the line for tackles, Nigeria will make opponents regret the work required to break down their defense or thwart their attack.

Canada: This Barbie is baffling

Canada won the 2020 Olympic gold medal and is now out of the World Cup in the group stage after scoring only 2 goals in three games. Sluggish, Canada never put the pieces together or found an option that could put the ball in the net. Under pressure, Canada seemed lethargic, with no bark or bite in Christine Sinclair’s sixth, and likely final, World Cup. The team seemed baffled at the lack of results and their performance, but none of the lineup changes worked to snap them out of their post-Olympics slump.     

Ireland: This Barbie is feisty  

Ireland lost their opening match to Australia, couldn’t hold on against Canada, and couldn’t find the back of the net against Nigeria, ending their World Cup debut. A Katie McCabe 'Olympico' goal was the highlight of a tournament that saw a feisty Ireland put their bodies on the line to win games. The debutants were both ballers and brawlers, better in buildup play, but committing to hard tackles to set the tone of their matches.


Japan: This Barbie is perfect  

Undefeated in the group stage and with a heavily rotated roster, Japan looks to be in the best form heading into the knockout rounds. With one of the most complete midfields in the world and forwards in fine finishing form, Japan is a threat from every angle. The team also didn’t concede a single goal in group play on their way to that perfect record. If that doesn’t scare you then the footwork of Jun Endo and the finishing of Hinata Miyazawa should.

Spain: This Barbie is a passing machine

Spain cruised to victories against Costa Rica and Zambia before falling to Japan in the last group-stage match. While Spain had no trouble finding the back of the net in their first two matches, they couldn’t turn their tiki-taka passes into a goal against Japan. The question, as always, is whether Spain can find the back of the net even if the perfect pass doesn’t exist. Worth noting is that Spain is one of several teams fighting their federation—several key players refuse to participate on the National Team until the removal of their head coach, Jorge Vilda.

Zambia: This Barbie has a lot going on at the moment  

A lot happened leading up to Zambia’s match, including Hazel Nali leaving pre-tournament with a torn ACL and the entire team participating in an ongoing fight against their federation. Leaving with a win against Costa Rica in their final match means the team can leave on a high, finally demonstrating what they're capable of, despite the investigation and injuries. Barbra Banda scored the 1000th FIFA Women’s World Cup goal, adding to their successes at the tournament. Unable to cover the spaces across the pitch, Zambia still managed to put enough of the pieces together to nab three points.

Costa Rica: This Barbie is still working things out

Things just never came together for Costa Rica, who spent much of their matches defending players and forgetting to close down space. While there were flashes of potential, all three lines struggled against the Group C teams, never looking cohesive for long. Their play improved against Japan, where they managed a solid defensive effort, but couldn’t find the magic formula or the cohesiveness to grab a point in the group stage.


England: This Barbie is acing chemistry

Haiti gave England trouble in their first match, but England’s improved since then, ending the group stage with a six-goal thrashing of China. Lauren James has been the story for England, with superb performances, but another story has been the way England has managed to play cohesively despite injuries both before and during the tournament.  With roster tinkering, England has looked better, finding their chemistry and their clinical finishing at the same time.

Denmark: This Barbie is quiet

Denmark has struggled to find consistency, having a rough first half against China, losing to England, and managing to beat Haiti with an early PK and late stoppage time goal. Committed to a game plan even when struggling, Denmark has so far been able to keep games close and find the back of the net when the job calls for it. Consistently quiet, Denmark has put together the performances necessary but has been remarkably uninspiring throughout the group stage.

China: This Barbie is fickle

China gave Denmark headaches and then completely fell apart against England. The tactical adaptability and control of the game are there, but China can’t always muster the ability to sustain an attack. Despite being down a woman, they put together enough of a performance to win 1-0 against Haiti, though their goal came from a penalty kick. China never really found a groove or a way to make the opposing teams pay, struggling to be consistent against different opponents.

Haiti: This Barbie is a victim of VAR

After giving England fits and losing by a single goal, Haiti found themselves with two possible penalty kick opportunities in their second game, only to have one rescinded and one denied a VAR check. As debutants, Haiti made noise at the tournament, keeping their matches close but was unable to find the back of the net in any of their matches. With plenty of young talent hungry for that first World Cup win, there will always be a what if a penalty had been awarded in that second match. But even without a win, Haiti gave the tournament something to talk about.


Netherlands: This Barbie is ruthless

It might have taken the Netherlands till the last game to find their offense, but against Vietnam, the Dutch put up seven goals from five players. More than that, the Dutch have proven ruthless in their ability to exploit their opponents’s weaknesses and convert on their chances. Able to start games on the front foot, the Netherlands make sure to give themselves the advantage, ruthless in their ability to make a team pay early.

United States: This Barbie is a hot mess

To answer BC alum Kristie Mewis, no, the US is not having an ok time. Not a lot is working for the US at this point. There’s a lack of finishing, a midfield that doesn’t show up on the passing maps, and a defense that gives fans a heart attack. More than all that, there’s palpable frustration on the field and no ability to find another level or resolve the issues. There has been minimal player rotation through the group stages, so maybe the answer to the US' woes is sitting on the bench. Maybe not. Either way, the US has one game to figure it out or go home.

Portugal: This Barbie is a problem 

Portugal gave the Netherlands headaches and the US a heart attack, demonstrating in their debut that the team will be a problem for years going forward. With quality finishers, a well-executed game plan, and a goalkeeper able to withstand sustained pressure, Portugal plays with immense heart and courage. Determined to be in the conversation, Portugal was two inches away from knocking the US out and played the game of their life—showing the importance of playing as a unit rather than a set of individuals.

Vietnam: This Barbie is preparing for the future

It was a rough outing for Vietnam, who ended their World Cup debut without a win or a goal. However, the score lines don’t reflect the fact that up to the game against the Netherlands, Vietnam put together an organized performance that limited the US to three goals and prevented Alex Morgan from scoring her penalty. Throughout the tournament, Vietnam appeared to be measuring themselves against their competition, preparing to return in four years with more experience.


France: This Barbie is quality

France drew with Jamaica, before defeating Brazil and then Panama in a wild finish to the group stage. The six-goal affair was the product of a heavily rotated France that was without defender and captain Wendie Renard. The team’s finishing ability has been on display, especially late in matches and from set pieces. With plenty of speed up top, France can find spaces wide before collapsing in to overwhelm opponents in the box.

Jamaica: This Barbie is a defensive masterclass

Jamaica is heading into the knockout rounds on three consecutive clean sheets. Every player on the team has bought into the defense-first mentality, protecting the goal and making it impossible so far for opposing teams to crack the code. Lest anyone assume all the Reggae Girlz have is a solid defense, Bunny Shaw plays for Jamaica and can score at any moment. The first Caribbean nation to advance to the knockout rounds, Jamaica brings firepower, stellar goalkeeping, and an impeccable unbeaten defense.

Brazil: This Barbie is legendary

No one wanted to see the legendary Marta leave her final World Cup in the group stage and the party Brazil threw in the first game seemed to assure fans that the star-studded offense wouldn’t let that happen. But an unconvincing performance against France and the inability to break down Jamaica’s defense means Brazil exits the tournament early. A fluid, blended style of individual brilliance and team chemistry slowly evaporated into a frustrated team that couldn’t break down their opponents.

Panama: This Barbie is scoring bangers

With a difficult first two games, Panama capitalized on their World Cup debut to put three goals past France in their final match. Marta Cox scored a beauty of a free-kick in the second minute to put France on notice and the team showed why they qualified for the tournament by making sure to take advantage of moments of French uncertainty. Unable to put complete performances together and struggling to lock down teams like Brazil and Jamaica, Panama’s greatest weakness was their difficulty in controlling second balls.


Sweden: This Barbie is comfortable

Sweden cruised to a perfect record in Group G, dispatching all three of their opponents with only South Africa giving them real trouble. Their second match against Italy was a dismantling of the Italian side through set pieces, demonstrating Sweden’s clinical finishing. The comeback win against South Africa demonstrated their mentality, showing how the team responded to adversity early. Against Argentina, Sweden showed their ability to dictate physical play and turn their opponents’ game against them. Each of Sweden’s three matches were complete, mostly comfortable performances.

South Africa: This Barbie is pure joy

South Africa dances into the stadium and now they can dance their way into their first-ever knockout round game. Scoring in all three matches, the difficulty was holding onto a lead, a criticism South Africa answered with a repeat comeback in a must-win game against Italy. Led by Thembi Kgatlana, the team embraced a joyful, never say die, unafraid of big names brand of soccer that took opponents by surprise. Good on the counter and able to take advantage of opponent’s mistakes, South Africa has quality across the field.

Italy: This Barbie is working on mentality

Italy’s first match against Argentina seemed promising, with the side contributing to the chippy play and still finishing a way to win. Against Sweden though, it all fell apart. Italy never seemed to recover from the 6-0 thrashing, despite scoring late against South Africa to seemingly secure the tie. Defensive lapses repeatedly led to goals against, which made their path more difficult, especially when those goals were given up late in stoppage time. The inability to defend against set pieces also demonstrated this lack of concentration when opponents were in their final third.

Argentina: This Barbie is a brawler

Argentina did not come for consolation prizes, clawing their way back from a two-goal deficit in their match against South Africa and unwilling to roll over to Sweden. They also aren’t afraid of a physical challenge, playing a brand of soccer that puts opponents on notice (although Sweden fouled 3x more than Argentina in their match.) Despite their penchant for a tough tackle, Argentina had plenty of quality on the ball, though lapses in concentration hurt them on both defense and in the final third.


Colombia:  This Barbie is just getting started

Colombia topped Group F with a win over Germany in one of the most complete performances of the tournament. On top of quality around the field, Colombia plays as an organized team that understands how to bend, but not break. Able to score off of set pieces and in the run of play, Colombia also has a cheat code in Linda Caicedo, who can score from seemingly anywhere on the pitch. Ballers, Colombia can break down defenses and attack space regardless of the system in front of them.  

Morocco: This Barbie is making history

Morocco, in their World Cup debut, is advancing to the knockout rounds after winning against Colombia in their last match (and getting some help from South Korea). Demonstrating their mentality, Morocco pulled their defense together after a 6-0 thrashing to open the tournament. Making the most of their opportunities, decision-making under pressure is still a question mark for this team, but so far sheer desire to make something happen has covered up for mistakes. This is the first time three African nations advance to the knockout rounds and Nouhaila Benzina is the first player to wear a hijab at the World Cup.  

Germany: This Barbie is in crisis

No one predicted that Germany would fail to advance out of the group stage for the first time ever. A 6-0 win appeared to show Germany firing on all counts, before losing to Colombia late in their second match. Unable to find clinical finishing in their last two games, Germany lacked the concentration to ice games early, allowing opponents to take advantage of mistakes. The lack of a consistent mentality meant that when chasing the game, Germany was frustrated, further compounding their finishing issues.

South Korea: This Barbie is a spoiler

South Korea didn’t have the tournament they hoped for, losing to Morocco and Colombia, but they held Germany to a tie in their last match. Serving as a spoiler, South Korea took advantage of a flat-footed Germany before putting together a 90+ minute defensive performance. The heart displayed in the last match, as well as the commitment and quality of defending, is one of the high points of South Korea’s tournament, despite lackluster opening performances.  

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