"Is it any good?" is the question most frequently asked of women's football by men who have not seen it. The answer is yes, up to a point, especially if viewed on its own merits rather than in comparison with the men's game.
Women's football, for obvious physiological reasons, is slower than its male counterpart but there is plenty of skill and tactical awareness. England's men's team have been following the women's progress in the World Cup with admiration. Kelly Smith, England's star player, and one of the finest footballers in the women's game, was described by one male international as "playing like a man without being manly", which was intended as a compliment.
The most evident weakness is goalkeeping, probably in part because 6ft 4in women – the standard height for a male goalkeeper these days – are rare. Even taking this into account too many soft goals are scored from long-range, or from crosses. The other problem is a lack of depth, as Argentina's 11-0 defeat to Germany underlined. However, there are equally one-sided mis-matches in the men's rugby and cricket World Cups.
England's women are improving fast. After years of neglect, sometimes downright opposition, the Football Association is putting its cash and influence behind the sport and there has been an exponential growth in the number of women playing. This has led to a significant and ongoing rise in standards. From being World Cup outsiders England's women should become serious contenders.
The financial weakness of the domestic league, dependent on the goodwill of men's clubs, is a problem. The solution may be corporate sponsorship, which is why profile-raising progress in this World Cup is so important.Reuse content