Friday 14 July 2023, 15:00

Ellis: The game is constantly evolving

  • Two-time Women’s World Cup coach Jill Ellis will be a TSG member at Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • Former USA coach talks about growing technical development and the benefit of a 32-team tournament

  • “It’s exciting that we see new countries coming in because it lights a fuse in that country.”

FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG) member Jill Ellis says the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ is set to again demonstrate the rapid growth in women’s football. Australia & New Zealand 2023 kicks-off next Thursday and will be the first to be co-hosted with 32 nations lining up – an increase of eight teams. “In 2019 we saw some exceptional levels of technical expertise,” said Ellis, a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning coach with USA. “I think the game is constantly evolving. “What we’re seeing now is those players [from 2019] – some of them are still around – but now, it’s that younger generation coming along with, again, an increased level of technical proficiency. So, we’re seeing things happening at a much faster rate with the dribbling now, the control. “As the game continues to grow athletically, we’re seeing players being able to execute athletically at a higher level technically. So, I think you’re seeing that from set-pieces, I think, striking a dead ball, free-kicks we’re seeing now. I think that’s continuing to trend up.”

Haiti, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Vietnam and Zambia comprise the diverse list of debutants that will line up at Australia & New Zealand 2023, and Ellis believes exposure to new styles of football can only benefit global growth in the game. “I think it’s exciting that we see new countries coming in because, ultimately, what happens is, it now lights a fuse in that country in terms of exposure to the sport, interest in the sport, [and] I think that’s wonderful,” she said. “What we see in terms of the football side is we continue to see different styles, different players, different heroes are going to emerge from this World Cup as we start to see these new countries. So, I think even in some of these preparation games we’re seeing, you’re seeing closer score lines than perhaps people expect. “Sure, there are always going to be lopsided score lines when you bring new teams in and you expand the participation of the World Cup, going from 24 to 32. But with that growth, I think there are going to be some teething problems, but I also think it’s massive for our sport in terms of growing the game globally.”

USA coach Jill Ellis celebrates with the trophy

Technical reports are compiled and published by the TSG published after every FIFA competition, including each edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The reports analyse every match and trends during the tournament and provide an invaluable asset in order to analyse the game’s progress. “The level of goalkeeping continues to grow, I definitely think that’s evolving as you look at the game around the world,” Ellis said. “[If] you look at the youth tournaments, the [FIFA] U-20 [Women’s] World Cup, we’re seeing goalkeepers continuing to evolve. “The level of service from the flanks, from the wide areas; I think it continues to be an area in our game that we want to continue to refine but we’re seeing the different quality of types of service: early ball in behind, cut-back, diagonal balls. “I also think the level of proficiency in the air is something that I think we’re seeing increase more in the number of goals and chances that are created from aerial presence in the box. “The World Cup is a massive platform. I think it’s an incredible platform for development in our game because it is the crown jewel. It gets incredible exposure – not just sponsorship but viewership. We get eyes on the game globally. “You are suddenly seeing incredibly different, diverse styles of play, different players, different personalities, different skill sets. Again, as an aficionado – someone who loves this game, it’s such a learning experience to watch the World Cup.”