The Fifa Women’s World Cup is well underway, and what a tournament it’s been so far. Fans have turned out day after day across France, from Paris to Lyon to Nice, to see players break world records in what has to be the most anticipated women’s tournament to date.
To celebrate women’s football finally getting the attention it deserves, from everyone, not just female fans, we’ve worked with Minute Books to bring together an all-star squad of 11 illustrators. Minute Books is a performative press started by Barney Fagan, Laurie Avon, Sean O’Brien and Scott Coleman that makes live books tailored to specific events. Together, our team represents the diversity of football supporters and the creative industries, regardless of age, race or gender, and It’s Nice That has commissioned them to document every single game of the tournament. Starting today with the group stages, we’ll look back on each round of the 2019 World Cup to tell its story through reportage illustration.
Thanks for tuning in for what has been a brilliant tournament. It’s Nice That and Minute Books battled right until the end, impressing fans all over the globe with their teamwork, stamina and a few silky skills thrown in there too. Having proved each and every one of them is irreplaceable, the starting 11 once again remains the same. We have: American-born, Germany-based Haley Tippmann; Barcelona-based Luis Mazón; London-based Hannah Buckman; Brighton and London-based Laurie Avon and Sean O’Brien (of Minute Books); Latvia-based Rebeka Lukošus; Seoul-based Jiye Kim; New York-based Amber Vittoria and Gracey Zhang; Argentinian-born but currently Vancouver-based Sebastian Curi; and finally, London-based Laylah Amarchih.
Pencils and crayons are at the ready, the referee blows the whistle, and the final stages of the 2019 Women’s World Cup has officially begun!
7 July, day 24 meant the final of the 2019 World Cup, undoubtedly the most exciting, appreciated women’s tournament to date. The amazing month of football, which is clearly going to impact the women’s game for decades to come could only be closed one way – with a face-off between the Netherlands and the USA. In one last show of solidarity, all of It’s Nice That and Minute Books’ squad teamed up to take on documenting the final in true style. Documented in different time zones across the globe, the final result is an eclectic visual story of a history-making World Cup final that celebrates the diversity of the female game and those who support it – thanks for leaving your hearts and souls out on the paper these past few weeks team!
Megan Rapinoe, a woman who has made headlines on and off the pitch this summer, gave the US the lead thanks to a cooly-taken pen awarded after a VAR review. Barcelona defender Stefanie van der Gragt’s high boot against Alex Morgan was to thank for that and, sadly, conceding seemed to shake the Netherlands beyond repair. A second fantastic goal by youngster Rose Lavelle did it for the US (and ensured audiences took notice of the up-and-coming star). It would be hard to talk about this final without mentioning the Dutch keeper Sari van Veenendaal though, who produced four incredible saves, staking her claim as the best goalkeeper in the world. Ironically, she is currently without a club – managers everywhere, sign her up!
Congratulations to the USA, a deserved winner after a wonderful summer of women’s football. The win means the American national side continue their reign as the queen’s of the game, adding one more trophy to their 1991, 1999 and 2015 titles.
Day 22 was a sad, sad day for us in the commentator’s box as England’s Lionesses’ dreams of finally reaching a World Cup final were dashed by an American side. Despite the somewhat disappointing result, It’s Nice That and Minute books team showed prowess and impressive spirit as Haley Tipmman, Gracey Zhang, Rebeka Lukošus, Laurie Avon and Laylah Amarchih all banded together to document the dramatic semifinal. USA’s Christen Press made it 1-0 thanks to a header but England’s Ellen White equalised with a characteristically slick finish. In the 31st minute, however, striker Alex Morgan took the US ahead again, assisted by a through ball from Lindsey Horan. It wasn’t the finish that had everything talking though, but Morgan’s tea-sipping celebration, criticised by some for being a dig at England. The unstoppable goalscorer later defended the move by saying she was alluding to the phrase “That’s the tea” and not anything sarcastic or political.
The second half sealed the deal for the US and broke the hearts of England fans everywhere as Ellen White banged the ball in the bottom left-hand corner of the goal only to have the goal ruled out by VAR for offside. A second chance to equalise came in the 84th minute after an agonising VAR review which eventually led to a penalty for England. Skipper Steph Houghton stepped up to the plate but her strike was no match for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who easily collected the ball. Full time and the US were through to their third consecutive World Cup final. In the UK, the game attracted a record-breaking peak TV audience of 11.7 million making it the most-watched television programme in the UK so far this year.
Wednesday night meant the second semifinal: the Netherlands v Sweden. The European champions were favourites going into this but the Swedish side certainly made them fight for it. Forming a formidable attacking side who continued to press throughout the game, never missing a detail were Sebastian Curi. Luis Mazon, Hannah Buckman, Jiye Kim, Sean O’Brien and Amber Vittoria.
The game took place in front of a crow of 48,452 inside the Stade de Lyon who, as the clock ticked, readied themselves for a penalty shoot out. Sari van Veenendaal, the Netherlands’ goalkeeper, all but kept the Dutch in the game with three vital saves and star of the tournament Vivianne Miedema narrowly missed putting the Orange Lionesses ahead as her header hit the crossbar. It was by no means a semifinal as thrilling as England v USA but that’s not to take away from the Netherland’s huge achievement – reaching the final in only their second World Cup. The final scoreline was 1-0 after Jackie Groenen’s right foot found the back of the net in the 99th minute.
At this point, we’re well into the competition and the final is in sight for many teams, including It’s Nice That and Minute Books. While the group stages and the round of 16 were a chance to make sure set pieces were working and that the line-up gelled, the quarterfinals are the time to prove exactly why you deserve to be playing at Parc Olympique Lyonnais on 7 July. An unusual partnership having not had much experience playing together, Haley Tippmann and Sebastian Curi provoked a Mexican wave in the stadium when they pulled off some of slickest passes we’ve seen in the tournament so far. Norway v England was their opponent and what a game it was! A 3-0 result saw the England sail through to their second consecutive World Cup semifinal. Honourable mention goes to Lucy Bronze who scored an absolute screamer from the edge of the box to seal the deal. It was a performance that got fans everywhere excited for what Phil Neville’s side could go on to do next.
Friday night on 28 June saw Gracey Zhang, Luis Mazon and Rebeka Lukošus teaming up to take on France v USA, a game they handled with style and finesse. Viewers around the world sat to attention as the hosts attempted to knock out the current title holders. The USA’s Megan Rapinoe scored a goal either side of the half-time whistle, but Wendy Renard once again proved why being the tallest player in the tournament comes in handy with a textbook header in the 81st minute, bringing it to 2-1. The goal seemed to spur the French side on, and for a while it looked like they might claw it back. But in the end Les Bleues exited the competition in front of a disappointed home crowd (there goes my sweepstake money). The result means England will take on the USA tonight for a place in the final! Make sure you tune in…
Day 21 was packed full of action as Italy took on the Netherlands and Germany faced Sweden. Showing us exactly how a set piece should be done were the UK-based Hannah Buckman and Sean O’Brien who formed a cross-continental partnership with Seoul-based Jiye Kim to document Italy v the Netherlands. The Italian side has impressed so far throughout the competition but the Netherlands proved too experienced for the newcomers, as Vivianne Miedema netted her 61st international goal – will she ever be stopped?! – and Stefanie van der Gragt made it 2-0, setting them up for a semifinal against either Germany or Sweden.
Later that day, Sweden wowed the world by beating Germany 2-1 – a shock elimination for the two-time champions. A solid trio, Amber Vittoria, Laylah Amarchih and Laurie Avon kept play open by constantly switching the ball as they captured all the goings-on from this exciting match. Germany initially went ahead after an amazing goal by Lina Magull but Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson swiftly answered with a right-footed shot into the bottom lefthand corner. Play continued at a blinding pace until just after the second half began as Stina Blackstenius, a player expected to go on to great things, scored from close range to make it 2-1. Looks like it’ll be a thrilling game between the Netherlands and Sweden when they play tomorrow, 3 July.
We’ll be back a week today, 9 July, to bring you everything that happened during the semifinals and the final when one team will be handed the title of winners of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. We know we’re meant to stay neutral but COME ON ENGLAND!!!
The Last 16
The round of 16 – AKA the moment in which shit gets real as a loss at this stage means a ticket home – kicked off on 22 June. Having had a bit of a rest, It’s Nice That and Minute Books were hungry for a win in order to make it through to their first ever World Cup quarterfinals. Luckily, attacking duo Haley Tippmann and Gracey Zhang stepped up to the plate, each bagging themselves a goal when Germany took on Nigeria. It was always going to be an uphill battle for the African side and their time in France came to an end after a 3-0 loss. Norway v Australia was the real nail-biter later that day, however, after a clever little through ball from Gracey saw Rebeka Lukošus denied by the crossbar. It was a fraught battle that meant Norway sailed through to the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win in a penalty shootout. Despite missing her penalty, a special shoutout goes to Aussie skipper Sam Kerr for a blinder of a tournament up to this point.
Despite having the odds stacked against them, Hannah Buckman and Jiye Kim showed stamina and resilience in England’s dramatic 3-0 win over Cameroon. While on paper it was a ticket to the quarterfinals worth celebrating for England, many were left confused after an enraged Cameroon side protested several VAR decisions, and even refused to continue play at one point. Having done more than enough and leaving the pitch to raucous applause, Hannah and Jiye were subbed off for Amber Vittoria and Sebastian Curi who, despite their differing styles, handled France v Brazil with ease. The hosts came out on top in the end, winning 2-1, but it was yet another game dominate by VAR decisions. Word of advice to all players going forward: Don’t start celebrating until you’re absolutely sure your goal has been allowed! Post-match, Brazil’s Marta, six-time player of the year who will likely not play in 2023’s World Cup, gave an emotional and touching comment to all future stars of the women’s game. “There’s not going to be a Formiga forever. There’s not going to be a Marta forever. There’s not going to be a Christian. Women’s football depends on you to survive,” she said. “Think about it, value it more.” Thanks for inspiring kids everywhere Marta.
Monday 24 June meant day 17 of the 2019 World Cup and two more knockout games. Spain v USA was first, a match Luis Mazon documented with what can only be described as unbelievable tekkers. The man never stays still! It was a testing contest for the pre-tournament favourites who were given a scare by the Spaniards. The US team did what it does best, however, and pulled through thanks to two penalties by the pink-haired Megan Rapinoe. Luis did well on several occasions to open up play, switching the ball to Laylah Amarchih who completely dominated the right side. A particularly memorable moment saw Laylah running 50 yards to recover and put in a strong challenge during Sweden v Canada. After a somewhat dull first half in Paris, Sweden came out on top with a 1-0 win meaning that, for the first time since 1995, at least five European nations will play in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals.
The matches to decide the final teams through to the quarterfinals took place yesterday, 25 June. Italy v China was first up, a game which seasoned pro Sean O’Brien took in his stride, side-stepping all of the competition. The new (somewhat annoying) rule that asks officials to delay the offside flag meant Italy’s first goal celebration was short-lived, but the Italian side who’ve been impressing game-after-game in this competition so far eventually came out on top. Their 2-0 win over China solidified coach Milena Bertolini’s statement that her players are attempting to help their country “discover and appreciate the women’s game”. After a slight lull in play, Brighton-based illustrator Laurie Avon got the crowd back on their feet as he documented the Netherlands facing off against Japan. The European champions secured their place in the final eight as Lieke Martens proved why there’s been so much excitement around her with a 90th-minute winner, making the scores on the doors 2-1.
We’ll be back on 2 July to fill you on everything that happens during the quarterfinals. It’s going to be a good’un so stay tuned!
The Group Stages
Days 1 and 2
Haley Tippmann kicked off the tournament with a brilliant first touch, documenting days one and two of the World Cup. The opening game saw hosts France go 4-0 up against Korea Republic to a sold-out crowd in Paris, scoring the quickest goal ever in the first game of a Women’s World Cup. Germany and China were next to face off and teenager Guilia Gwinn scored on her first competitive appearance for Germany, as they got off to a winning start, beating China 1-0. When Spain and South Africa played at Stade Océane, South Africa went down to ten players, allowing Spain to clinch a 3-1 victory thanks to two penalties that hit the back of the net by Jennifer Hermoso.
Days 2 and 3
Hailing from Latvia, Rebeka Lukošus received an excellent through ball from Haley to pick up day two’s illustrations, starting with a 3-0 win for Norway against Nigeria. It was an easy start for the Norwegians, who coasted through, scoring three before the half-time whistle in Reims. Elsewhere, a returning Italian side fought back from a goal down to beat Australia 2-1 in stoppage time, a shock to all those watching. Day three of the World Cup began with a momentous game for Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz, who made history by becoming the first Caribbean country to qualify for a World Cup. They fought hard but the experienced Brazilian side cruised to a 3-0 win, which saw 34-year-old striker Christiane become the oldest person to score a World Cup hat-trick.
Days 3 and 4
No stranger to a reportage illustration or two, Sean O’Brien showed his experience on the field, leading the team through day three and on to day four. His first real test came in the form of an emotional match between geographic neighbours England and Scotland. It was the Lionesses who came out on top in the end, though, winning with a narrow 2-1 victory which showed glimpses of what could be to come. 10 June meant the start of day four and Argentina took on 2011 champions Japan. Despite having made the final for the past three World Cups, Japan got off to a goalless start, meaning Argentina won their first ever point at a World Cup thanks to the 0-0 score sheet. Later that day, Canada beat Cameroon 1-0 with a textbook header by Kadeisha Buchanan, voted best young player at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
A slick back-heel from Sean to Amber Vittoria opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities, and she went on to dominate day five of the competition. European champions The Netherlands took on New Zealand and won 1-0 with an injury-time goal, although it really should have been a lot more for the Orange Lionesses. When Chile faced Sweden, the girls in yellow scored two late goals – after rain entirely stopped play – meaning the Olympic Games runners-up came out on top. And, finally, it was the USA v Thailand in what can only be described as a battering (sorry Thailand). The Americans were ruthless in their 13-0 win over the World Cup newbies, reminding everyone exactly why they’ve been top of the women’s game for so long, recording the biggest ever victory in the Fifa’s Women’s World Cup.
Day six saw Luis Mazon injecting some energy back into the game, with blistering runs down the wing applying plenty of pressure on the opposition. His first challenge was Nigeria v Korea Republic in which Asisat Oshoala helped the African side to their first win at the 2019 World Cup. Unfortunately, it also all but ended Korea Republic’s ambitions of making it to the last 16. When Germany took on Spain, many were expecting the Fifa-ranked number two team to come out way on top, but it was a narrow win over Spain at 1-0. Over in Nice, hosts France faced off against Norway, but French fans were put through agony as Wendy Renard scored a calamitous own goal. All’s well that ends well, however, as Le Sommer’s penalty and Gauvin’s goal just after half time eventually made it 2-1.
Days 7 and 8
Nutmegging day seven to take us on to day eight was Laylah Amarchih, who captured all the goings on from Australia v Brazil, South Africa v China and Japan v Scotland. The first was a game that kept everyone on the edge of their seats, as Australia fought back from 2-0 down to beat Brazil. The 3-2 loss was the South Americans’ first group-stage defeat in 24 years! Taking place that same day was South Africa v China, a match which saw China finish with a 1-0 win, all thanks to an outstanding half volley from Li Ying. Day eight kicked off with Japan v Scotland, another test for the Scottish team’s character, but one that meant their chances of making it to the last 16 looked uncertain after a final score of Japan 2, Scotland 1.
Days 8 and 9
Fellow Londoner Hannah Buckman scored an absolute blinder at this crucial stage (also earning Laylah an assist). She began with Jamaica v Italy, a game to remember, especially for Cristiana Girelli, who bagged herself a hat-trick. The final scoreline was an impressive 5-0 to Italy, but hats off Sydney Schneider, the Jamaican goalkeeper, without whom it would have been much more. Friday evening meant it was time for England to take on Argentina, another game in which the goalkeeper Vanina Correa was key (her performance earned her a player of the match award). It was 1-0 England in the end, with Jodie Taylor scoring her first in 14 months. Finally, Hannah faced off against the Netherlands v Cameroon. The girls in orange came out on top with a 3-1 win and, despite a few dodgy tackles from Cameroon, Vivianne Miedema, aged just 22, became their all-time top scorer.
Days 9 and 10
Argentinian-born, Vancouver-based illustrator Sebastian Curi was next to step into the spotlight with what can only be described as an outstanding performance. Canada 2, New Zealand 0 was his first game, a comfortable victory for his country of residence who secured their place in the last 16. Everyone was holding their breath as the USA took on Chile the following day, 16 June. Luckily for the South Americans, they escaped with a mere 3-0 loss. Yet more goals were netted though as Sweden won 5-1 over Thailand that same day. It was a massive improvement for the Thai side, however, and they bagged their first World Cup goal, an emotional moment for the boisterous 9,000-strong crowd who turned out in support.
Always a safe pair of hands, Laurie Avon proved why he’s consistently made this squad. That being said, day 11 was no mean feat. First up was a frustrating goalless draw for China and Spain which nevertheless ensured both sides progressed to the next stage. A more exciting watch (if you’re not South African) was Germany’s 4-0 win over South Africa which proved just what happens if you show any weaknesses against the two-time champions. Laurie’s final game of the day was Nigeria v France, a fraught battle in which France finally emerged victorious, winning 1-0 thanks to a twice-taken penalty by Wendie Renard (can her World Cup get any more eventful?!).
Days 11 and 12
Popping to the other side of the world, Seoul-based illustrator Jiye Kim showed her strength against a strong opponent. Unfortunately, her home country was knocked out by Norway after a 2-1 win in Reims. Day 12, 18 June, provided a clean slate, however, and Australia’s Sam Kerr wowed onlookers as she scored every single goal of Australia’s 4-1 win against the Reggae Girlz. Jiye settled on the somewhat quiet yet altogether historic game as Brazil beat Italy 1-0. A penalty meant Marta, six-time player of the year, scored a record 17th World Cup finals goal, making her the all-time top scorer in World Cup finals, ever! She celebrated, as you do, by kissing her boot.
Days 13 and 14
Coming on later on in the game, but by all means a star in this line-up was Gracey Zhang who clipped the crossbar before banging in a belter. Japan v England was her first opponent, which ended 2-0 to England. It’ll mean a favourable draw for the Lionesses in the next stage, who have Ellen White to thank. Next up was Scotland v Argentina in what can only be described as a heartbreaking game. Scotland is out after losing, despite being 3-0 up at one point. It was a twice-taken penalty in stoppage time that sealed the deal – we’re sure they’ve got a thing or two to say about VAR. Yesterday, 20 June, was the final day of the group stages and Gracey captured Cameroon v New Zealand with finesse. Ajara Nchout scored two wonder goals, including an injury-time winner, as Cameroon dramatically beat the Football Ferns 2-1. Watch out England…
A last-minute injury elsewhere on the team meant Laurie and Sean had to really step up to plate and they did just that. The ball never stopped moving as a slick one-two clinched a win for It’s Nice That and Minute Books. Laurie documented The Netherlands v Canada, a 2-1 win for the former in which substitute Lineth Beerensteyn scored a second-half winner. He continued his run with Thailand v Chile, in which, despite winning 2-0, Chile missed out on a Women’s World Cup last-16 spot. It seems USA’s goal count just keeps going down as they only beat Sweden by 2, a game Sean took on superbly.