WOMEN WORLD CUP PREVIEWS
France – The hosts are aiming to complete the male / female World Cup double and favourites to lift the trophy. They’ve never reached a major final before but won’t get a better chance to do so than this summer.
South Korea – The South Koreans open the tournament with a match against France, so could hardly ask for a tougher start. It’ll be between themselves and Norway to see who finishes second in the group.
Norway – A former powerhouse of the pioneering 1990s in women’s football, when they won the World Cup in 1995, Norway now find themselves considerably down the pecking order of the world’s best. However, on their day can still be a force to be reckoned with and should get out of Group A.
Nigeria – The Nigerians are the most dominanct force in Africa and in Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala have a genuine threat up front, but they’ll more than likely struggle against better organised and more talented teams in this group.
Germany – Could be a relatively decent bet at the tournament. Recent wins against Sweden, Italy and France have bolstered their confidence and an easy-looking draw should seem them navigate the group without too much trouble.
China– The Chinese are often thought to be vulnerable defensively, and could come a cropper in their opener against Germany. But with 2018 Asian footballer of the year, Wang Shuang on board, they’ll fancy a big win against South Africa to give themselves a chance of securing one of best-finishing third place qualifying spots.
Spain– The Spanish have been slow to engage at the top level in the women’s game but are gradually getting there, helped by Barcelona’s investment in their ladies’ team. Wins over Netherlands and Brazil make them one to watch.
South Africa – Banyana Banyana look like tournament also-rans. This is their first World Cup appearance and have endured a losing run of nine matches on the bounce.
Australia – The Matildas (great nickname!) will fancy their chances of causing an upset or two in France. The best they’ve managed previously is the quarter-finals, on the last three occasions but they’ve a host of players playing at the top level of the women’s game. Don’t discount them at 16/1.
Italy – Italy are another emerging side from Europe who finally look like they’ve got their sh*t together in the women’s game. This is their first appearance at a World Cup in 20 years and their impressive qualifying campaign makes 40/1 look a big price, especially if they can capitalise on the instability surrounding Brazil.
Brazil – In Marta, Brazil have probably the best woman ever to play the game, but at 33 she’s not longer able to influence games like she used to. That’s just one of the problems facing Seleção Femenina who go in to the tournament on a nine game losing streak. An unpopular coach, low morale, ageing squad. It’s all set up for either a calamatous couple of weeks or a glorious, if improbable victory.
Jamaica – Just appearing at the finals is an achievement for the Reggae Girlz after they were disbanded for six years following a nightmare tournament in Beijing 2008. But they’ve regrouped and made it to France, although only just, thanks to some serious fundraising. Expectations are low. Very low.
England – Phil Neville will hope that the friendly defeat to New Zealand last week will be a wake-up call to his side who go in to the tournament as one of the favourites. They finished third at the last World Cup and their recent success at the SheBelieves Cup suggests that with a bit of good luck and a following wind, they’ve got enough to go a long way in the tournament once again.
Scotland – Scotland’s progress under Shelley Kerr has been spectacular and although they’ve landed in the toughest of groups you wouldn’t write them off from qualifying. Their final match against Argentina could be decisive but with a handful of players plying their trade in the English game they’ll be all out to get one over their old rivals in the opener and could run England close.
Argentina – Despite it being the nation’s game there’s no professional women’s league in Argentina. A lack of success at international level hasn’t helped; this is Argentina’s first World Cup appearance since 2003. Don’t expect them to get much out of the ‘Group of Death.
Japan – A blend of youth and experience will be the key for a Japanese side that that could threaten to go all the way in France. The 2018 Asian Cup winners have shown they’ve got what it takes to win a major tournament and will be aiming to add to their 2011 World Cup crown. England v Japan will be the telling match in the group as to who tops the group but Japan should be there or thereabouts at the business end of the tournament.
Canada – Canada’s current ranking of fifth in the world is arguably a bit misleading as it’s propped up by their runners-up finish in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. That’s not say they aren’t a good side, they’re very good and their form in 2019 has been exemplary, although mostly build on being solid at the back. If they can take that in to the tournament it could be a very good one for Kenneth Heiner-Møller’s side.
Cameroon– The third lowest ranked side at the tournament but not without a chance to qualify. They pulled off a shock in 2015 by getting ou of a competetive group and could be an outside bet to do so again.
New Zealand – New Zealand’s pre-tournament matches have thrown up a mix-bag of results; a 5-0 defeat to USA was followed by a 1-0 over England’s Lionesses. The latter may have raised expectations of an extended stay in France but their qualification from Group E will be reliant on some stout defending against Canada and Netherlands, then victory over Cameroon.
Netherlands – The Dutch are current European Champions but struggled a little in qualifying, having to secure their berth via a play-off win against Switzerland. On their day they’re a match for anyone and have bags of goals in them. Qualification from Group E should be straightforward enough, beyond that, who knows?
United States – The USA remain the ones to beat at international level and once again they go in to the World Cup as tournament favourites. From a betting perspective, the 7/2 feels a bit short considering the huge strides other nations have made to close the gap to the Americans.
Thailand – It’s seldom you’ll see a 100/1 shot in a football match but that’s the size of the task for Thailand against the United States in their tournament opener. It’d be cruel to say they’re only in France to make up the numbers but having recently lost to fellow outsiders Nigeria and Italy the signs don’t look good for them to do much this time around.
Chile– Much like Thailand, Chile will be looking to avoid embarrassment in their matches against USA and Sweden. They finished runners-up in last year’s Copa America which suggest they might have more about them than thailand when the two face-up to determine who’ll finish third in the group.
Sweden– The lack of a serious goal-threat could be Sweden’s undoing at the tournament. They reached the final of the Olympics in 2015 but that was thanks to their well-drilled defensive unit. They’re capable of springing a surprise but will need more about them to go deep in to the tournament.
*Key Facts & Stats*
Nearly a million tickets have been sold for the tournament
Matches are available in the UK Live across BBC TV and Red Button, Radio 5 Live & Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website & App
VAR will be used in the tournament for the first time
£24m prize money will be awarded to participating teams in 2019, double the amount of 2015
The semi-finals and final will be played at Parc Olympique Lyonnais in the Lyon suburb of Décines, with a 58,000 capacity
United States are bidding to win the title for a record fourth time
Chile, Jamaica, Scotland, and South Africa will make their Women’s World Cup debuts
Brazil’s six-time World Player of the Year Marta will be looking to add to her all-time record of 15 goals at Women’s World Cups*