FIFA’s eighth Women’s World Cup get under way this week with the USA looking to successfully defend the title they won for the third time in Canada four years ago.
France will host the tournament with the home nation hoping to repeat the feat achieved by the French men’s team who were crowned world champions 12 months ago. Charlie Mullan takes a look at some of the countries tipped to do well in the tournament and progress to the final in Lyon on July 7.
Team USA are looking to be crowned world champions for a fourth time and if they are to become the first nation to win back-to-back World Cups, then they are going to have to win it in Europe for the first time. Their previous successes came in China in 1991, United States in 1999 and Canada four years ago. They are the number one ranked team in the world and they are looking to show the world that their disappointing performance at the Rio Olympics in 2016 was nothing more than a blip.
That was the first time USA had failed to reach the semi-finals of a major tournament. Their form since the start of 2018 has been impressive losing just once while outscoring their opponents 83-16. Alex Morgan will be keen to add to her century of goals scored for her country while Julie Ertz, who is married to Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end Zach, will use the world stage to showcase her skills.
Home advantage in a major tournament can be a significant benefit for any country, and France will certainly be looking to capitalise on having the tournament played on home soil. They enter the tournament ranked fourth in the world and will be determined to go beyond the semi-finals for the first time ever despite having reached the last eight in all major tournaments since 2009.
The seven Lyon players named in Corinne Diacre’s side are used to winning with the club claiming an eleventh successive domestic league title as well as three successive Champions League trophies. With the final due to be played on their home ground, motivation should not be a problem for the likes of creative midfielder Amandine Henry who was runner-up in UEFA’s Player of the Year award. Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi will be hard to beat given the fact she has won the world’s best goalkeeper award three years in a row.
Germany can never be ruled out when it comes to any World Cup and that applies to Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side who are tipped to have a good run at this tournament. Their success in winning the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 served notice to the other teams that they are a force to be reckoned with. Ranked number two in the world, they possess one of the best attacks in world football.
In qualification, they scored 38 goals in 12 matches with Ballon d’Or finalist Alexandra Popp leading the line with expertise. Popp has 45 goals to her name for her country and, on 95 caps, a good tournament should see her win cap number 100. Dzsenifer Marozsan and Svenja Huth will be looking to enhance their reputations on the biggest stage of all.
Philip Neville has refused to play down England’s chances of winning this World Cup, and instead has built up a belief in the squad that they can conquer the world. The Three Lions have reached the semi-finals in the last two World Cups and anything less than a place in the last four will be seen as a disappointment.
Their preparations for the tournament were boosted by their success in the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year when they defeated Brazil and Japan and drew with the hosts USA. For the first time, the Lionesses arrive at the biggest tournament with a squad full of professional players. Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan featured in the Champions League final as Bronze’s Lyon got the better of Duggan’s Barcelona in the decider.
Japan could be one of the surprise teams in the World Cup. Winners in 2011 and runners-up in 2015, they will be looking at reaching a third consecutive final in France this summer which no nation has ever done before. Yuka Momiki is tipped for a bright career and the world stage should bring the best out of her game.
Saki Kumagai’s experience of playing for Lyon should help not only her game but a youthful squad that gave a good account of themselves in the SheBelieves Cup where they beat Brazil 3-1 and drew 2-2 with the USA. Kumagai, who has won 103 caps, led Japan to success in last year’s Asian Cup which secured their place in this summer’s World Cup.
The draw has not been kind to Scotland being placed in a group with Argentina, Japan and England. This is their first ever World Cup and the players will embrace the biggest challenge their players will have ever faced. Kim Little, who plays for Arsenal in the Women’s Super League, is their key player. After overcoming an ACL injury and a fractured fibula at the end of 2018, the 28-year-old is keen to make the most of her appearance in the World Cup.
Little has experience of playing in America and was named MVP in 2014 when she was playing for Seattle Reign. Big things are also expected of Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert and Manchester City’s Caroline Weir. Scotland are not expected to reach the semi-final stage, but with many players using the tournament to further their careers with future transfers, they could cause an upset or two.
Odds to win Women’s World Cup: 16/5 France, 7/2 USA, 11/2 Germany, 13/2 England, 14/1 Japan, 100/1 Scotland