Women’s World Cup preview: Who will topple the Yanks?


by Marissa Thomas and Steve Clare, Nice, France

The Women’s World Cup kicks off on Friday when the host nation France faces South Korea.

Over 900,000 tickets have been sold in advance, indicating that this year’s tournament will be the most successful ever.

The United States are the defending champions having defeated Japan in Vancouver four years ago. Although the pre-tournament favourites tag still hangs around their necks, the range of challengers seems larger and deeper. Still they should breeze through their qualification group, consisting of Thailand, Chile and Sweden.

The French women are looking for a unique double.

First they have the opportunity to win as hosts and should they become World Champions, they would emulate the men; making France the first nation to hold both titles simultaneously. As if to hammer home the point, the men’s team were at the Champs Elysee this week to receive their Legions d’Honneur from President Macron.

Four years ago, an entertaining Japanese side reached the final. Their star has fallen away a little since then and they appear to more vulnerable when facing sides of equal ability, of which there seem to be more than four years ago.

England play Scotland and Japan in Nice

Leading the visiting European charge may well be Phil Neville’s Lionesses.

They’ve lost to Canada and New Zealand in warm ups but the latter was with a starting XI exploring the depth of the squad. That squad should be good enough to get through its group but there is a question mark if they can delve too deeply into it later in the tournament, and still have enough to compete against the world’s best. If they avoid injuries however, expect a semi final place at the very minimum.

Germany are getting stronger at this level and topped the once impressive Icelanders in qualifying. Led by captain Alexandra Popp and one of the world’s best players Dzsenifer Marozsán, if the Germans click and rotate their resources well, they could eliminate anyone.

Perhaps even more strongly fancied, despite needing a playoff to qualify, are the Dutch.

Sarina Wiegman’s side are the current European Champions having won it on home soil. However, they finished behind Norway in qualification before disposing of the Danes 4-1 on aggregate.

Norway, still without Balon D’or winner Ada Hegerberg, find themselves in a dangerous group, including France, South Korea and the unpredictable Nigerians. They are one of the countries that will have to start well or face an early elimination.

Canada, Australia, Brazil and Sweden are probably next in the queue of potential outsiders.

The iconic Christine Sinclair scored the only goal of the game in a win against England in a warm up and repeated the same against Scotland for good measure. Their best chance of glory, however, may have come four years ago when they were hosts.

Brazil’s players may be past their prime and experts say their best chance to win the World Cup with this squad may have also passed. Group C opponents Australia have one of best players in the world in Sam Kerr suiting up, and no side with her presence can be discounted.

With Italy and debutantes Jamaica making up the group, this could be the place one of the big guns falls early.

Sweden have qualified for every Women’s World Cup so far. Ranked 9th in the world, wins over Chile and Thailand, both competing in their own first tournament, should see them qualify comfortably before they play the US in Le Havre on June 20, perhaps allowing them to rest key players.

Japan make up the top ten, mostly due to being runners up four years ago. Since they are less tested in their qualification, it is harder to assess their true level.

The winner will come from those ten sides, although the gap between them and the remaining 14 may not be as large as in previous years, with Spain likely to be heading the chasing pack.

Which of the other games might provide a shock?

The opening game always provides the chance of the host making a nervy start in front of an expectant home crowd but all eyes in Britain will be on the England v Scotland tie, but everything will have to go right for the Scots and almost all wrong for the English for the Dark Blues to prevail. The Scots may have a better chance against Japan in their second game.

South Korea could shock Norway, but Italy beating Brazil seems a more likely upset.

One thing is certain, there will be no shortage of excitement. And if Nice is any example, no shortage of places to watch.

Here’s to the best Women’s World Cup ever.


About Author

Comments are closed.