The 2019 Women’s World Cup which is underway in France, it is the eighth time the event has been held. It will feature 24 teams who have initially been split into six groups, with the draw based on FIFA world rankings. The teams in each group will play each other once, with the top two sides in each group advancing automatically to the knock-out stages of the competition. The four best third-placed teams will join them.
Nine cities have been chosen to host matches – Paris, Lyon, Rennes, Rheims, Grenoble, Valenciennes, Nice, Montpellier, and Le Havre.
The tournament will commence with hosts France playing South Korea in the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on June 7th and will culminate a month later with the final, scheduled for July 7th, which will take place in the Olympic stadium in Lyon.
Three-time winners, the USA, are the defending champions from the last time the event was played, in Canada in 2015.
Current favorites to lift the Cup are hosts France and the USA, both of whom are 7/2 with the bookmakers, followed by Germany at 6/1, and England, priced at 7/1.
Group A comprises France, South Korea, Norway, and Nigeria. The French side is the overwhelming favorites to top the group, with the bulk of their side drawn from Olympic Lyonnaise Fèminin, the most successful of all European club teams. They have won the Women’s Champions League for the past three years, and have reached the final again this year where they will face Barcelona. Stars like defender Wendie Renard, midfielders Amandine Henry, and Amel Majri will form the core of the team, while forward Eugenèe Le Sommer is prolific for both club and country – she has scored 73 times in her 156 appearances for Les Bleus.
Norway is the most likely of the teams to make it out of the Group after France, although they have weakened themselves by omitting Ade Hegerberg from their squad. The forward, rated as one of the best players in the world, is in dispute with the Norwegian football association in a sexism row.
Group B contains former two-time winners Germany, Spain, China, and South Africa. The Germans are the overwhelming favorites to top the group, with their chief star captain Dzsenifer Marorsán, a midfielder who also plays for Lyon. Alexandra Popp, who plays her club football for Wolfsburg, will assume the primary responsibility for scoring goals for her side – she has scored 45 times in 95 international appearances.
This will be the second World Cup for Spain, and they can be expected to join Germany in the next round. The bulk of their squad will come from the country’s two most successful clubs, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, and players who are expected to shine include the Barcelona duo of Victoria Losada and Alexia Putellas. Goal scoring duties are likely to be shared by Atletico’s Jennifer Hermoso, and Maripas Vilas who plays for Valencia.
China will also rate their chances highly of qualifying=from Group B. Runners-up in 1999, the country has been quarter-finalists at the last two tournaments, and will be looking to emulate that level of achievement again. They have named a very experienced squad for the competition, and names to look out for include captain Li Dongna, who is a defender with Tianjin Huisen, midfielders Pang Fengyue and Zhang Rui, while forward Ma Xiaoxu, currently playing for Dalian Quanjian is a threat in front of goal. She has netted 61 times in 152 international appearances.
The teams in Group C are Australia, Italy, Brazil, and Jamaica.
Three-time quarter-finalists Australia are the sixth best team in the world according to the FIFA rankings and may be considered one of the outsiders to lift the trophy. Known as the Matildas (because of the folk song Waltzing Matilda) they are captained by forwarding Sam Kerr, who plays currently for American side Chicago Red Stars. Lisa De Vanna of Sydney FC is the team’s top goal scorer, having netted 47 times in 147 international appearances. Other players who can be expected to have a good tournament are the experienced Clare Polkinghorne in defense and goalkeeper Lydia Williams.
Italy appears in their first World Cup since 1999. Ranked 15 in the world, the women’s team is not of the same caliber as the men’s side, but they may get through as one of the best third-placed teams. They are likely to be heavily reliant on the goals of Cristiana Girelli, who plays for Juventus, and Milan’s Daniela Sabatino.
Brazil’s hopes as ever will rest with their star player Marta, widely regarded as the best women’s Player of all time. Now 33, she is probably playing in her last World Cup, having made 133 appearances for her country, and scoring 110 times. The current FIFA World Player of the Year, she is the all-time top scorer in World Cup finals and will be looking to add to her current tally of 15, before, perhaps, bowing out on the international stage.
The four teams in Group D are England, Scotland, Argentina and Japan.
England is the third best team in the world according to the most recent FIFA world rankings and comes into the tournament after winning the invitational event she believes Cup in March which also featured the USA, Brazil, and Japan. Three-time World Cup quarter-finalists, they achieved their best finish in Canada in 2015, and now managed by ex-English and Manchester United full-back Phil Neville, are looking to go further this time around.
After a high profile launch headed by celebrities like David Beckham, Prince William, and Emma Watson, Neville has named a talented squad for the tournament. They include a host of players who could well feature amongst the stars of the competition, including Lucy Bronze, who also plays her club football for Lyon. The right-back is regarded as one of the best in the world in her position, with a useful habit of getting forward to score crucial goals. Alongside her in defense will be captain Steph Houghton who currently plays for Manchester City, and has over 100 caps for her country.
Jill Scott will provide much of the side’s dynamism from midfield, with her ability to break-up play and also her box to box running. Meanwhile, Toni Duggan and Fran Kirby will look to score the goals for the Three Lionesses. Duggan has bloomed since her move in 2017 to Spanish side Barcelona, while Kirby was instrumental in helping Chelsea clinch a league and Cup double last year.
Japan will be considered favorites to also progress from the group. World Cup Winners in 2011, and runners-up four years ago, they have most recently won the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and the Asian Games in the same year. Much of the strength lies in their defense – Aye Sameshima, Rumi Utsugi, and captain Saki Kumegai all have over a hundred caps each to their names. Mizuho Sakaguchi and Emi Nakajima can be expected to anchor their midfield, while Japan will be looking to the likes of Yuika Sugasawa, Mana Iwabuchi, and Kumi Yokoyama to provide the goals.
The four teams in Group E are Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, and the Netherlands favorites to win the Group are Canada; currently, the 5th ranked team in the world according to FIFA. Quarter-finalists on home soil four years ago, their best finish to date in a World Cup came in 2003 when they were placed fourth. They have also picked up the Bronze medal at the last two Olympic Games. Names to watch out for include veteran forward Christine Sinclair, who, at 35, is still scoring regularly for the Portland Thorns, and who has scored 180 goals in 280 appearances for her country. Behind her in midfield are two more highly experienced campaigners in the form of Diana Matheson and Desiree Scott, both of whom ply their trade for Utah Royals FC, and Sophie Schmidt.
Joining them out of the group will also certainly be the Netherlands. Surprise winners of the 2017 European Championships, this will be only their second World Cup appearance, the undoubted star of their side is Arsenal forward Vivianne Miidema, the Player of the Year in the Women’ =s Super League in England, after helping her club side to the League title. She will be joined in France by fellow Arsenal players Danïelle van de Donk and the captain and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, while another player who might catch the eye is Barcelona defender Stefanie van der Gragt.
The United States, Sweden, Chile, and Thailand make up the four teams in Group F.
The overwhelming favorites are the United States, four-time winners, and defending champions from Canada. While not the dominant force in Women’s Soccer that they once were, this is more a factor of other teams catching up with them, rather than their standards are slipping. And they can still call on the services of some of the best players in the world.
Some stand-out names include Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe. Sauerbraun is a veteran defender who plays for Utah Royals and is both a World Cup winner and Olympic gold medallist. Lloyd, who plays in National Women’s Soccer League for Sky Blue FC is a midfielder who has twice been voted the FIFA Player of the Year and captained the national side to victory in the last World Cup. Morgan, meanwhile, is a prolific striker for club and country and was a significant factor behind her country winning the Cup last time out.
And last, but by no means least, Rapinoe, who co-captains the side, is another potent striker who is likely to offer another significant goal threat for the Americans.
Sweden is the most likely to join them in qualifying from the group. Ranked currently 9th in the world, probably their best Player is captain and defender Nilla Fischer, who plays for Linköping. Another name to note is veteran midfielder Caroline Seger is perhaps playing her last international tournament.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup is likely to be the biggest and best version of the tournament so far. Even for non-followers of the women’s game, it is expected to be an attractive event to watch, and will only help to increase the rising popularity of the sport worldwide further.
Since its inception in 1985, Player of the Year award recipients, in multiple branches of sport, has gone to win countless professional and college championships. Previous recipients who have gone on to become household names include Abby Wambach, six-time US Soccer Athlete of the Year, and twice an Olympic gold medallist; American football star Peyton Manning; NBA’s Karl-Anthony Towns, and Derek Jeter, who plays Major League Baseball.
Each year a selection committee made up of sports journalists, and coaches, trainers and administrators choosing national winners from 12 different sports – boys’ and girls’ soccer; American football; girls’ volleyball; boys’ and girls’ basketball; baseball, softball, and boys’ and girls’ cross country and track and field.
The 12 winners are then whittled down to one male and one female athlete, who then earn the accolade Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year.
Awards are based not just of athletic excellence, but also high academic standards, and the demonstration of exceptional character on and off the pitch.
While soccer is a growing sport in the United States, it continues to lag behind Europe and South America when it comes to the development of the game, and few American male soccer stars have yet to emerge.
With the women, though, it has been different, and the USA has established itself as the most international team of all, with four World Cups (including in France this year), four Olympic gold medals, and eight regional CONCACAF Championships to their name.