This weekend as the most anticipated Women’s World Cup in history takes place, it is hard to pick a winner.
Thanks to the women’s game finally getting the financial support it needs that has not only resulted in increasing investments and sponsorship, but it is affecting the quality that we are seeing on the pitch in a positive way.
Here at RedArmyBet we take a look at some of the teams that will feature in this year’s tournament.
The Old Faithful
The United States remain favourites to win this year’s World Cup, despite being in transition.
The US is a nation that has always been associated with “soccer” and women’s football, and has won a total of three titles, including the first ever World Cup trophy.
However, their team that featured in Rio 2016 missed out on a spot in the semi-finals thanks to a shootout defeat against Sweden, and although the team managed to go through 2018 undefeated, 2019 has not been as easy.
After a 3-1 loss against France and two draws against the likes of Japan and England at the SheBelieves Cup, could their current position as World Cup Champions be threatened?
Despite a rocky few years, there is no question that this team has excellent experience in tournaments and there will be confidence within the team, and with coach Jill Ellis, who at one point called up 61 different players in two and a half years, finally settled on a 4-3-3 formation they have a good chance in this competition
Players that will feature include some reliable mainstay players such as central defensive pair Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn and forwards Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.
A host of talented players and a squad with depth and experience means that the US should be targeting a quarter-final meeting with France (if both sides win their groups as expected), and with the chance to hold onto their World Cup title it is all to play for.
It is safe to say that this current Germany team is in limbo. Whilst they are sitting pretty as current Olympic champions, the side were eliminated in the quarter-finals of Euro 2017 along with finishing last in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup which sealed the fate of coach Steffi Jones.
With new coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, the team not only have a former Germany player who amassed 125 caps for her nation, but was also in charge of the Swiss women’s team that she managed to take to the 2015 World Cup and 2017 European Championship for the first time in their history.
Whilst she is a great choice of coach, the timing has not been great as she was still under contract in Switzerland until November 2018, meaning that her preparation for this World Cup has been four friendlies and a few training gamps.
However, Voss-Tecklenburg has a great squad. Although old reliables such as Annike Krahn, Melanie Behringer, Anja Mittag and Simone Laudehr are no longer with the national team, she has new leaders in the form of Wolfsburg striker Alexandra Popp and Lyon playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsan. With a combination of youth and experience, Germany have what it takes to win the games that matter.
Whilst this Japan team may not be as strong as the side that won the title back in 2011, this team has the potential to make an impact in this tournament.
Their 2011 victory will be remembered as an inspiring win for women’s football around the globe, and was a catalyst for victory. Japan have since reached World Cup finals in their under-17 and under-20 teams – they are the only country to be crowned as world champions at all three levels.
This also means that around half of the squad heading to France have previously played in World Cup finals at different stages of their careers.
The team that once featured young players eight years ago, such as defender Saki Kumagi and forward Mana Iwabuchi, now have a matured squad with the addition of some younger influences that still have international experience such as defender Moeka Minami and midfielder Hina Sugita.
Japan must focus on keeping clean sheets as their defence does have a tendency to break down when faced with physically stronger attackers, and the side have never successfully come from behind to win a game against opponents ranked in the FIFA top 10.
Whilst this may not be the same team that dominated years ago with their current squad, Japan should be reaching the round of 16 at least.
France are one of the biggest threats this year after a shock victory against rivals the US, this could be their year.
Not only are the team on home soil but they have the chance to achieve something no other country has done before which is holding both the men’s and women’s World Cup trophies – if that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is!
The French team have been underachieving for many years, but thanks to clubs such as Lyon pouring money into their women’s team, Corinne Diacre’s squad features eight players from Lyon’s treble winning team.
France have failed to go beyond the last eight in any of the recent major tournaments they have featured in, which has been put down to a lack of efficiency up front.
However, fast-forward to mid-May and the team had scored at least one in 19 of their past 21 games and Diacre is spoilt for choice upfront. There are a variety of different parings and wingers available, including 22-year-old Lyon right winger Delphine Cascarinho who has evolved from a national team substitute to a competent contender for a spot in Diacre’s starting XI. Known for her ruthlessness in front of goal, Cascarinho could surprise many at this tournament.
There is no doubting that the pressure will be on for France, with anything less than a podium finish classed as a disappointment by their nation. Players react to pressure and it will be down to the team if they take being hosts and favourites in their stride, or if they crumble on home soil.
Although it didn’t come home last year, who’s to say we aren’t in with a chance this time around with the women’s team?
England are transformed since their impressive third-place finish in Canada that started a revolution regarding women’s football as the UK finally started to not only take note of women’s football, but people also started to take it seriously as a sport.
England have an excellent shot at this World Cup. The team is more mature and developed and ooze confidence after winning their first SheBelieves Cup earlier this year. The Lionesses could upset the order against the likes of Japan, the US and Germany who have reigned supreme over this tournament.
Coach Phil Neville has an excellent squad and has done well to bring out the best in Fran Kirby, with his 4-2-3-1 formation which has allowed her to work well in a classic No. 10 position.
Although injured midfielder Jordan Nobbs will be missed, defensively England look good with Lucy Bronze, arguably the world’s best right-back, ready to offer her skills and her experience in a winning team having now won two Women’s Champions League titles with Lyon.
However, the Achilles heel of this team could be the same weakness that posed a threat to the men’s team last year: expectation.
Anything less than a semi-final would be a disappointment for Phil Neville and his team, and it is how the ladies handle the expectations of the nation that will prove just how strong this new and improved team really is.
Winning the 2017 European Championship was a great opportunity for the Netherlands, and the team possess some fantastic players who have the ability to take this team a long way.
This is only the second time that they have qualified for the World Cup, and after the 2017 win, expectations will be extremely high. However, the team have a great coach in Sarina Wiegman. She not only was the first woman to play more than 100 times for the Netherlands, but has been their coach since 2016 and has built a strong team.
Not only to they have 2017 Golden Ball winner Lieke Martens and Arsenal’s Women’s Super League top scorer Vivianne Miedema up front but also one of the fastest players in Lyon’s Shanice van de Sanden.
Wiegman’s forwards when performing are difficult to stop and there is no doubt that there will be goals up front, however it is in defence where they are weak with Stefanie van der Gragt often injured.
Although they are inexperienced in the competition, the team should be able to get through their group, facing New Zealand, Cameroon and Canada. Having reached the round of 16 four years ago, a place in the quarter-finals should be possible.
This is Scotland’s second consecutive qualification for a major tournament, and they have fought hard to get to this point.
They are a much stronger team than the side that faced England in a humiliating 6-0 defeat in the 2017 European Championship.
The squad has a great number of players who know how to win, with title winners Kim Little and Lisa Evans from Arsenal, along with Kirsty Smith and Lizzy Arnot who were featured in Manchester United’s first season in the FA Women’s Championship which they won.
Scotland pose a bigger threat than many will expect, however they must keep their players fit. The team don’t have the squad depth of some of the other big nations but have a great chance of getting out of their group in which they will face England, Argentina and Japan.
The Nigerian women’s team have struggled due to funding, but have proven themselves to be a strong unit, almost always delivering especially on their continent, winning nine of 11 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions.
However, the tournament in 2018 demonstrated that their reign at the top could be under threat as they faced tough tests from Cameroon and South Africa, but were triumphant and managed to win the tournament.
Luckily heading into this World Cup, the Nigerian Football Federation have got their act together, ensuring that the team have had a much better preparation period. With trainer Thomas Dennerby being appointed in 2018, who led Sweden to third-place in the 2011 World Cup, there was a clear indication that they were finally being taken serious.
This along with appearances in the Meizhou Four Nation Tournament, the Cyprus Cup, a training camp in Spain and friendlies against Canada and Austria means that the Super Falcons should have a good shot at making an impact at this World Cup.
Although they have a tough group in France, South Korea and Norway, anything can happen in a World Cup and Nigeria have some great players. Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala will provide some great pace and agility up front and creative players such as Francisca Ordega will be vital for the team, and if they head into the group with confidence and impressive performances, a sport in the last 16 would be a great achievement.
Despite being ranked number 53 in the world, the Reggae Girlz will make history as they are the first Caribbean team to appear in the World Cup finals. This comes off the back of an impressive third-place finish in the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship. During the entire qualifying period the team scored a total of 53 goals and conceded just 14.
Leading the line will be Khadija “Bunny” Shaw who will make up one third of Jamaica’s attacking trio with Roma’s Trudi Carter also certain to be involved as she is now back from injury.
One thing this team has is speed, and they need to use this to their advantage by playing on the break and opening up the oppsoition’s defence where possible. Not only do they have pace upfront, but during the qualifiers Jamaica’s defence looked strong. The likes of defenders such as captain Konya Plummer and Allyson Swaby will be expected to perform, with both being known for their power in the air.
Of course, Jamaica are one of the biggest underdogs at the World Cup, but this nation is no stranger to being underdogs in a sporting competition and will go into it not accepting defeat and the work ethic carried by this team that has brought them this far will be in evident again during this tournament.
*all odds are subject to change