About the tournament
This will be the first time that France have hosted the Women’s World Cup, and 51 matches will be contested over the course of a month, concluding with the final on 7th July. These will take place in nine stadiums all over the country, including Paris St. Germain’s Parc des Princes, and Parc Olympique Lyonnais, which is where the final will be held.
The 24 teams that qualified for the tournament have been split into six groups of four. Each team will play the others in its group once, with the top two teams from each group, as well as the four best third-placed teams, advancing to the round of 16. From there it’s a straight knockout format, with extra time, penalties, and all the drama they entail.
The story of qualifying
England’s Lionesses breezed through their qualifying campaign without losing a single game, and only a goalless draw against Wales prevented them from qualifying with a perfect record. They followed that up by winning the SheBelieves Cup, the first time England have ever won it. Not only that, they did it without losing a game and on the home turf of the current World Cup holders and the No.1 ranked team in the world. England’s confidence should be at an all-time high going into this year’s World Cup, and they are definitely a team to watch.
There were few upsets in qualifying, with all of the top 10 ranked teams making it to the tournament. Scotland qualified for the first time in the country’s history after a tight run-in with Switzerland in the latter stages of the campaign. Heading into their final game of qualifying against Albania in September, Scotland were behind their rivals on goal difference so knew they had to better Switzerland’s result. Scotland won 2-1, while Switzerland could only muster a draw against Poland, sparking Scottish celebrations at home and at the Loro Borici Stadium.
Chile are also making their debut at the tournament after finishing as runners-up in the Copa América Femenina in 2018, scoring 13 goals in seven matches along the way. They find themselves in Group F alongside the United States, who are the favourites to win the trophy. There would need to be some upsets for La Roja to progress to the knockout stages. The same goes for the other tournament debutants, Jamaica and South Africa, both of which are expected to finish bottom of two tough groups.
The draw for the tournament group stage took place on 8th December 2018, and saw each of the teams placed into a group based on their world ranking at the time. Each group has one team from each confederation, apart from UEFA, which has two teams in three of the groups. Here’s a full list of teams competing in the tournament, as well as their odds of winning it outright.
France - 7/2: The hosts are second-favourites behind the United States and will want to put in a good performance on home soil. More than that, it is an opportunity to showcase French sport on the world stage, and that pressure will either spur them on to great performances, or it will weigh heavy. They should make a run into the knockout stages but will not have the class to outmatch the favourites.
Norway - 33/1: The biggest news for Norway is that Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg will not be competing at the tournament, as part of an ongoing protest against the way the women’s national team is treated. The news was perhaps expected for those within the Norwegian camp, and the former World Cup winners will now be out to prove that they’re more than one player. They will struggle, though, and a round of 16 finish will be about as far as they will go.
Nigeria - 500/1: The minnows of group A have qualified for every World Cup so far but have only ever made it out of the group stage on one occasion. The team has seen its fair share of international success, having won the African Women Cup of Nations 11 times, but they struggle to compete against the tougher opposition they have faced at previous World Cups. A group stage exit beckons.
South Korea - 100/1: South Korea’s women’s football team has always struggled on the world stage, and they only narrowly made it to this year’s tournament, scraping through after a fifth-place playoff match against the Philippines at the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. They have a tough group but the absence of Norway’s star player might help them steal a second-place finish. They’ve shipped 56 goals in World Cup matches to date, so it's more likely that they will prop up their group this year too.
China PR - 66/1: China are perennial contenders at the World Cup and have only ever missed out on qualification once, in 2011. They were runners-up in 1999, finished in fourth place in 1995, and have reached the quarter-finals on four other occasions. They might not be of quite the same calibre as they were through the late-80s and 90s, when they won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup seven times in a row, but they should still take a good run into the knockout stages of this year’s World Cup.
Germany - 11/2: Germany won all but one of their eight games in qualification for this year’s tournament, and they scored a ridiculous 38 goals along the way, although 19 of those were scored in the two games they played against the Faroe Islands. All eyes will be on playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsán, widely considered to be one of the best players in the world at the moment, as Germany look to regain the form that led to them become double World Cup champions.
South Africa - 500/1: It’s the first time at the World Cup for South Africa, so naturally they are big outsiders to even progress beyond the group stages. They put in a spirited performance in last year’s African Women Cup of Nations to qualify for the World Cup, losing to Nigeria on penalties in a heartbreaking final. They will be out to steal a third-place spot, but even that will be a tough ask.
Spain - 25/1: The only team from UEFA to qualify with a perfect eight wins, Spain will look to carry that momentum into the finals. Their defence, which conceded just two goals throughout qualifying, will be thoroughly tested against a free-scoring Germany side, but if they can get through that group game with any points, they will stand a good chance of progressing. There is a lot to play for, as the winners of group B will take on a third-place team in the next round, while the runners-up will face the winner of group F, which will likely be the United States.
Australia - 14/1: One of the teams fancied with a shot of winning it all, Australia have landed in a fairly tough group, with Brazil and Italy. They didn’t have the smoothest journey through qualification, scraping through to the final of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup but losing to Japan in the final. Nevertheless, they qualified for the finals and subsequently won the inaugural Cup of Nations without losing a game. Considering the difficulties they had in qualifying and the tricky group they find themselves in, their position as fifth-favourites seems generous. Don’t be surprised to see them squeeze through the group stages in third place.
Brazil - 25/1: The Brazilian team dominated the Copa América Femenina in 2018, winning all eight games and scoring 31 goals to defend their title for the second consecutive year. They have had a torrid time since then, however, losing nine games in a row, including a 1-0 loss to Scotland. A lot of the criticism has been levelled at the coach, Oswaldo Alvarez, whose tactics have been called into question, and the team’s performance at the tournament will likely play a big part in his future. This year’s World Cup is also possibly the last for Marta, Brazil’s greatest ever player, so she in particular will be looking to put her hands on the trophy for the first time. A group stage exit would not be a shock given their current form.
Italy - 50/1: It has been 20 years since Italy’s women’s team last qualified for the World Cup, and they did so this time in emphatic style, winning seven games in a row before losing their final game of qualification against Belgium. The work had already been done by then, however, and Italy finished top of the group despite the loss. Valentina Giacinti and Daniela Sabatini of AC Milan will look to continue the form that led them to top the Serie A’s goal-scoring tables last season, and Italy should have a good tournament if they do.
Jamaica - 1000/1: Jamaica’s qualification to this year’s World Cup makes them the first ever Caribbean team to feature in the tournament finals. The ‘Reggae Girlz’ secured a third-place finish in the CONCACAF Women's Championship to bag their place at the World Cup, and the team’s superstar striker Khadija Shaw scored 19 goals during their campaign, more than any other player in qualifying. The team’s recent history makes for an incredible story, and although they are longshots to proceed any further than the groups, it is a remarkable achievement to have even qualified in the first place.
Argentina - 400/1: Like neighbours Chile, Argentina’s women’s team has had a turbulent time recently, having been removed from the FIFA World Rankings due to “inactivity”, the result of years of underfunding. Despite the difficulties that the team has faced, Argentina qualified for this year’s World Cup - their first in 12 years - after a third-place finish in the 2018 Copa América Femenina and victory over Panama in the subsequent CONCACAF–CONMEBOL playoff. Progression beyond the World Cup group stage is a lot to ask, but a third-place finish in the group is a possibility.
England - 6/1: The Lionesses head into this year’s tournament with their best chance in years of lifting the trophy for the first time. They had a fantastic qualifying campaign and have continued their good form, although they have stuttered recently with losses against Canada and New Zealand. Despite that, England go into this year’s World Cup as one of the favourite teams and are expected to progress into the latter stages of the tournament.
Japan - 14/1: Winners in 2011 and runners-up four years ago, Japan are aiming to become the first team ever to reach three consecutive World Cup finals, and they are England’s biggest threat in group D. Victory in the AFC Women's Asian Cup secured Japan’s place in the tournament, but a tepid performance in the SheBelieves Cup, including a 3-0 loss to England, slowed their momentum. They have gone all in on their preparation, though, lining up games against France, Germany, and Spain in their last three friendlies before the tournament commences, so they go into their opening match against Argentina well prepared. They are unlikely to top the group but they should progress.
Scotland - 150/1: It was a heroic effort from Scotland to qualify for the World Cup, and it was clear how much it meant to the players after the victory against Albania that clinched their spot in the tournament. A run of four friendly losses after qualification might have dampened their spirits, but they have since improved, going five games unbeaten, including a big win over Brazil. Scotland will fancy their chances of progressing from their group, and if they can get points against Japan or Argentina, which is a distinct possibility, they stand a good chance of reaching the knockout stages at the first time of asking.
Cameroon - 750/1: Cameroon find themselves in a tough group and enter the tournament after a third place finish at the Africa Women Cup of Nations. They’ve not had much of a warmup since that tournament finished in November, having only played two games since: one against Spain, which they lost 4-0, and another against Levante, which they won by the same scoreline. Highly unlikely to grab a top-two spot in the group, the best Cameroon can hope for is a result against New Zealand and a third-place finish.
Canada - 20/1: Canada always show up at major tournaments but they consistently struggle against the world’s top teams. They have been at every World Cup since 1995, in which time their best result has been a fourth-place finish. In qualifying for this year’s tournament they looked dominant, scoring 24 goals in four games, until they succumbed to the United States in the final of the CONCACAF Women's Championship. Despite the experience of Christine Sinclair, who has 282 caps for Canada and has scored 181 goals, expect the same trend to continue: a strong showing through the group stages before an exit in the knockouts.
Netherlands - 14/1: The reigning European champions will have high hopes coming into this year’s World Cup, having lifted the trophy in UEFA’s most prestigious international tournament in only their third showing. Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema, who was crowned PFA Player of the Year for 2018-19, scored four goals in that tournament and will look to replicate that form this time round. She also received her 75th cap in a friendly against Australia at the start of this month, and that sort of experience will be vital for the Netherlands during this World Cup.
New Zealand - 125/1: New Zealand have qualified for the last three World Cups but have not had a good showing in any of them, finishing bottom of their group on every occasion. In 2015, they also landed in a group with Canada and the Netherlands, and even managed to pick up a point against the latter, but it wasn’t enough. New Zealand will be looking to improve on that result, and their fortunes in this year’s tournament may swing on the result against Cameroon. If they get a win there and a point against either of the other two teams, they could cause an upset.
Chile - 500/1: In 2014, underfunding and a lack of interest from the sport’s governing bodies led to a two-year period of inactivity for Chile and the nation’s subsequent removal from the FIFA World Rankings. The team’s qualification for this World Cup is all the more impressive, then, although they have a tough test ahead of them if they want to progress any deeper into the tournament. They have some quality in their team, though, including goalkeeper Christiane Endler, who has earned plenty of plaudits during her time at Paris St. Germain.
Sweden - 25/1: Sweden’s position in the World Rankings has slipped a few places since the 2015 World Cup, but they’re still a dangerous team this year. They were strong through qualifying, losing only one game, and they find themselves in a group where progression to the next round is theirs to lose. Highlights since qualifying include wins over England and Norway, and they head into the World Cup on the back of another two wins. They’ll get out of the group and should be pushing for a semi-final spot.
Thailand - 1500/1: They’re undoubtedly the underdogs in group F, but teams shouldn’t overlook a Thailand squad playing in their second successive World Cup. They put in a spirited performance in the 2015 tournament but failed to qualify from a group that contained strong German and Norwegian sides. They will be expected to finish bottom again, but there’s a good chance that they can beat Chile; after that, a best third-place finish is not too fanciful.
United States - 7/2: The three-time champions will be fielding one of the best teams in recent memory for this World Cup, so there’s a reason they’re the favourites to win it. Superstar striker Alex Morgan is likely to grab headlines; she has an incredible record of 101 goals in 163 international games and should be in the running for the tournament’s Golden Boot if she can continue that form. The United States and everyone supporting them will be looking for nothing less than a win; an exit before the latter knockout stages is unthinkable.