What happened last time?
The last Women’s World Cup was four years ago in Germany, when 16 teams participated. Japan won their worst ever trophy by beating the USA on penalties in the final. Sweden came third, whilst France were fourth. England got through the group stage, but of course, lost on penalties to the French in the quarter-finals.
Where is it and when will it take place?
This year 24 countries will take part for the first time ever and the tournament will be hosted in Canada. The first match will be on June 6th, whilst the final is being held on July 5th Vancouver. Goal-line technology will also be used at the tournament for the first time.
Who are the favourites?
2011 hosts Germany are looking to match the achievements of their male counterparts last summer by claiming their third title. They are currently ranked number one in the world and Paddy Power have them second favourites to win it 3/1 behind the United States, who are at 11/4. Jillian Ellis’ team have also won the tournament on two previous occasions, and are ranked second in the world. After losing the final four years ago, they will return fighting. That leads me on nicely to current holders Japan, who are 17/2 to lift a second successive trophy. They went under the radar in 2011, and could do so again, and if you believe their manager Norio Sasaki, they are stronger than they were four years ago. Finally, no World Cup can be complete without Brazil. They have never won the competition, but are looking stronger than ever before, winning the Copa America last year. Paddy Power has them as third favourites at 13/2.
*All odds correct as of June 3rd
Players to Watch
Marta – Brazil
Some call Marta the greatest ever female to play the beautiful game, and looking at her achievements, it’s hard to disagree. Currently the captain of Brazil, she has 79 goals in 91 caps for the national team, and has played at three previous World Cups. In that time, she has 14 World Cup goals, making the tournament’s joint highest scorer ever along with Birgit Prinz. The 29 year old was named FIFA World Player of the Year five consecutive times between 2006 and 2010, and has finished in the top three on five other occasions.
Celia Sasic – Germany
With FIFA World Player of the Year Nadine Kessler ruled out of the tournament, Germany need a new hero, and Celia Sasic is ready to step up to the plate. She made her international debut aged just 16, and now has 57 goals in 104 caps. Now 26, she goes to the tournament off the back of a superb season with Frankfurt, as they won the UEFA Women’s Champions League. She also topped the Bundesliga scoring charts for the second season in a row, but will become a free agent after the World Cup, so there will be plenty of potential suitors watching in Canada.
Abby Wambach – USA
When I first looked at Abby Wambach’s stats I had to check I was reading correctly. An ever-present in the USA team for over ten years, the 34 year old has played 240 times for the national side, scoring 180 goals. She won the Ballon D’Or in 2012, and last month Time magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world – some achievement for a woman in a country where ‘soccer’ isn’t the most popular sport. Wambach has not been playing professionally for a club this year in order to prepare for the World Cup, so the rest of the planet better prepare itself as the striker looks to lift her first ever crown.
The Manager – Mark Sampson
The Welshman was given the job in 2013, after Hope Powell stepped down following 15 years in charge. Previously, Sampson had led Bristol Academy to two FA Women’s Cup finals, the furthest the club had ever got in the competition. He has made a positive impact to the Lionesses in two years, giving new players opportunity to shine, whilst at the same time using wisely the experience of veteran players. In 19 games in charge, the 32 year old has won 14, lost three and drawn twice, giving him a fairly impressive win percentage of 73.68%.
Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal), Carly Telford (Notts County)
Defenders: Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Alex Greenwood (Notts County), Claire Rafferty (Chelsea), Laura Bassett (Notts County), Casey Stoney (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Fara Williams (Liverpool), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Katie Chapman (Chelsea), Jo Potter (Birmingham City), Jade Moore (Birmingham City), Karen Carney (Birmingham City)
Forwards: Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns), Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal), Eni Aluko (Chelsea), Fran Kirby (Reading), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Ellen White (Notts County)
Star Player – Jodie Taylor
One of the players that Mark Sampson has brought into the squad, Jodie Taylor has just eight senior caps since making her debut last August. The striker has four goals for the Lionesses, including a hat-trick in her fifth game against Australia at the Cyprus Cup. Because she is relatively unknown on the international stage, she could surprise a few teams that won’t want to underestimate her tricky runs and lethal finishing. Taylor currently leads the line for Portland Thorns in America, the third country she has played in since leaving her native Merseyside. It’s unlikely to give her an advantage, but the 28 year old has played in Canada before.
England are in Group F along with France, Colombia and Mexico, which on paper looks relatively easy, but there could be a few surprises. France knocked us out four years ago and beat both Brazil and Germany last year, whilst Colombia have 21 year old Yoreli Rincon in their squad, who is being tipped as the next Marta. Mexico are the underdogs, and drew with England at the last World Cup, but there is undoubted talent in their squad.
9th June vs France
13th June vs Mexico
17th June vs Colombia
Can we win?
We should progress from Group F with relative ease, but the bigger question is if we finish top or not. If they do win the group, Mark Sampson’s side will play the runners-up from Group E, which is likely to be Spain (40/1 to win the whole thing). However if we are runners-up in Group F, we will play fellow runners-up from Group B, which many think will be Norway (25/1 to win the whole thing). If we progress further, the quarter-finals is where things start to get tricky, where we could potentially face Germany. Overall, Paddy Power have England as joint eighth favourites (with Norway) to win the tournament at 25/1. So in other words, we probably can’t win, but unlike the men, we’ll have a right good go!
*All odds correct as of June 3rd
Why should I watch it?
The women’s game has come on leaps and bounds since the last World Cup, especially in England. The quality of football is better than ever and there are more professionals who do this as their job than ever before. Many people are surprised at the level the game is played, but these are the best females in the world, and many are much the better than some of the men we watch week in week out. It’s a chance to cheer on an England side whose chances are decent and can only get better in the next few years. The BBC are showing every single one of the 52 tournament matches, so you just have to turn on your TV and press a few buttons and virtually a month’s entertainment is sorted for free!
I think England should find Group F a breeze, apart from the challenge of France in the first game. My prediction is that we will finish second in the group, which could actually give us an easier route to the final. After progressing past Norway in the Round of 16 and then hosts Canada in the quarter-finals, Brazil could be the team to unfortunately knock the Lionesses out in the semi-finals.
Looking at the tournament as whole, I think the other semi-final will see Germany face the USA, which could go all the way to penalties but see the USA progress. That sets up a final of Brazil vs USA, a battle which could be both Marta’s and Abby Wambach’s last World Cup game. For the latter it almost certainly will be, but I think it will end in glory for Wambach as the USA lift the trophy for the first time since 1999.
Whatever happens, it looks set to be the closest World Cup yet, and we could well see a few surprises, such as Japan four years ago who shocked everyone to lift the trophy. England could be one of those surprises are looking in good shape, but aren’t quite able to match the world’s best just yet.
4th – England
3rd – Germany
2nd – Brazil
1st – USA