The US may be the favorites, but who could prevent them from winning back to back?
France 2019 — the stage is set for FIFA Women’s World Cup; 24 teams gear up to lead their nations to world cup glory. The US come into the tournament as the team to beat. USA National Women’s Soccer team have become synonymous with world-class football, winning the World Cup a record three times since its inception in 1991. The US are deadly opponents, they play with rigor, determination, and with the intention of dominating the game, which has set them apart as the best team in the world over time.
This World Cup is set to deliver high-level performances not only from the US but from the other teams on the roster. The major competition for the US comes from England, France, Germany and Japan who have all recorded standout performances in the leading up to the 2019 FIFA World Cup, putting them among the favorites to win the title and dethrone the US women from their long-held position as the best team in the world.
Home field advantage—France
Host nation France has a legitimate chance to claim the title and replicate what the French men’s team did in Russia which was nothing short of magnificent. The stage is set for French women’s team to make history and follow the men’s team to keep the title in France come June. France’s squad is made up of talented and experienced players. Les Bleues will be banking on the expertise of Lyon forward and captain Eugénie Le Sommer who has scored 250 goals for her club and 74 for the French national team, to lead the team to their first World Cup title. France have a moral advantage in that as the host nation, they will have the support of large crowds at their games which will give the team the momentum and confidence that will have an impact of their performance on the field. Home ground advantage is powerful, Russia made the most of it last year; when most wouldn’t have predicted such an outstanding performance from the Russians, they put one of the most memorable performances of the tournament, even eliminating the acclaimed Spaniards.
Coming from a major victory—England
England is the birthplace of football, yet both the women’s and men’s teams have not been successful in translating that legacy into the modern game by claiming the title of world champions. This could be the year that the title of world champions finds its way to England. They do not possess the same decorated world cup history as the US but the Lionesses made a case for their title chances when they won the SheBelieves tournament in March 2019, beating Japan 3-0 in the cup final. Having been grouped together with Argentina, Japan and Scotland, England has a tough challenge ahead, however, they remain favorites to progress to the knockout stage along with Japan. Still riding on the momentum from the win, the Lionesses come into this World Cup with newfound confidence and verve that if combined with the right tactical strategy from coach Phil Neville, they could have an edge in the group stages and in the knockout rounds.
The tactical advantage — Germany
Germany are eight-time European champions and two-time world cup winners. In the qualifying campaign for France 2019, Germany scored 35 goals and conceded only 3 times. Die Nationalelf are ranked second behind the US coming into the tournament and are the second most obvious contender for the world cup despite not having won the title since 2007. The Germans should progress with ease from the group stages where they face much lower ranked teams - China, Spain and newcomers South Africa.
Germany is a holistic team— they are both defensively tight and masters at creating and converting chances into goals. In 2015 they finished as the top goal-scoring team with 20 goals followed by the US who managed 14 goals. The US and Germany are always the top two teams on the FIFA rankings, alternating for the number 1 spot. The qualifiers have shown that the German machine is on form and delivering in the accuracy and organisation that they have come to be known for.
Two-time finalists — Japan
After appearing in two consecutive World Cup finals in 2011 and 2015, winning in 2011, Japan cannot be left out of this list. They are very familiar with the world cup stage and always leave it all on the field even as they demonstrated in the 2011 and 2015 finals. In 2018 they secured a second AFC Women's Asian Cup against Australia. Japan has a solid record in the World Cup which they will be looking to extend by becoming the first team to be in three consecutive finals.
Japan has a young and talented squad led by Lyon defender Saki Kumagai whose performance this past season earned her a nomination for BBC’s Player of the Year alongside teammate Ada Hegerberg. In March, Japan beat out Brazil and USA to make to the SheBelieves Cup final, despite missing key players like Sakaguchi Mizuho and Miyake Shiori who had to sit out due to injuries. Japan will face England in the group stages as well as Scotland and Argentina, a tough challenge but may not be a roadblock for Nadeshiko.
The US football team embodies what it means to dominate a sport through and through, they have the trophies to prove it. England, France, Japan and Germany have the World Cup experience and track records that make them all worthy title contenders. Will the US add a fourth world cup title and extend their reign as the most decorated football team in world cup history? — All will be decided in France.