Women’s football has been on the rise over recent years and this year’s World Cup in Canada is set to reach new heights.  The competition gets underway on Saturday with 24 teams looking to book their place in the final on July 5th in Vancouver.  I look at the sides who I predict will make it to the latter stages of the event.

Canada

The hosts come into the tournament in good form, having reached the final of the recent Cyprus Cup. Their most recent major competition was the Olympics in London 2012, when they were able to claim the bronze medal. However, they have a poor record in World Cups. In their previous five appearances at the finals they have only been able to progress past the group stages on one occasion. Captain Christine Sinclair has scored over 150 times for her country and is one of the potential stars of the tournament. They have not only a favourable draw in the group stage, but on the potential route to the final, which could see them avoid Germany and the United States. If they can get some momentum behind them early on and Sinclair fires, the hosts could potentially go a long way with the backing of the home crowd.

Prediction – Runners Up

 

Netherlands

The Netherlands are my surprise pick for the competition.  Even with this being their first finals, the draw has offered them a great opportunity to progress, which this promising young side may be able to take. Big names Lieke Mrtens and Manon Melis are supported by the young Bayern Munich forward Vivianne Miedema who could well be a star of the future. If they can clinch second spot in their group behind Canada they will play a runner-up from one of the weaker groups in the last 16. Their run though will likely come to an end in the quarter-finals when they would expect to meet the favourites, United States.

Prediction – Quarter Finals

 

Germany

Alongside the United States, Germany are the big favourites for the tournament which they previously won in 2003 and 2007.  Four years ago they were stunned, by eventual winners Japan, in the quarter finals. They have been handed a very favourable draw with only Norway a potential threat in their group, with Thailand and Ivory Coast both seen as major outsiders for the competition. One negative for the German side is the draw after the group stages, which means they could be set for a semi-final with the United States if both win their groups.

Prediction – Semi-Final

 

Japan

The holders come into the tournament under the radar, but are still the fourth ranked team in the world. Four years ago they went on a remarkable run beating Germany, Sweden and then the United States on penalties to become the first Asian nation to win either the men’s or women’s World Cup. They followed this up by reaching the final in the London Olympics in 2012, as well as winning their first Asian Cup in 2014. Coach Norio Sasaki is still in charge of the team having led them to glory four years ago and he has publicly stated he sees no reason why they cannot defend their title. Japan on paper, at least, have a very straight forward group, with none of their rivals having played in the finals before.

Prediction – Semi-Final

 

United States

The mighty United States come into the tournament as favourites with the majority of bookmakers to lift the trophy in Vancouver on July the 5th. The two time champions were shocked in the final four years ago, however, Jill Ellis and her team have every reason to be confident this time around. They won every game in the CONCACAF Championships without conceding a goal to book their place in Canada. Their squad includes 39 year old Christie Rampone, who is set to travel to her fifth finals. If the two favourites United States and Germany were to win their groups they could potentially meet in the semi-finals.

Prediction – Winners

 

Sweden

Sweden come into the tournament feeling they are more than capable of causing an upset or two and have the track record of going far in World Cups. Despite the tough draw Sweden are ranked fifth in the world and will expect to at least get through the group stages. Four years ago an impressive campaign saw them beat United States in the groups, before they fell to Japan in the semi-finals. Striker Lotta Scheelin was top scorer in the 2013 European Championships and has scored over 75 times for her country.  They have been placed in a tough group with both United States and Australia. A second round match with Brazil could be on the cards, but I fancy Sweden to shock the South American side and reach at least the quarter-finals.

Prediction – Quarter-Finals

 

France

The French side come into the tournament as seeds and are seen as one of those from Europe who could make an impression in Canada.  Despite only previously qualifying twice for the finals they were impressive four years ago, reaching the semi-finals before losing to the United States, 3-1. The French arrive in the tournament with a squad full of experience, having five players with more than 100 caps for their nation. They should not be underestimated by any side and depending on the draw in the knockout stages they could go very far. In the last year they have only lost two games, both to the United States.

Prediction – Quarter-Finals

 

England

England come into the tournament as an outsider with a genuine chance of going far. In March England’s ladies overcame the World Cup hosts, Canada, in the final of the Cyprus Cup, 1-0, thanks to a Lianne Sanderson strike. England will expect to get through the group stages and a top two finish will see them avoid the competitions heavy hitters. With the recent retirement of household name Kelly Smith, England will look to other stars who have shone in England’s Women’s Super League, such as captain Steph Houghton and striker Eniola Aluko. They could face Norway in the first knockout round, which would be a tight affair before going to face Canada in the quarter-finals.

Prediction – Quarter Finals

Groups

A: Canada, Netherlands, China, New Zealand

B: Germany, Norway, Ivory Coast, Thailand

C: Japan, Switzerland, Cameroon, Ecuador

D: United States, Sweden, Australia, Nigeria

E: Brazil, Spain, South Korea, Costa Rica

F: France, England, Colombia Mexico

All games available on the BBC June 6th-July 5th

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