Sports

Women’s World Cup preview: Meet the teams

There will probably be 552 gamers representing 24 nations at the World Cup in France. Some are household names. Many aren’t. Right here’s a primer before the event begins Friday.

GROUP A

France

Greatest World Cup Finish: Fourth place in 2011, when it lost to the United States in the semifinals.

The Runup: The host nation, France certified routinely. Les Bleues have proven impressive technical capacity and are unbeaten since February. Perhaps more necessary, France is 2-0-1 in its previous three conferences towards the United States, a potential opponent in the quarterfinals.

Participant You Should Know: France’s vice captain and No. 9, Eugénie Le Sommer, has made greater than 150 appearances and scored greater than 70 objectives for her country, and she or he simply gained her sixth Champions League title with Olympique Lyonnais Féminin.

What to Anticipate: Les Bleues, fourth in the current FIFA world ranking, are in prime type and, driving house crowds and a manageable group, ought to easily transfer on to the knockout rounds. The most important checks await there, as does the probability to hitch France’s males’s staff as world champions. No country has held each titles directly.

South Korea

Greatest World Cup Finish: Spherical of 16 in 2015.

The Runup: Although the Taegeuk Women, as the group is understood, did not concede a objective in the group part of the Asian qualifying event, two scoreless ties meant the group misplaced a tiebreaker with Australia and Japan in its group and wanted to win a playoff towards the Philippines for the fifth, and last, Asian berth in France.

Gamers You Should Know: Whereas Ji So-yun is South Korea’s career objectives leader with 54, the midfielder and captain Cho So-hyun is the workforce’s most-capped participant, which means she has performed in the most international matches. Certainly one of solely three South Koreans who plays abroad, she has spoken positively about what her time at England’s West Ham Ladies has meant for her improvement and her confidence.

What to Anticipate: After reaching the second spherical in Canada four years in the past, the place it was eliminated by France, South Korea returns to the World Cup with extra expertise and a bit of mettle. But poor outcomes towards regional rivals and European opponents recommend the program nonetheless has a option to go.

Norway

Greatest World Cup End: Champion in 1995.

The Runup: Norway went 7-1 and surrendered only 4 objectives in European qualifying, profitable its group and forcing the Netherlands, the European champion, right into a playoff. It was Norway’s best-ever end in qualifying.

Gamers You Ought to Know: Norway’s most gifted player, the Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, is absent; she has declined to play for the nationwide staff as part of her protest of the Norwegian soccer federation’s remedy of the ladies’s aspect. So look for Maren Mjelde, a midfielder for Chelsea however a defender for her nation, to anchor the squad. Mjelde scored certainly one of the sweetest free-kick objectives in Women’s World Cup historical past in 2015.

What to Anticipate: Norway’s dream World Cup is one which matches the feat of the 1995 squad, which beat England, Canada, the United States and Germany to say the trophy. A more sensible one is thrashing its 2015 journey, which ended with a loss to England in the spherical of 16.

Nigeria

Greatest World Cup Finish: Quarterfinals in 1999.

The Runup: Lengthy the dominant energy in Africa, Nigeria had a more durable time in the Africa Cup of Nations — which serves as the continent’s qualifying event — than in previous editions. The Tremendous Falcons lost their first match in the group part to South Africa, and wanted to win penalty shootouts in both the semifinals and the remaining. Nigeria is the only African group to qualify for all eight Women’s World Cups.

Participant You Ought to Know: Asisat Oshoala, a 24-year-old forward signed to Barcelona, is a three-time African player of the yr. She gained the award for the first time in 2015, only months after she led Nigeria to the remaining of the under-20 World Cup.

What to Anticipate: Nigeria’s success in Africa has not often translated to the World Cup, the place it has advanced out of the group stage solely as soon as in seven previous appearances. An 8-0 defeat to France in a 2018 friendly was not a very good omen, however the Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby has had greater than a yr to work out the kinks.

GROUP B

Germany

Greatest World Cup Finish: Champion in 2003 and 2007.

The Runup: Germany stumbled to its first-ever house defeat in qualifying when it misplaced to Iceland by 3-2 in October, but that was the solely bump: The Germans gained their seven other qualifiers by shutout and cruised to France with a plus-35 aim distinction in eight video games. They are unbeaten this yr, with wins over France and Sweden and a draw towards well-regarded Japan.

Gamers You Ought to Know: Germany’s captain, Dzsenifer Marozsan, led her group to the Olympic gold medal in 2016, but it’s the 21-year-old midfielder Lea Schüller who may be value watching: She scored the winner towards France in February and already has eight objectives in 12 video games for the senior nationwide group.

What to Anticipate: The Germans sit just behind the top-ranked United States in FIFA’s world rating and are due for an enormous World Cup. Is that this the yr they match the United States for the most titles?

China

Greatest World Cup Finish: Second place in 1999.

The Runup: China qualified simply for France by sweeping its group at the Asian Cup, nevertheless it lost to Japan, 3-1, in the semifinals of that event and then finished last in the Algarve Cup, a serious winter event, earlier this yr. A 2-1 defeat towards France in a friendly last week was a better omen.

Participant You Should Know: The 24-year-old midfielder Wang Shuang, who performs for Paris St.-Germain, is China’s most artistic, and most indispensable, player. She also has a knack for giant moments: It was her objective that gave China a 1-0 victory over the United States in Abby Wambach’s farewell recreation in 2015.

What to Anticipate: With China, one by no means knows. Host of the first World Cup and runner-up in 1999 — when the Chinese have been a goal-line clearance away from victory — China has not advanced out of the quarterfinals since.

Spain

Greatest World Cup End: Group stage in 2015, the nation’s first World Cup.

The Runup: Few teams have risen as shortly as Spain’s ladies, who have been the first European group to say a World Cup spot after going Eight-0 — with solely two objectives towards — in qualifying. Spain’s 2019 schedule has been filled with optimistic outcomes: one-goal losses to the United States and England, and victories over World Cup-bound Brazil, Cameroon and the Netherlands.

Players You Should Know: Veteran Vicky Losada is certainly one of 10 Barcelona players on Spain’s roster, but her club teammate Patri Guijarro, 21, is a logo of Spain’s rise, and its promise: She gained the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot when Spain made the last of the under-20 World Cup final summer time.

What to Anticipate: The workforce has been working with the motto #JugarLucharYGanar — Play, Battle, Win — and it’ll take that spirit to France. Spain’s optimism is predicated on its unblemished journey via qualifying and a few strong current results at the youth degree. A run to the knockout spherical must be the minimum expected.

South Africa

Greatest World Cup End: This is South Africa’s first World Cup.

The Runup: South Africa booked its World Cup debut after ending second to Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations, although it’s value noting it beat Nigeria in the group stage and only lost the ultimate on penalties. The bigger difficulty may be non-African competitors: South Africa hasn’t gained a recreation since November, and among its leads to 2019 are heavy defeats to North Korea, Finland, the United States and Norway.

Participant You Should Know: The captain and defender Janine van Wyk, she of the spiked and infrequently coloured hair, has extra caps than any South Africa player, man or lady.

What to Anticipate: The wonderfully nicknamed Banyana Banyana have began to make strides but for the most part are nonetheless discovering their approach. That probably won’t be sufficient to advance out of this group.

GROUP C

Australia

Greatest World Cup Finish: Quarterfinalist in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

The Runup: Australia lost to Japan in the ultimate of the Asian Cup, which served as the continent’s qualifying event. However its choice to fireside coach Alen Stajcic in January after two confidential group surveys discovered what was described as “a culture of fear” in the staff disrupted World Cup preparations, and even shocked a couple of of its greatest players. Ante Milicic, a former assistant with the males’s nationwide workforce, was introduced in to put things back together and lead the staff in France.

Player You Should Know: Any self-respecting ladies’s soccer fan ought to be accustomed to Sam Kerr, the 25-year-old striker who made her senior workforce debut at 15. Anyone who doesn’t know her identify certainly will by the end of this month. Now Australia’s captain, Kerr has been nearly unstoppable even after recuperating from foot surgery. Stajcic once referred to as her “without question the world’s most dangerous player” in the attacking third of the area. It might be onerous to seek out somebody to argue with him.

What to Anticipate: The Matildas went out in the quarterfinals in the previous three World Cups. Teaching turmoil or not, that simply won’t be ok this time, especially with Kerr in her prime.

Italy

Greatest World Cup Finish: Quarterfinalist in 1991.

The Runup: The Azzurre had struggled to return to the World Cup since being eliminated in the group stage in 1999, but their two-decade absence is over. The revival was helped, little question, by an elevated (although belated) investment in ladies’s soccer by a few of Italy’s prime clubs.

Players You Ought to Know: Striker Cristiana Girelli scored seven objectives in the UEFA qualifiers, and Sara Gama — the captain of Italy and Juventus — is the backbone of this group. However regulate her Juventus teammate Barbara Bonansea, who has turn into a midfield pressure.

What to Anticipate: Italy’s objective was to qualify for the World Cup after lacking the past 4. With that completed, something constructive can be a bonus. Opening towards Australia can be a very good check of its improvement, and its nerve.

Brazil

Greatest World Cup Finish: Runner-up in 2007.

The Runup: The Canarinhas qualified for their eighth World Cup and did so in type, scoring 31 objectives in seven games at the Copa América Femenina whereas allowing solely two.

Gamers You Ought to Know: No lady has scored extra World Cup objectives than Marta’s 15, but in her fifth — and probably ultimate — World Cup, she continues to be chasing her first main trophy with Brazil. So is Formiga, who’s enjoying in her seventh World Cup at 41.

What to Anticipate: Brazil, a participant in every World Cup and a finalist in 2007, nonetheless has been a perpetual underachiever on the recreation’s largest stage. For 20 years, its entire has one way or the other managed to be less than the sum of its considerable elements. Now, with a veteran workforce taking one final shot and expectations lowered amid the rise of other powers, might this lastly be the yr Brazil goes all the method?

Jamaica

Greatest World Cup End: That is Jamaica’s first World Cup.

The Runup: The Reggae Girlz are the first Caribbean staff to guide a ticket to the Women’s World Cup, an achievement that got here 5 years after they rose from the ashes of a reduce in funding. The turnaround was financed partially by the monetary and emotional help of benefactors like Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s daughter. And the group is constructed on young players and daughters of the Jamaican diaspora, like Jamaican-American Jody Brown, a Florida high school star who just turned 17.

Participant You Should Know: Khadija Shaw, who starred at the College of Tennessee and is called Bunny, just signed a cope with Nike and is a target of a handful of prime golf equipment. Her 19 objectives have been the most by any participant in this qualifying cycle. Anticipate her to get a number of more in France.

What to Anticipate: The Reggae Girlz have fairly the uphill climb in the group stage: Brazil, Italy and Australia all have World Cup experience and a better world ranking. However Shaw provides her workforce a puncher’s probability in any recreation, and even a single victory can be thought-about a successful event.

GROUP D

England

Greatest World Cup End: Third place in 2015.

The Runup: England, a semifinalist at the 2015 World Cup and the 2017 European championship, might begin its countrymen (and countrywomen) speaking about how “it’s coming home” for the second summer time in a row. The Lionesses breezed via qualifying, outscoring their opponents by 29-1, and beat Brazil and Japan and tied the United States in the SheBelieves Cup earlier this yr.

Players You Ought to Know: Captain Steph Houghton’s defending was key for England when it gained the SheBelieves title, however so was balanced scoring. When Jodie Taylor isn’t the one scoring, she is often the one making the cross to the player who is.

What to Anticipate: A quarterfinalist two occasions in a row (2007 and 2011) and a third-place finisher in Canada four years in the past, England will anticipate to win this group. The workforce is brimming with confidence and is the beneficiary of giant investments in training and coaching by clubs again residence. The sky is the limit.

Scotland

Greatest World Cup Finish: This is Scotland’s first World Cup.

The Runup: The Scots, ranked 20th by FIFA, have been one in every of the greater surprises on the street to France: They acquired seven wins in the UEFA qualifiers and clinched their group with a win at Albania on the ultimate day.

Gamers You Ought to Know: Ahead Jane Ross and midfielder Kim Little, the vice captain who got here roaring again after an damage that stored her out of Euro 2017, each have 126 caps for the group and more than 50 objectives apiece. Caroline Weir, the group’s No. 9, can also be angling to take her F.A. Women’s Super League experience to the world stage.

What to Anticipate: Scotland will arrive sporting tweed and can open with a match towards England — desperate to avenge a 6-0 defeat to the Lionesses at the final Euros. The roster’s club expertise in England, but in addition in Sweden, Italy and the United States, might give the Scots a leg up towards Argentina, although, and a potential lifeline into the knockouts as a third-place staff in this group.

Argentina

Greatest World Cup End: Final place in its group in two earlier appearances (2003 and 2007).

The Runup: The Albiceleste virtually did not make it to France after ending third in the Copa América Femenina, however the incontrovertible fact that they did — surviving a rugged playoff towards Panama — speaks volumes. Argentina didn’t play a single worldwide match nor did it have coaching employees from 2015 by way of the finish of 2017, when the gamers went on strike over persevering with issues with the federation over its help (or lack thereof) of girls’s soccer.

Players You Should Know: Belén Potassa is one among a select few on this staff who performed in the 2007 World Cup, when she was 17, and Estefanía Banini has been referred to as the female Messi. (There’s all the time a feminine Messi.) But don’t lose sight of ahead Soledad Jaimes, the first Argentine to win the Women’s Champion’s League, or Florencia Bonsegundo, who clinched the workforce’s place in France with a aim from near the corner flag that was both confusing and spectacular.

What to Anticipate: Argentina has not performed in the World Cup in 12 years and opens with games towards the former champions Japan and England, so even the gamers are moderating expectations. “Argentina has never had a win in a World Cup,” Bonsegundo informed Fifa.com. “So we believe we could and want to get one.”

Japan

Greatest World Cup Finish: Champion in 2011.

The Runup: Nadeshiko, as the workforce is understood, qualified easily out of Asia and has posted some fascinating outcomes this yr, including a win towards Brazil and a 2-2 draw towards the United States in the SheBelieves Cup.

Player You Ought to Know: Saki Kumagai transformed the last penalty kick in the 2011 last, then did the similar to clinch Olympique Lyonnais Féminin’s victory in the 2016 Champions League ultimate. A yr later, she scored in the shootout once more as Lyon retained its title. She is now Japan’s captain.

What to Anticipate: Ranked seventh in the world after a retooling process that brought in a number of youthful players, Japan in all probability will go deep into the knockout part. If it results in a penalty shootout there, regulate Kumagai.

GROUP E

Canada

Greatest World Cup Finish: Fourth place in 2003.

The Runup: Although Canada wound up second in CONCACAF, the federation that governs soccer in North America, after a 2-Zero loss to the United States in the feisty last of the qualifying event, it’s capable of scoring objectives by the bucket. That loss was the staff’s solely defeat in the last yr, and since then, Canada has crushed the World Cup teams Norway, Scotland, England, Sweden and Nigeria.

Player You Should Know: Christine Sinclair, who turns 36 during the group stage, is the beating coronary heart of this group: A 14-time Canadian player of the yr, she arrives in France needing solely four objectives to interrupt Abby Wambach’s international report of 184.

What to Anticipate: Canada might be determined to ship Sinclair into her (expected) international retirement with a greater displaying than its quarterfinal effort as the host in 2015. The Canadians will worry no opponent, and they are going to be a troublesome out.

Cameroon

Greatest World Cup End: Round of 16 in 2015, Cameroon’s first World Cup.

The Runup: Cameroon beat Mali for the ultimate African berth in November and then didn’t play again for six months. Its only two official matches since qualification — a 4-0 loss to Spain and a Four-Zero victory towards the Spanish club Levante — make the staff robust to learn. A January teaching change makes assessing the workforce’s plans and elegance even more troublesome.

Player You Ought to Know: Christine Manie, a defender and the oldest player on the squad at 35, is Cameroon’s captain and helped secure both of the group’s World Cup qualifications. She scored an extra-time objective towards Ivory Coast to clinch the 2015 trip and had the final of four objectives in November’s win over Mali.

What to Anticipate: Cameroon’s lack of competitive matches wasn’t the greatest preparation for the World Cup. A troublesome group gained’t make its process any simpler.

New Zealand

Greatest World Cup End: Group stage (1991, 2007, 2011, 2015).

The Runup: The Soccer Ferns claimed the Oceania Nations Cup for the fourth straight time without conceding a aim, and with consecutive 8-0 victories in the semifinals (New Caledonia) and ultimate (Fiji). In truth, their qualification out of Oceania has turn out to be automated since Australia moved out of the OFC and into Asia’s confederation in 2006.

Player You Ought to Know: Abby Erceg has retired from the nationwide workforce twice since 2017, partially because of a battle with the federation about help for the program, however she has been coaxed again into the fold for a fourth World Cup journey.

What to Anticipate: New Zealand has by no means made it past the group stage at a World Cup; the truth is, it has never gained a match at the event. But Tom Sermanni, an skilled coach who once briefly led the United States ladies’s national staff, may need the proper tools to end both droughts.

Netherlands

Greatest World Cup End: Round of 16 in 2015, the Netherlands’ first World Cup.

The Runup: The Netherlands, the reigning European champion, had to qualify by way of a playoff in Europe after ending second in Norway’s group, however matching Four-1 victories over Denmark and Switzerland saw the Dutch via. Crushed by Spain and, surprisingly, Poland at the Algarve Cup earlier this yr, they have crushed China (on penalties), Mexico (2-0), Chile (7-0) and Australia (Three-0) with growing authority in current matches.

Gamers You Ought to Know: Barcelona’s Lieke Martens was FIFA’s ladies’s player of the yr in 2017, and Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal just added an English league title to the two German ones she gained at Bayern Munich. Collectively they’ve 100 objectives at the international degree; the better of them would make any spotlight reel.

What to Anticipate: The Netherlands could be devastatingly incisive in assault — witness its current thrashing of Chile — however can wrestle on defense. Canada will challenge the Dutch. However Cameroon and New Zealand may be exhausting pressed to keep up with Martens, Miedema and wing Shanice van de Sanden, the engine behind Lyon’s assaults when it gained the Champions League remaining in Might.

GROUP F

United States

Greatest World Cup Finish: Champion in 1991, 1999 and 2015, the People have never failed to succeed in the semifinals.

The Runup: Straightforward. The USA gained its document eighth CONCACAF title with a collection of lopsided wins over Mexico (6-Zero), Panama (5-Zero), Trinidad and Tobago (7-Zero) and Jamaica (6-Zero) before claiming the trophy with a 2-Zero victory over Canada.

Players You Ought to Know: The place to start out? The present roster is one in every of the deepest in a history of dominant United States teams; striker Alex Morgan even joked after the group’s send-off recreation that the People might send two starting elevens to the World Cup. How deep is the United States? Carli Lloyd, the outstanding participant of the 2015 event and the first to attain a hat trick in a World Cup remaining, comes off the bench lately, typically spelling Morgan, who lately scored her 100th aim.

What to Anticipate: The USA is the staff to beat for a purpose. However be wary of injuries: Midfielder Lindsey Horan has been battling a leg damage all spring, and right back Kelley O’Hara continues to be not 100% after ankle surgical procedure. And Crystal Dunn, a midfielder for her membership who likes to enterprise forward, has no obvious backup at left back.

Thailand

Greatest World Cup End: Group stage in 2015, Thailand’s first World Cup.

The Runup: The Chaba Kaew are traveling to France for his or her second World Cup two years after the country’s ladies’s league was revived and with a fourth-place end in the Asian Cup underneath their belt.

Gamers You Ought to Know: The speedy Kanjana Sung-ngoen tormented Australia’s again line together with her tempo in the Asian Cup semifinals last yr, and the California-born ahead Suchawadee Nildhamrong, who went by Miranda Nild when she performed at the University of California, could possibly be a think about the Thai campaign.

What to Anticipate: Thailand struggled in the 2015 group part, with two overwhelming defeats to Germany and Norway and a win towards a barely there Ivory Coast, then the lowest-rated workforce in the competitors. It’s unlikely it is going to be capable of do a lot better towards the United States and Sweden, two of the more skilled teams in the world.

Chile

Greatest World Cup Finish: This is Chile’s first World Cup.

The Runup: The Roja ladies are certainly one of 4 debutantes on this yr’s subject, however it wasn’t straightforward: The workforce has struggled for help for years, and it did not play a match from 2014-17.

Players You Ought to Know: The most important draw must be Christiane Endler, who was acknowledged as the greatest goalkeeper in France final season because of her work for Paris St.-Germain. But midfielder Francisca Lara and forward María José Rojas have proven their class at occasions, too.

What to Anticipate: Chile is usually bodily overmatched towards better teams, and the Netherlands tore them aside, 7-Zero, in April. Current results haven’t been any extra constructive: Chile is winless in nine video games getting into the World Cup.

Sweden

Greatest World Cup Finish: Third place in 1991 and 2011.

The Runup: Sweden, an early power in ladies’s soccer, was a disappointment at the last World Cup and never a lot better at the 2017 European championship, though it sandwiched a silver medal at the Rio Olympics between these flops. It had no problems in qualifying for France, profitable its group with a 7-0-1 document.

Participant You Should Know: Forward Stina Blackstenius, who was the prime scorer in the under-19 World Cup 4 years in the past, additionally scored the only Swedish objectives towards the United States (in a quarterfinal victory) and Germany (in the gold medal match) of their Olympic campaign. She added five extra in seven appearances in qualifying.

What to Anticipate: Sweden’s document has been inconsistent, however it knows how one can lock down video games when it wants to take action; simply ask Hope Solo. If, as anticipated, the Swedes end second to the United States in the group, they could possibly be taking a look at Canada or the Netherlands in the spherical of 16.