France, Norway, Korea Republic*, Nigeria
The host nation's steady and unremitting rise to the top of the women's game might well come full circle this year. Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer, both of whom play prominent roles at Lyon, are the leaders and it will be hard to take the 4th ranked side down this year although the omission of Marie-Antoinette Katoto might loom large. But France should nevertheless easily top the group over Norway who are strong, but Ada Hegerberg's absence for taking a gender equality stand for the game could damage the team's chances. It will be up to Caroline Hansen and captain Maren Mjelde to get Norway to the Round of 16 where they will be joined by Korea. The East Asian side will need a slice of luck to go their way with Ji So-yun and Cho So-hyun being the helpers to lift their team. Nigeria haven't been able to do much at the world stage lately and it's not very likely that they will be able to do so here.
WORLD CUP PREVIEW
Predictions Made by Stephen Mulvoy on 6/4/19 at 11:00 PM ET.
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Germany, Spain, China*, South Africa
Determined to return to the top of the women's pedestal, Germany are ready for another shot at the prize. Following the retirement of Anja Mittag after Euro 2017, Dzenifer Marozsan is now the face of the team with 33 goals for Lyon this year and 32 goals for her country. That along with Alexandra Popp's experience and goalscoring ability will propel the Germans to the top of the group. Spain easily got through qualifying undefeated and will benefit from a fairly beatable two teams in their group. Jennifer Hermoso is the veteran on a very young Spanish squad and the future looks bright for them. China have a very small margin of error if they are to have a chance to squeak by and they will need to pick up points in every game. In their first Women's World Cup, South Africa might throw a scare or two in the other teams, but it won't be enough to get them to the second phase as they haven't been winning in matches this year.
Australia, Brazil, Italy, Jamaica
After knocking on the door in several previous tournaments, this might be the one where Australia at least make some noise. Captain Sam Kerr of Chicago Red Stars and Perth Glory will lead the Matildas to the top of the group with her goalscoring and leadership to go along with some nice depth that has developed on the squad from the up and coming W-League. They will top the group ahead of Brazil, who are now an aging side with Marta at 33 and Formiga at 41 leading the way. They went through a nine-match losing streak in their lead up to the tournament, but their experience will help them to a spot in the next round. Making their first appearance in 20 years, Italy will look to put on a good show with Juventus's Cristiana Girelli and Barbara Bonansea helping the team, but Brazil will win out over them. While it is highly unlikely they will get a result, Jamaica's ascent to the Women's World Cup should be celebrated. Their national team was discontinued in 2008 after lack of funding from the Jamaica Football Federation but was reinstated in 2014 following the tireless fundraising efforts of Cedella Marley and qualified for the biggest stage in the women's game by coming in third in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Japan, England, Scotland*, Argentina
This group will provide a big logjam at the top with three very capable sides progressing. Japan's second consecutive Asian Cup championship gives them a big confidence boost that they can reach a third straight Women's World Cup final. With an average age of 22.8, their roster has several players who have scored a double-digit amount of goals for their country, with Mizuho Sakaguchi leading the way, Japan look to be a good bet to make another deep run in the tournament. While we need not remind England how their 2015 campaign ended, a championship run is well within their reach. Jodie Taylor of Seattle Reign will have to continue her momentum form Euro 2017 to lift her squad and Lucy Bronze will help keep opponents at their end. A very young and tight-knit side from Scotland have great chemistry and could have enough skill from Erin Cuthbert, Caroline Weir and captain Rachel Corsie to go through. Overmatched Argentina virtually have no chance of even making a semblance of noise if their history in this tournament is any indication.
Canada, Netherlands, Cameroon*, New Zealand
Three of the four teams in this group were bunched together four years ago. Christine Sinclair returns for her fifth World Cup to guide Canada although they have had trouble scoring goals this year and they will need to create some depth led by Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt. Behind them will be the Netherlands and Viviene Miedema, whose 57 goals for her country makes her the most dangerous player wearing Orange on the pitch. She will also have Lieke Martens to assist her with goal scoring and push the Dutch to the next round. Cameroon's newest addition to the squad, defender Estelle Johnson from Sky Blue FC must use her defensive expertise to help Madeleine Ngono Mani in her last World Cup to progress. New Zealand could use a big boost from Katie Bowen and Ali Riley if they are to challenge anybody for a knockout round spot.
USA, Sweden, Thailand, Chile
"Oh no, not you again!" Sweden and the USWNT cannot get away from one another. Every Women's World Cup since 2003 has had them in the same group and the Scandinavian side knocked out the USA in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympics on their way to the silver medal so there is that bad taste to wash from their mouth. After a solid showing in their send-off series, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan will do their part to lift the defending champions to the top of the group and Rose Lavelle's rise to prominence on the team bodes well also. Captain Caroline Segar, at age 34, will lead the Swedes and will be helped along by Kosovare Asllani to battle the USWNT for supremacy. The final group match between the two rivals on June 20 in Le Havre will be a showdown for who gets the #1 spot. Thailand and Chile will only be spectators to the two teams as they will simply be no match to them and the third-place finishers from the other groups will leave no room for either of them.
Brazil 2 Norway 1:
As a team with just enough energy left in their tanks, Brazil use two goals by Marta to get past a shorthanded Norway side.
Japan 4 Cameroon 0:
This one will not even be remotely close as Japan will continue to show they mean business in a dominant shutout win over Cameroon.
USA 2 Spain 0:
A close defeat to the USWNT will go a long way in Spain's development as a women's power, but the American's firepower is too much.
Australia 3 China 0:
Captain Kerr's proficiency at playing the game in two countries during the year will show here as she and the Aussies shutout China.
England 3 Canada 1 (ET):
England won't let any demons of 2015 get in their way as Toni Duggan and Jill Scott each score in extra time to knock off Canada.
Germany 7 Korea 0:
Alexandra Popp's hat trick will be the key component in Germany's thrashing of Korea to progress to the quarterfinals.
Japan 3 Germany 1:
Two teams that are used to playing for championships aren't happy to be here and a reluctant Mana Iwabuchi and Yuika Sugasawa help Japan to third place over Alexandra Popp and Germany.
France 3 England 2:
For fans born on or after November 19, 2007 that only know of USWNT success, it will be quite strange to see two different teams from Europe in the final. But it will be one to remember as the passion of French supporters will be on full display in Lyon. Both France and England will show signs of nervousness early in the first half, but will settle down as Toni Duggan and Amandine Henry each score two goals. Following this will be a tense second half for each side, but in the 87th minute, it will be GaŽtane Thiney sending Les Bleus supporters into a frenzy with the winning goal. Exactly as their men's counterparts did 21 years ago, the ladies of France's national team raise their first ever World Cup trophy within their country's borders and add their name to the list of Women's World Cup champions.
Sweden 1 Netherlands 1 (SWE 2-0 PK):
You could probably flip a coin to determine the winner in this one as both teams are very evenly matched. Sweden's experience will win out in penalties though.
France 5 Scotland 1:
The hosts will take care of the visitors easier than Remy the Rat can whip up an award-winning five-star meal for Princess Merida.
France 2 USA 2 (FRA 3-1 PK):
In front of a packed house at Parc des Prince in Paris, France will offset two scores from Tobin Heath with goals by Eugenie Le Sommer and then win in the shootout to eliminate the USWNT before the semis for the first time.
Japan 3 Brazil 0:
Japan's youth movement will be way too much of a problem for Brazil's older players and the Nadeshiko will blaze ahead to the next bracket.
Germany 3 Sweden 2:
While this one will be close and exciting, Germany will continue to haunt Sweden in this tournament dating back to the final in 2003.
England 1 Australia 0:
As captain of the Three Lionesses, it will be Steph Houghton making the difference as she will set up Ellen White on a long pass to get her team back to the semifinals.
France 2 Japan 0 (ET):
Helped along by two goals in either extra time period by Amandine Henry, France will end Japan's reign by a tight margin to advance to the final for the first time.
England 1 Germany 0:
With a penalty kick goal from Lucy Bronze, England pull off the monumental upset to head to their first ever Women's World Cup final, making amends for how their tournament ended four years ago.