The eighth Women’s World Cup kicks off (literally) on June 7 in Paris. From the teams taking part to the players who are expected to shake things up on the pitch, here’s everything you need to know about France 2019 and the biggest event in women’s soccer.
The Women’s World Cup Started In 1991
The FIFA Women’s World Cup has been held every four years since 1991, when the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Championship, as it was then called, took place in China.
The senior women’s national teams of the members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport’s international governing body, compete for the trophy. The first instance of a Women’s World Cup dates back to 1970, when the first international tournament was held in Italy during the month of July. A year later, another unofficial tournament took place in Mexico.
A lift on the ban on women’s football in numerous countries throughout the 1970s resulted in new teams around Europe and North America.
Team USA Was The First Winner
The 1991 FIFA Women’s World Championship in China was sponsored by Mars candy and won by the United States after they defeated Norway 2-1 in the final before a 65,000-strong crowd at Guangzhou’s Tianhe Stadium. U.S. forward Carin Jennings (formerly Carin Gabbara), who retired in 1996, was named player of the tournament and received the Golden Ball, while Michelle Akers took the Golden Boot for scoring both goals in the final match.
The 2019 Cup Will Be Held Across Nine French Cities
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the eighth edition of the tournament, will be hosted by France for the first time.
Bidding to be the host country began in 2014 when member associations were invited to submit a declaration of interest. England, France, Korea Republic (what FIFA calls South Korea), New Zealand and South Africa did so; it was later narrowed down to France vs. Korea Republic.
Matches will be held in nine French cities, including Paris, Lyon, Nice and Montpellier. The biggest stadium is Lyon’s Parc Olympique Lyonnais, which has a capacity of 59,186.
Team USA Is the Defending Champion
The U.S. team enters the 2019 tournament as the defending champion, following their 5-2 victory over Japan at BC Place, in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. The win was their first in 16 years and made the U.S. the only nation to have won in three Women’s World Cup finals (they previously won in 1991 and 1995). The match got off to a great start for Team USA, with four goals inside the opening 16 minutes.
Four Teams Will Make Their World Cup Debut In 2019
Following matches played between April 2017 and December 2018, 24 teams qualified for the final tournament, including five teams from Asia, three teams from Africa, three teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, two teams from South America and eight teams from Europe.
Teams making their Women’s World Cup debuts are Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa. It’s the eighth World Cup for Brazil, Norway, Sweden, U.S., Japan, Germany and Nigeria.
Team USA Tops The World Rankings
Going into the World Cup, the United States ranks No. 1 in the world, followed by Germany at No. 2 and England at No. 3. The host nation France ranks fourth, Canada is fifth and Australia is sixth.
With the final squad lists for each of the 24 participating teams revealed, pundits and fans across the world are sharing their predictions for how each team will perform — and who will lift the coveted trophy on July 7.
Group A Will Be France, Korea Republic, Norway And Nigeria
As always, pressure will be on the host nation, whose team didn’t reach its first finals tournament until 2003. France’s star player is their captain, Lyon’s Amandine Henry, who has won every possible trophy on the domestic stage.
France 2019 will mark Korea Republic’s third appearance in the Women’s World Cup finals, where they’ll be depending on their key figure, Ji Soyun, who made her international debut at age 15.
Norway won the competition in 2011 and will be hoping that dead-ball specialist Maren Mjelde will help them secure the trophy again.
One of the best players in the 2019 cup is Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala, who was included in the Guardian’s list of the 100 best female footballers in the world.
Group B Will Include Germany, China, Spain And South Africa
Germany has qualified for every Women’s World Cup finals competition and is the second-favorite to take home the trophy, after Team USA.
France 2019 is South Africa’s first Women’s World Cup, and they’ll be raring to go after finishing second behind Nigeria at the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON).
China ranks 16th in the world, but they have some great players, including Li Yun who scored seven goals in just five appearances at the 2018 AFC Asian Women’s Cup.
Spain won all eight of their qualifying games, but won’t have the skills of star player Vero Boquete to rely on — she didn’t make the team.
Group C: Australia, Italy, Brazil And Jamaica
France 2019 is the seventh-consecutive Women’s World Cup finals for Australia, whose star player is attacker Sam Kerr. When it comes to tackles, she has a 100 percent success rate. But Brazil has a better record; they’re one of the very few nations to have a team that has qualified for every single Women’s World Cup final.
At the other end of the scale, it’s the first finals in 20 years for Italy, who is currently ranked 15th in the world.
Jamaica made history as the first Caribbean nation to reach a senior FIFA Women’s World Cup, securing a spot by finishing third at the 2018 CONCACAF Women Championship.
Group D Will Be England, Scotland, Argentina And Japan
France 2019 is England’s fifth appearance at the Women’s World Cup finals and the team’s fourth in a row. Fourth-favorites to win and ranked third in the world, they sailed through their qualifying games unbeaten.
It was a tougher journey for Argentina, who scraped through the South America qualifying group before winning a play-off against Panama over two legs.
Japan, who lost to USA in the final at Canada 2015, have Mana Iwabuchi as their not-so-secret weapon. She was voted Player of the Tournament in the FIFA Under 17 World Cup at age 15.
It will be tough for Scotland to make it through the group stage, but they do have leading scorer Kim Little, who has had great success at club level.
Group E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand And Netherlands
Cameroon made an impressive Women’s World Cup debut at Canada 2015, and the team will be counting on African Player of the Year Gaelle Enganamouit to drive it through the group stage.
France 2019 is the seventh-consecutive finals for Canada, who finished runner-up in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament to secure its place and is ranked fifth in the world.
The Netherlands comes into the competition strong, as current European champion with superb dribbler Lieke Martens, who was voted Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2017, in its arsenal.
The United States Is In Group F, With Thailand, Chile And Sweden
Team USA returns to the Women’s World Cup as defending champion and No. 1 in the world.
The cup is unknown territory for Chile, who makes its World Cup finals debut.
Sweden, who is ranked ninth in the world, has qualified for every Women’s World Cup and reached the final at USA 2003, where the team lost 2-1 on golden goal to Germany.
Thailand made its Women’s World Cup debut at Canada 2015 but didn’t make it through the group stage.
How Team USA Got There
The road to France was a straightforward one for Team USA. To secure qualification, it beat Mexico 6-0, Panama 5-0 and Trinidad and Tobago 7-0 before a 6-0 victory over Jamaica in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. A 2-0 win over Canada in the final clinched an impressive eighth regional title — no other country has ever won more than two. Team USA also scored the most goals (26) of all participating teams.
Players To Watch On Team USA
Team USA has a wealth of talent.
In 2018, two Americans (now on the roster) were on the shortlist for the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or: forward Lindsey Horan and midfielder Megan Rapinoe (though they lost out to Ada Hegerberg of Norway).
All eyes will be on 20-year-old forward Mallory Pugh (below), who joined the full Women’s National Team at the age of 17, which made her the youngest player to debut for USA in 11 years.
Carli Lloyd, 36, has the most Women’s World Cup experience, with 18 matches under her belt; she scored six goals at Canada 2015.
Team USA Are Favorites To Win
Team USA, the first nation to defend the title since Germany in 2003 and 2007, is the current favorite to win the tournament, with odds of 7-4. Their World Cup record is strong — they’ve never finished worse than third place. At the time of publication,
France is the second favorite, with odds of 7-2, and Germany third at 11-2.
Odds-rankings outsiders are Thailand at 2,000-1, while Jamaica, South Africa and Cameroon are at 1,000-1.
The Threat From ‘Les Bleus’
With no group stage opponent ranked higher than 12th place (the Norwegians), the French, nicknamed Les Bleus, are expected to progress without too much difficulty. In recent competitions, they made it to the quarterfinals in each of the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championships, the 2016 Olympics and the 2015 World Cup.
Although France automatically qualified as the host nation (thus avoiding the qualification stages), they’ve performed well throughout friendlies, winning all but one of their past 14 matches.
The German Contenders Are Strong
Only four nations have won the Women’s World Cup since it began in 1991, and Germany has done it twice; it’s the only nation apart from the U.S. to win more than one.
The Germans bounced back from their semifinal defeat at Canada 2015 to win gold at Rio 2016 against Sweden and reach the quarterfinals of the 2017 Women’s Euros, where they lost to Denmark. However, they lost their matches with France and USA at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, which explains why they’re only third-favorites to win at France 2019.
England Is In The Running
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European soccer expert and “Soccermatics” author David Sumpter, who developed the “Soccerbot” model to predict matches, thinks England could give Team USA a run for its money.
England has a strong attack and defense, has won eight of its last 10 matches and has conceded one goal or less in 11 of its last 12 matches.
“England should have no trouble advancing through the group stage in France,” Sumpter told SportsLine.
Brazil Has The Best Player Of All Time
While Brazil only has odds of 20-1 to win the Women’s World Cup, they have a very talented squad, plus one of the most experienced players in the whole tournament: Marta Vieira da Silva, who has been named world player of the year six times and has scored the most goals (15) in Women’s World Cup history.
She currently holds the record for most all-time awards — male or female — and is such a legendary player that she’s known around the world simply as “Marta.”
This Is The Greatest Women’s World Cup Goal Of All Time
FIFA held a vote on its website to find out fans’ greatest Women’s World Cup goal of all time, and the honor went to Mónica Ocampo for her long-range strike in Mexico’s opening match against England at Germany 2011.
In second place was Song Xiaoli’s goal for China PR in their first match of the 2007 tournament they hosted, with Carli Lloyd’s halfway line goal for Team USA in the final at Canada 2015 ranking third.
To date, a grand total of 771 goals have been scored in the history of the Women’s World Cup, but it won’t be long before that number rises.
Canada Holds The Record For Attendance
Attendance at the Women’s World Cup has fluctuated over the years.
At the inaugural tournament in China PR in 1991, the average attendance was 19,615. The highest average attendance was at USA 1999 (37,319), and at Canada 2015 it was 26,029. But in terms of total attendance, Canada 2015 set a new record of 1,353,506; the biggest turnout was for the Canada vs. England quarter-final in Vancouver, which was attended by 54,027 people.
Millions Are Expected To Tune In
Each Women’s World Cup has seen an uptick in viewership and attendance. In 2015, 764 million in-home TV viewers watched at least one minute of match action from Canada, according to FIFA and KantarSport.
France 2019 Has A Familiar Feathered Mascot
This year’s official mascot is ettie, the daughter of Footix, who was the mascot for the 1998 Men’s World Cup in France. Her name stems from étoile, the French word for star, as she came from the bright star Footix was awarded for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
FIFA describes ettie as a “young chicken with a passion for life and football.” FIFA also says, “Her strong family connection to the Gallic rooster, who is still a popular national French symbol, makes her a fitting choice as the Official Mascot for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.”
There’s More Prize Money—But Not As Much As Men
Team USA received $2 million for winning the Women’s World Cup in 2015. However, this is a fraction of the $35 million the men’s champions, Germany, took home in 2014.
FIFA has doubled the women’s prize money for 2019, meaning the winners will get $4 million, and the overall prize fund has also increased — from $15 million in 2015 to $30 million. It’s still dwarfed by the men’s prize money, which was $400 million for the 2018 World Cup, where winners France banked $38 million.
The world players’ union FIFPro said in a statement that “football remains even further from the goal of equality for all World Cup players regardless of gender.”
France 2019 Will Be Debut For Video Assistant Referee
The 2019 tournament will be the first to use the video assistant referee (VAR) system, after it was approved by the FIFA Council following its use at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. VAR, which consists of a team of three people who watch video replays of on-pitch incidents in order to review particular referred decisions, is designed to eliminate debate, but some say it has created even more controversy.
How To Watch The Women’s World Cup
Fox has the Women’s World Cup broadcast rights in the U.S. and will broadcast all English-called matches on Fox, FS1 and FS2. Telemundo and Universo will broadcast the matches in Spanish. You can also access all channels online using fuboTV, where you can sign up for a free trial. The first match of the tournament is France vs. Korea Republic on June 3, and Team USA makes their France 2019 debut against Thailand on June 11.