With a month to go before the opening game of the Women’s World Cup featuring France v South Korea, here are my predictions on the possible winners.
First let’s have a look at one of the bookies odds for the tournament.
Cameroon, Thailand, Jamaica and South Africa are500/1 – basically no hoppers.
Nigeria, who are regulars at the tournament, are at 250/1 – I can see them reaching the second round or the quarter-finals without a problem.
Argentina and Chile at 125/1 – no real hope either and rightly so.
The Arsenal Scottish trio are at 100/1 – Emma Mitchell, Lisa Evans and Kim Little should all be on the flight to Nice. You would expect them to qualify for the second round and maybe up to the quarter-finals. They have a solid team with many teams playing professional players abroad.
Italy and South Korea are priced at 80/1 – Italy are a strong outsider and slated to surprise a few people by doing well. The Italian league is getting stronger with teams more and more teams turning professional.
Norway at 66/1 – they have been rebuilding following their disastrous Euro 2017 and will miss Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg and her sister, who both play in France funnily enough. Opposition teams are certainly happy to see her boycott her national team.
New-Zealand priced at 50/ – they win their OFC qualifiers regularly and therefore have a lot of international experience and a new manager Tom Sermanni who is well known on the international scene. Another potential quarter-final team.
China at 33/1 are a peculiar team – their star playmaker Wang Shuang plays in the French League for PSG. She lives in Paris Chinatown and is well taken care of by the Chinese Embassy. You do wonder if she was sent there on purpose. They have changed manager many times over the last six years. They should not be underestimated, but I can’t see them going past the semi-finals.
Sweden at 25/1 – they were runners-up at the 2016 Olympics and our former defender Jessica Samuelsson will be hoping to make the final squad. I can’t see them winning the tournament.
Spain at 22/1 are a dark horse for the tournament. They have been winning u-17 and u-19 Euros on a regular basis for many years. They were runners-up at the u-20 world cup last year and won the u-17 world cup. I can see them going very deep into the tournament with their typical ball possession style. This tournament might be the one where they will translate to senior level all the promise shown at youth level.
Brazil at 20/1. They are on a run of eight or nine defeats in a row, against good sides to be fair. Still, I can’t see them going deep into the tournament unless there is a big improvement.
Canada are given the same odds of 20/1. They are very good defensively, which means they are likely to go far in the tournament. Their managerial change a couple of seasons ago has not altered their style. Powerful and defensively aggressive, you do wonder if they will be able to score the important goals in the knock-out games. Semi-final is definitely a possibility.
The Netherlands, with Sari van Veenendaal, Dominique Bloodworth, Danielle van de Donk and Anna Miedema all selected for the tournament. They are the Euro holders and another dark horse. Priced at 16/1, they will have a lot of fans travelling with them as their three games will be played in Northern France. Their starting 11 is very strong and settled. They also have some good players who can come in but can they perform as well as the starters is the big question. Another dark horse who could surprise a few teams and reach the quarter or semi-finals.
Japan were winners in 2011 and runners-up in 2015. Their beautiful attacking football is there, but it is hard to know how they will fare as there have been many personnel changes recently. They are priced at 12/1, the same as Australia who are one of the favourites.
They have one of the best strikers in the world and can score a lot of goals. The big question is how will they evolve as their manager was sacked earlier in the season and the new one has not had much time to set up the team in his own style. Most of their players are W-League/NWSL starters, which means power, strength and pace is their trademark.
And now for the top four teams.
Germany 6/1, England 9/2, USA 7/2, France 10/3.
My favourites are the form team: Germany.
They have the best FIFA ranking points since the 1/1/2018. They have changed manager when Steffi Jones failed during the World Cup qualifiers and was replaced by Horst Hrubesch who steered the boat to safety and plain sailing. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg took over from him after the qualifiers and has done an excellent job.
My second favourites are the holders, the USA. You know what you get with them, a well-prepared team. Plus a history of winning trophies and a winning mentality that they carry throughout all the tournaments. They certainly know how to grind wins and have fantastic creative individuality in attack combined with a world-class defensive midfielder in Julie Ertz. Their defence is a bit weaker than usual but not many teams will be able to get past them.
My third joint favourites are England and France. Both teams hired new coaches after the Euros. Phil Neville and Corinne Diacre have tried to implement their own methodology and style.
The Lionesses have evolved from the very defensive-orientated chameleonic style seen at the WC 2015 and Euros 2017. Although that style has brought two semi-finals, Neville has decided on a more attacking set-up to try and win the World Cup. With the quality at his disposal, he can certainly target a tournament win.
The home team France are also favourites but suffer from a lack of strength in depth with a strong starting 11 and a few quality substitutes who will do the job if called upon. But from the 16th player onward to the 23rd, there is no doubt the other players are not as strong as the starters. The manager has been set a target of reaching the final which is quite ambitious considering there is a potential quarter-final against the USA.
To recap my predictions, I see Germany, USA, England or France winning the Women’s World Cup this summer.
We will see which teams will line up at the Groupama on July 7th. Arsenal’s Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Beth Mead, and Leah Williamson will hope to be there with PPM having already experienced games in that stadium when playing for Olympique Lyonnais.