After almost four years of waiting, qualifying and build-up, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada is finally here.
This year’s women’s soccer’s world championship tournament is the seventh, and largest, edition in history. FIFA has expanded the field from 16 to 24 teams, allowing more players to showcase their talent over 52 games — also more than ever before. The winning team must survive seven games, as opposed to six in previous tournaments, in order to lift the coveted Women’s World Cup trophy.
FIFA drew the teams into six groups of four last December. The teams will play one game against each opponent in the round-robin phase of the tournament, beginning Saturday and ending on June 17. The top two teams will advance automatically to the Round of 16. If the team which finishes third in the group is among the four best (out of six groups in total) finishers — in terms of points and goal difference among other tie breakers — it too will advance to the knockout phase.
The Round of 16 kicks off on June 20. The final is scheduled for July 5 in Vancouver.
Let’s look at the groups in the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Group A: Canada, China, New Zealand, Netherlands
Canada, the host nation and eighth-ranked team in FIFA’s latest rankings, has high hopes of advancing out of the group, which also contains the Netherlands (ranked 12th), China (16th) and New Zealand (17th). Each game in Group A should be tense and competitive.
Group B: Germany, Ivory Coast, Norway, Thailand
Norway and Germany are historical powers. 11th-ranked Norway and top-ranked Germany should breeze through the group. Unranked Ivory Coast and 29th-ranked Thailand will fight for third place and a possible spot in the Round of 16.
Group C: Japan, Switzerland, Cameroon, Ecuador
Japan, the defending world champion and fourth-ranked team, should win Group C comfortably. Switzerland, ranked 19th, has the inside track on the runner-up spot in the group, but 48th-ranked Ecuador and unfancied Cameroon could author Cinderella stories by advancing to the knockout stages.
Group D:: USA, Australia, Sweden, Nigeria
Team USA is the standout side, but Sweden and Australia will test its mettle. Take a closer look at the “Group of Death” in our Group D preview.
Group E: Brazil, South Korea, Spain, Costa Rica
Brazil, ranked seventh, is hoping to transition to a bright, new era at Canada 2015. Surviving the group stage, as expected, is a good way to start. Spain and South Korea, ranked 14th and 18th, respectively, will offer stiff competition. Each of the three teams should amass enough points to advance to the knockout stage, but 37th-ranked Costa Rica likely will end its journey after three games.
Group F: France, England, Colombia, Mexico
The centuries’-old rivalry between France and England will add a new chapter at the World Cup. Expect third-ranked France to top the group, while sixth-ranked England should finish second. Mexico and Colombia, ranked 25th and 28th, respectively, should be in a dead heat for the third spot and a possible place in the last 16.
Thumbnail photo, main photo via Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via Associated Press