THE FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off today amid unprecedented attention as hosts France take on South Korea in Paris.
“It’s going to be a remarkable World Cup. The level of competition four years on from the last one has exponentially increased,” said Jill Ellis, coach of the US team, the reigning champions.
“Different teams are now rising and it’s going to be a very open World Cup and we’re excited to go out there and attack it.”
Interest from the public is high with both semifinals and the final, all to be played at the 69,000-capacity Groupama Stadium in Lyon, sold out as well as the opening game at the Parc des Princes. The cheapest group game tickets are just nine euros ($10).
The United States are the queens of the game after winning the World Cup three times and the Olympics four times and that experience is clearly visible in their current line-up.
At the end of May, FIFA calculated that the US had collected 1893 caps between them and included eight players with at least 100 international appearances. Among them Carli Lloyd has 274 caps, Alex Morgan 163 and Becky Sauerbrunn 158.
For France, the key members of the Lyon team that has won four straight Champions League titles, Sarah Bouhaddi, Wendie Renard, Amel Majri, Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer, are fast becoming French celebrities.
Germany, who can boast another Lyon star in Dzsenifer Marozsan, have won two World Cups and eight European Championships. Japan and Norway have both won the World Cup once.
However, the power of the Americans and Germans is set to be challenged now that some of the other traditional football powers, who for years did not take women’s football seriously, are catching up.
England and France, ranked third and fourth in the world, arrive with genuine hopes of winning the title. Spain, the Netherlands and Italy are all in the top 15, with the Dutch reigning European champions.
The 24-team format means the group phase will eliminate only eight teams. The top two nations in each of the six groups and the four best third-place finishers will qualify.
That means the underdogs know that one victory could be enough to reach the second round. – AFP