The 7th FIFA Women’s World Cup will kick-off on June 6 with the host, Canada, facing China in Edmonton and culminate with the final at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver on July 5.
As the women’s game continues to grow, the talent gap between the top teams in the world and the burgeoning nations is ever narrowing. That said, the historic powers (the United States, Germany, and France) remain the outright betting favorites.
Let’s take a closer look at their prospects along with the defending champs from Japan.
United States: 3/1
Currently ranked second by FIFA, the U.S. hasn’t won a World Cup since 1999 and will start the 2015 edition in a veritable group of death with Sweden (No. 5 in the world), Australia (No. 10), and Nigeria (No. 33). Yet, Alex Morgan and company enter the tournament as 3/1 betting favorites thanks to a lineup that boasts both an immense amount of talent and a ton of experience.
The U.S. was painfully close to claiming its third title in 2011 but lost to Japan on penalties in the final. This time out, coach Jill Ellis also has introduced some new blood to the lineup, but will continue to rely on the likes of Morgan and Abby Wambach, the nation’s all-time leading scorer with 13 World Cup goals.
With the tournament being played in Canada, the Americans are likely to have a large swath of supporters for each of their games, which could tip the scales in a close match or two.
Before Japan was crowned in 2011, the Germans were two-time defending champs (2003 & 2007). They were favored to win the 2011 tournament (which was played in Germany), but were stunned by Japan in the quarterfinals.
Germany is 7/2 to capture the 2015 edition after winning – make that dominating – all ten of its qualification games. Despite featuring a new generation of players, Die Nationalelf look as strong as ever, scoring 62 goals and allowing just four in their road to the tournament. Coach Silvia Neid leads the eight-time European champs on their search for redemption.
A very young French team was able to finish fourth in 2011. Now that the squad has four more years of experience under its belt, expectations are extremely high for France, which recently finished second to the U.S. in the highly competitive Algarve Cup. Like Germany, France won all ten of its qualifying games in dominant fashion, outscoring opponents 54-3. Striker Gaetane Thiney, who scored 13 of those 54 goals, and midfielder Louisa Necib (13 assists) are the players to watch.
After the U.S., Germany, and France, there is a drop-off to the next group of favorites. The defending champs from Japan come into the tournament fourth in the odds at 8/1. The team surprised the soccer world in 2011 with their speedy, well-coordinated attack and followed that up with their first Asian Cup in 2014 (downing China in the final). But they won’t be catching anyone unawares this time around, and the world seems to be adjusting to their style of play. Japan performed poorly at the Algarve Cup in Portugal earlier this year, finishing ninth out of 12 teams and losing to both France (3-1) and Denmark (2-1).
South Korea: 80/1
New Zealand: 150/1
Ivory Coast: 500/1
Costa Rica: 1000/1
The U.S. have been waiting four years for this tournament after losing on penalties to Japan in 2011. They are well coached and many of their big names will know that this is their last kick at the can. Look for the ‘Muricans to use the almost-home-field advantage to capture their third World Cup title.
Pick: United States (3/1).
(Photo credit: Christopher Johnson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)