Group A: France v Norway

Norway winning the 2019 Algarve Cup

It’s one of the key match-ups of Group A: hosts France (rank 4) will take on 1995 World Cup winners Norway (rank 12) on the June 12 at the Stade de Nice in Nice. Following their matches against Nigeria and Korea Republic respectively, it will be the first big test for both of these historic heavyweights.

Importantly, the result from this game will decide the very different trajectories of both teams: if they top their group, they may be on a collision course with the winner of Group F, likely either current title-holders USA or fellow European heavyweights Sweden. A second-placed finish, on the other hand, would see them play the second-placed team in Group C, which would likely be Australia or Brazil.

France and Norway are perhaps the most even teams in terms of their past results. Having played each other ten times, both teams have won three games each, while the remaining four have been draws. In their last five meetings, neither team has defeated the other by more than a single goal, while their draws have also been low-scoring affairs.

While Norway’s form in the most recent World Cups has dipped, getting knocked out in the group stage in 2011 and in the Round of 16 in 2015, France’s form has improved over the past two cycles: after only ever making it to the group stage in 2003, the hosts went on to finish fourth in 2011 and fifth in 2015.

Indeed, having only lost one game since March of 2018, France’s recent surge in form makes them the favourites in this particular match—as well as for the entire tournament.

Key players:

France: Eugenie Le Sommer (Olympique Lyon), Wendy Renard (Olympique Lyon)
Norway: Maren Mjelde (Chelsea), Caroline Graham Hansen (VfL Wolfsburg)

Head to Head:

July 2017: 1-1 (draw)
January 2016: 1-0 (France win)
June 2013: 1-0 (France win)
August 2009: 1-1 (draw)
March 2007: 1-0 (France win)

Past 5 results:

Denmark 4-0 (win)
Japan 3-1 (win)
Uruguay 6-0 (win)
Germany 0-1 (loss)
USA 3-1 (win)

New Zealand 1-0 (loss)
Poland 0-3 (win)
China 1-3 (win)
Denmark 2-1 (win)
Canada 1-0 (loss)

Group B: Germany v Spain

Germany during an international friendly against Japan in April

In just their second ever appearance at a World Cup, Spain (rank 13) will take on two-time World Cup winners Germany (rank 2) on June 12 at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes.

Having only played each other three times in their history, Spain will likely be encouraged by their most recent 0-0 draw against the Germans in November 2018. Previous to this, though, Germany thumped Spain 5-0 during the 2012 UEFA Women’s Championship; a tournament that they went on to win, after having won the previous five as well.

Germany’s history in the World Cup is one of the most illustrious: they haven’t been knocked out of the tournament before the quarterfinals, ever. By these standards, their fourth-place finish in 2015 was a disappointment, as was being knocked out in the quarterfinals of the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championship.

It is likely that these years were part of Germany’s re-building phase, bringing through a new generation of young talent, making them yet another favourite to take out the 2019 Women’s World Cup title. In saying that, Spain’s recent form has improved drastically, defeating both Brazil and the Netherlands in their past five matches. These performances are undoubtedly the product of the professionalisation of the Primera División Feminina—Spain’s top-tier women’s competition—where almost all of Spain’s players are based, and we can only expect them to get better from here.

Like the above Group A game, this match could be crucial in determining the paths of both teams. The team that tops Group B will progress to take on the best third-placed team from groups A, C, or D. This appears to be a much easier path to travel than the team who finishes second in Group B, who will take on the first-placed team of Group F—likely to be the USA or Sweden—in the Round of 16. This game, therefore, could be the most important of the entire Group, as it will decide who gets the easier path into the future stages of the competition.

Key Players:

Germany: Dzsenifer Marozsan (Olympique Lyon), Alexandra Popp (VfL Wolfsburg)
Spain: Jennifer Hermoso (Atlético Madrid), Vicky Losada (Barcelona)

Head to Head:

November 2018: 0-0 (draw)
April 2012: 5-0 (Germany win)
November 2011: 2-2 (draw)

Past 5 results:

Japan 2-2 (draw)
Sweden 2-1 (win)
France 1-0 (win)
Spain 0-0 (draw)
Italy 5-2 (win)

England 2-1 (loss)
Brazil 2-1 (win)
Switzerland 2-0 (win)
Poland 3-0 (loss)
Netherlands 2-0 (win)

Group C: Australia v Brazil

The Matildas and Brazil play each other in the 2018 Tournament of Nations

Group C contains two teams that make up one of the longest rivalries in international women’s football: Australia (rank 6) and Brazil (rank 10) will battle it out once again on June 13 at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier in a match that will almost certainly decide who claims top spot.

Having faced each other 13 times – including three times at World Cups – the results have been relatively even, with Australia claiming seven wins and Brazil claiming six. The last time the teams met in a World Cup was in the Round of 16 in 2015, where Kyah Simon snatched a late goal to take Australia through to the quarterfinals. However, Brazil would have their revenge at the 2016 Summer Olympics, defeating Australia 7-6 on penalties after their first ever draw at full-time.

This back-and-forth has made the rivalry one of the most exciting for the upcoming World Cup, but Australia will be heading into the match full of confidence, having won every game against Brazil since that Olympics loss.

Both teams know what it takes to progress far in the competition, with Australia having reached the Quarter Finals every tournament for the last three cycles (2015, 2011, 2007), while Brazil reached the quarterfinal in 2011 and the Final in 2007, ultimately losing to Germany 2-0.

Australia and Brazil are the two heavyweights of Group C (though Italy are a possible dark horse here), and the winner of this match will likely finish first in the group. The winner would progress to the Round of 16 to face the best third-placed team of Group A, B, or F, while the second-placed team will face the second-placed team of Group A, which would likely be either France or Norway. A win here is therefore imperative for an easier road into the deeper stages of the World Cup.

Key Players:

Australia: Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars, Perth Glory), Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride, Sydney FC)
Brazil: Marta (Orlando Pride), Ludmila (Atlético Madrid)

Head to Head:

July 2018: 1-3 (Australia win)
September 2017: 3-2 (Australia win)
September 2017: 2-1 (Australia win)
August 2017: 6-1 (Australia win)
August 2016: 0-0 (Brazil win 7-6 on penalties)

Past 5 results:


USA 5-3 (loss)
Argentina 3-0 (win)
Korea Republic 4-1 (win)
New Zealand 2-0 (win)
Chile 5-0 (win)

Scotland 1-0 (loss)
Spain 2-1 (loss)
USA 1-0 (loss)
England 2-1 (loss)
France 3-1 (loss)

Group D: Japan v England

England and Japan faced off in the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year

The final match day for Group D will see 2011 World Cup winners and 2015 runners-up Japan (rank 7) take on favourites, England (rank 3), on the June 19 at the Stade de Nice in Nice.

On paper, this appears to be a lop-sided affair: Japan’s past two World Cup campaigns, where they lost just once in each, has made them a frightening prospect in this particular tournament. Bolstered by the introduction of a new generation of players, some of whom won the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup last year, coupled with the confidence of winning the 2018 Asian Cup and 2018 Asian Games, means they boast an exciting mix of youthful energy and big tournament experience.

The Japanese association have been particularly clever with the way they have brought through young talent to sync up with World Cup cycles.

In saying that, though, England are going into the tournament as one of the favourites to take the title, building upon their third-place finish in 2015. Indeed, England’s recent surge in form – facilitated by the FA Women’s Super League becoming fully professional – and similar recruitment of young players (England also finished third at the U-20 WWC) makes this a mouth-watering contest.

Having also made the semi-finals of the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championship and winning the 2019 She Believes Cup, following their second-placed finish in 2018, England will be heading into this heavyweight clash full of confidence as well.

Having met just five times in their history, it’s England who has come out on top, winning two and drawing once. In their most recent match in March 2019, Japan lost to England 3-0 at the She Believes Cup, while Japan claimed the spoils during their 2015 World Cup run, defeating England 2-1. England was also the only team to defeat Japan during the latter’s run towards winning the 2011 World Cup.

Being on the final matchday, this game will certainly decide which of the two teams finish in first or second spot in Group D (though Scotland may also throw a spanner in the works). The winner of Group D will go on to play the best third-placed team of Groups B, E, or F, while the second-placed team will face the winner of Group E, which will likely be either the Netherlands or Canada. Topping the group is crucial in order to put either team on a smoother track to the Quarter Finals.

Key Players:

Japan: Saki Kumagai (Olympique Lyon), Kumi Yokoyama (AC Nagano Parceiro), Yuika Sugasawa (Urawa Red Diamonds)
England: Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Lucy Bronze (Olympique Lyon)

Head to Head:

March 2019: 0-3 (England win)
July 2015: 2-1 (Japan win)
June 2013: 1-1 (draw)
July 2011: 2-0 (England win)
September 2007: 2-2 (draw)

Past 5 results

Germany 2-2 (draw)
France 3-1 (loss)
England 0-3 (loss)
Brazil 1-3 (win)
USA 2-2 (draw)

Spain 2-1 (win)
Canada 1-0 (loss)
Japan 0-3 (win)
USA 2-2 (draw)
Brazil 2-1 (win)

Group E: Netherlands v Canada

Like the game mentioned above, the final match day in Group E will also see the two group heavyweights—the Netherlands (rank 8) and Canada (rank 5)—facing off to determine who will likely top their group on June 20 at the Stade August-Delaune in Reims.

Having only played each other four times in their history, and not once since early 2016, both teams will be heading into the clash off the back of a number of confidence-boosting performances over the past 18 months.

These two teams have not been particularly dominant in World Cup tournaments, with the exception of Canada finishing fourth in 2003 (the Netherlands only qualified for the first time in 2015); instead, it’s their more recent campaigns, including European Championships and Olympic Games, that have shown what each nation is capable of.

The Netherlands surprised many by taking out the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championships, defeating Denmark 4-2, and then backing up that performance by winning the 2018 Algarve Cup.

Meanwhile, despite not doing particularly well in the last three World Cup cycles, Canada boasts two third-place finishes in the past two Olympic Games in 2016 and 2012, as well as being runners-up in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship in 2018 and the 2017 Algarve Cup.

The winner of this game will likely finish first in Group E and will progress to the Round of 16 where they will play the second-placed team of Group D, which may be one of either England, Scotland, or Japan. The second-placed team in Group E will face the second-placed team of Group F, likely either USA or Sweden.

Even though Group E may be one of the ‘easier’ groups this year, the path to the final appears to be difficult no matter which path they take.

Players to watch:

Canada: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyon)
Netherlands: Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal), Lieke Martens (Barcelona)

Head to Head:

April 2016: 1-2 (Canada win)
June 2015: 1-1 (draw)
March 2013: 0-1 (Canada win)
March 2012: 0-1 (Canada win)

Past 5 results:

Chile 7-0 (win)
Mexico 2-0 (win)
China 1-1 (win 2-4 on penalties)
Poland 0-1 (loss)
Spain 2-0 (loss)

Nigeria 2-1 (win)
England 1-0 (win)
Sweden 0-0 (win 6-5 on penalties)
Scotland 1-0 (win)
Iceland 0-0 (draw)

Group F: Sweden v USA

On the final match day of all groups, Group F heavyweights Sweden (rank 9) will take on long-time rivals USA (rank 1) on June 20 at the Stade Océane in Le Havre, with the winner almost certainly topping the group.

Like Australia vs Brazil, Sweden and the USA have a long, fraught history. They first played each other at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, where the USA would defeat Sweden 2-3, going on to win the entire tournament that year, and then twice more in 1999 and 2015.

However, Sweden has regularly been a thorn in the USA’s side, drawing 0-0 with them at the 2015 World Cup and most recently defeating them 3-4 on penalties at the quarterfinal stage of the 2016 Olympic Games; a result that pre-empted the ban and eventual banishment of veteran goalkeeper Hope Solo from the USA team.

While the USA has never finished below third place in a World Cup, making them the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, one shouldn’t underestimate the energy and spirit that this old rivalry could bring their final-match-day contest. Indeed, Sweden is no strangers to the further reaches of the World Cup, having finished third in 2011. They also finished runners-up in 2003, as well as runners-up in the 2016 Olympic Games, proving that they may not be so easy to brush aside.

The winner of this game will likely top Group F, meaning they will take on the second-placed team of Group B, which may be either Germany, Spain, or China. Meanwhile, the second-placed team in Group F will play the second-placed team of Group E, which will likely be the Netherlands or Canada. Whether these possible trajectories play into the team’s approach in this match is yet to be seen.

Key Players:

USA: Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals)
Sweden: Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea), Caroline Seger (FC Rosengård)

Head to Head:

June 2017: 0-1 (USA win)
August 2016: 1-1 (Sweden win 3-4 on penalties)
August 2015: 0-0 (draw)
March 2014: 1-0 (Sweden win)
March 2013: 1-1 (draw)

Past 5 results:

Belgium 6-0 (win)
Australia 5-3 (win)
Brazil 1-0 (win)
England 2-2 (draw)
Japan 2-2 (draw)

Austria 0-2 (win)
Germany 1-2 (loss)
Canada 0-0 (lost 6-5 on penalties)
Portugal 2-1 (loss)
Switzerland 4-1 (win)