US favourites in toughest-ever Women’s World Cup field - GulfToday

US favourites in toughest-ever Women’s World Cup field

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France players arrive for a training session in Paris on Thursday, on the eve of their opening World Cup match against South Korea. Agence France-Presse

The US may be favourites to retain their Women’s World Cup title but the rapid development of the game globally means they will face a tougher field than ever before when the tournament gets underway in France on Friday.

The US look to have secured a relatively easy draw with their first two games against Chile and Thailand, but Sweden will pose a problem in their final encounter, which is likely to decide the outcome of Group F.

Hundreds of thousands of tickets have been sold and world governing body FIFA is banking on the women’s game taking a huge step forward on the back of a successful tournament.

The eighth edition of the Women’s World Cup will be contested by 24 teams in nine cities across France, with the hosts facing South Korea in the opening game at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

The top two in each of the six qualifying groups will advance to the knockout stages, where they will be joined by the four best third-placed teams.

The semi-finals and final will be staged in Lyon, home to powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais, historically the most successful club in women’s football in France, with the showpiece match slated for July 7.

With a passionate home crowd behind them and a strong domestic league, the French will fancy their chances on home soil, while England, Australia, Germany and Japan will also hope to lift the trophy.

Though France have a tough draw in Group A alongside South Korea, Norway and Nigeria, they will look to win it outright to give themselves the best chance of an easy route through the knockout rounds.

Former champions Norway will be without Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, who has declined to play for the national side since the end of Euro 2017, citing disagreements over how the team is run.

Reuters

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