The Women's World Cup kicks off on Friday, June 7 when hosts France take on South Korea. Here's your complete guide to the six groups all vying for glory.
World ranking: 4
Best World Cup performance: Fourth place 2011
Coach: Corinne Diacre
Star player: Eugenie Le Sommer
Ligue 1’s Lyon reaffirmed France’s top spot in European football this season, winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive Champions League title, with plaudits calling them the most dominant team in world sport. No less than seven Lyon players will help hosts France in their hunt for their first world title.
World ranking: 12
Best World Cup performance: Winners 1994
Coach: Even Pellerud
Star player: Maren Mjelde
All the talk has focused on one player who isn't part of Norway's squad: Ada Hegerberg. The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner left herself out of selection due to a dispute over the national federations treatment of female players. “It can be tough to stand alone for something you believe in," she said in a recent interview.
World ranking: 38
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals 1999
Coach: Thomas Dennerby
Star player: Asisat Oshoala
The women’s national team have recently spoken out about the lack of equality in Nigerian football - pointing to their bonuses which came to only a third of the men’s teams. Their dominance in the continent is noteworthy, winning nine of the last 11 African Cup of Nations, helping them to qualify for every single World Cup since the tournament’s inception in 1991.
World ranking: 14
Best World Cup performance: Round of 16 2015
Coach: Yoon Deok-yeo
Star player: Ji So-yun
In only their third World Cup qualification, South Korea go to France with a big challenge if they want to better their performance of four years ago. Facing the strength of the African champions, former winners in Norway and the pressure of opening the tournament against the fancied hosts will be no easy task - though Chelsea’s Ji So-yun, their all-time greatest goalscorer, will be on hand to help.
World ranking: 2
Best World Cup performance: Winners (2003, 2007)
Coach: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg
Star player: Dzsenifer Marozsán
Germany remain the only nation to ever retain the Women’s World Cup, and yet their squad announcement video on social media last month showed the lack of recognition their numerous accolades have earned them. Their collective eye-rolling reaction to being gifted a tea set for winning a tournament and the players’ tongue-in-cheek questioning to camera (‘Do you know my name? Didn’t think so’) set the tone perfectly for a tournament being touted as a game-changer in the profile of the women’s game.
World ranking: 15
Best World Cup performance: Runner’s up (1999)
Coach: Jia Xiuquan
Star player: Wang Shuang
Formerly the dominant force in Asian women’s football, winning eight AFC Asian Cups and hosting the first World Cup in 1991, China have had less success over the last decade or so. Now Asia’s fifth-ranked team, their ambitions are lofty, with head coach Jia Xiuquan - a former men’s team player - setting his aims at reaching the final, if not winning the tournament outright.
World ranking: 13
Best World Cup performance: Group stages 2015
Coach: Jorge Vilda Rodriquez
Star player: Marta Torrejon
It was not until 1980 when Spain officially formed its first national women’s side during the country’s transition to democracy following the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Nicknamed La Rioja, the side miraculously progressed to the last eight of the 2017 European Championships despite not scoring a single goal in 345 minutes of the competition. The side lost to Austria in a penalty shoot-out after the game finished goalless.
World ranking: 49
Best World Cup performance: N/A
Coach: Desiree Ellis
Star player: Noko Matlou Nicknamed Banyana Banyana (The Girls), South Africa will be hoping to progress beyond the group stages having exited at this stage at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics. The side’s captain, Janine van Wyk, is the most capped player to represent the nation - male or female. The defender earned her 150th cap in September last year and currently holds the record as the most capped South African player of all time, with 166.
World ranking: 15
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals 1991
Coach: Milena Bertolini
Star player: Manuela Giugliano Italy are in the mix for the first time since 1999 after missing out on the last four World Cups. Their woes at missing out on a 2015 spot in a final play-off were assuaged by qualification this time, but because of their hiatus from the top echelons of the game, not a single member of the current squad has been to the tournament before. With Australia and Brazil standing in their way, this is a tough group to try to progress from.
World ranking: 10
Best World Cup performance: Runners-up 2007
Star player: Marta Brazil have possibly the most recognisable name in women’s football heading their team in Marta, but the story of the squad announcement was Formiga’s inclusion. The 41-year-old midfielder, who plays for PSG, announced her retirement from international football after the Rio Olympics, but it seems could not help but return. France will be a record seventh World Cup for the Brazilian, who has amassed 167 international caps since 1995.
World ranking: 6
Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals 2007, 2011, 2015
Coach: Ante Milicic
Star player: Sam Kerr Australia have lacked stability in the build up to the competition, with previous coach Alen Stajcic sacked in January and replaced by Ante Milicic. Milicic heads into the tournament with less than four months experience as the Matildas’ head coach, and made a bold decision in omitting Kyah Simon from the squad. The Houston Dash striker has scored five times in two previous World Cups, but recent injuries have left her with minimum playing time in the last months. Mary Fowler made the cut instead, and at 16 is the youngest player confirmed for the tournament.
World ranking: 53
Best World Cup performance: n/a
Coach: Hue Menzies
Star player: Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw Jamaica became the first Caribbean team ever to qualify for the World Cup, following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Panama last year. Nicknamed the Reggae Girlz, the team were saved by financial ruin in 2014 by Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella, who organised and contributed to fundraisers to aid the ailing side. Now, after a long 12-match qualifying campaign, Jamaica are making their tournament debut - thanks in part to Shaw’s 19-goal contribution.
World ranking: 3
Best World Cup performance: Third place, 2015
Coach: Phil Neville
Star player: Lucy Bronze
The England head coach, Phil Neville, has little doubt that his side can go on to win the World Cup - an expectation he has never shied away from expressing publicly. There are, however, still some unanswered questions as the tournament looms ever-closer: what, for instance, is Neville’s best starting XI? Often Neville’s reign has impressed and concerned in equal measure, but despite the absence of midfielders Jordan Nobbs and Izzy Christiansen, Neville boasts a wealth of world-class players. Neville feels his captain, centre back Steph Houghton, is playing the football of her career; he argues often that Lyon’s Lucy Bronze is the best player in the world and the right back has just won her second successive Champions League with the French champions. The former Manchester City striker Nikita Parris finished second top scorer in the Women’s Super League this season and recently followed Bronze across to France, having been named the Football Writers’ Association player of the year.
World ranking: 20
Best World Cup performance: First World Cup
Star player: Kim Little
Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr has attributed the rise of the Scotland national team over the past few years not only to the work of her predecessor, Anna Signeul, but the increased professionalism across women’s football that ensures many of her players are full-time professionals - a world away from her own experiences. After winning the first of her 59 caps for Scotland in 1989, aged 18, Kerr worked on working on a VCR assembly line at Mitsubishi, and had a daughter, Christie, now 22.
Famous for making history as the first woman to coach a senior men’s side in Britain when she took over Stirling University, Kerr’s bold steps followed an 18 month stint as Arsenal women’s manager, in which she won three trophies.
Her Scotland side have similar pedigree, from the WSL alone, Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert is a Champions League semi-finalist; Lisa Evans and Kim Little are reigning champions with Arsenal; Jen Beattie and Caroline Weir FA Cup winners with Manchester City; Jane Ross an FA Cup finalist with West Ham; Manchester United’s Lizzie Arnot will join them in the top tier next season. Kerr has tasked her players with escaping the group but it is not hard to imagine them causing England problems when the pair meet in Nice.
World ranking: 7
Best World Cup performance: Winners, 2011
Coach: Asako Takakura
Star player: Aya Sameshima
The 'Nadeshiko' head to France with grand plans of reaching a third successive final of a tournament they won eight years ago. A young squad has been assembled with one eye looking further ahead to the 2020 Toyko Olympics. Of the Japanese's 23-player squad, 14 are aged 23 or younger. Aya Sameshima, at 31 years-old, is one of the more experienced members and was part of the 2011 triumph in Germany. Japan have an impeccable record at the World Cup, qualifying for all eight editions.
World ranking: 37
Best World Cup performance: Group stages 2003, 2007
Coach: Carlos Borrello
Star player: Sole Jaimes
Argentina feature only nine professional players in their squad with several of their players - including Sole Jaimes, veteran midfielder Mariela Coronel and co-captains Florencia Bonsegundo and Estefani Banini - plying their trade in Europe. Changes are afoot in Argentina, though, and this month will see the creation of a domestic league competition, with the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) covering the players' wages.
World ranking: 8
Best World Cup performance: Last 16, 2015
Coach: Sarina Wiegman
Key player: Vivianne Miedema
Head coach Sarina Wiegman was the first Dutch player to gain 100 caps for her country and was honoured with a shield awarded by the then head coach of the men’s national team, Louis van Gaal. After hanging up her boots, she embarked on a managerial career which saw her lead the side to Euro glory on home soil in 2017. Vivianne Miedema lit up the WSL season, helping to drive Arsenal to the title, and bagging PFA’s Player of the Year.
World ranking: 5
Best World Cup performance: Fourth place, 2003
Coach: Kenneth Heiner-Moller
Key player: Christine Sinclair
The hosts of the 2015 World Cup, Canada boast one of the world’s leading international goalscorers in Christine Sinclair. The 35-year-old and captain of the national side has netted 181 times for her country and could break the all-time international goalscoring record, which is held by the USA’s Abby Wambach at 184. A potent midfielder who is widely regarded as Canada’s best female footballer of all time, this tournament will be her fifth Fifa World Cup.
World ranking: 19
Best World Cup performance: Group stage
Coach: Tom Sermanni
Key player: Ria Percival
It’s proving quite a summer for New Zealand midfielder Katie Duncan, who will become a mum this July with her wife, former Former Fern Priscilla Duncan. Katie came out of international retirement earlier this year and her World Cup selection was announced over social media by her wife, Priscilla, who now works as part of Fifa’s communications team. Meanwhile, West Ham’s Ria Percival became the first New Zealander to play in an FA Cup final at Wembley, when her side lost to Manchester City last month.
World ranking: 46
Best World Cup performance: Last 16, 2015
Coach: Alain Djeumfa
Key player: Madeleine Michele Ngono Mani
Known as the Indomitable Lionesses, Cameroon’s journey to their second World Cup saw them record a 10-0 rout over minnows Congo. Despite never having won the African Cup of Nations - being defeated four times in the final - the squad is packed with both experience and youth - from veteran captain Madeleine Michele Ngono Mani to midfielder Raissa Feudjio, who made her debut for Cameroon at the London 2012 Olympics at the age of 16.
World ranking: 9
Best World Cup performance: Runners-up, 2003
Coach: Peter Gerhardsson
Key player: Sofia Jacobsson
At 36, Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl is limbering up for her fifth World Cup. Since making her international debut, the veteran keeper has become the face of women’s Swedish football and has amassed over 150 caps for her country. Ahead of the tournament, the Chelsea keeper - who will not be returning to the London club after the summer - trained with Swedish second tier side Superettan. “I’ve always loved these ad hoc sessions with a men’s team. They can challenge me in different ways and you know me, I love a challenge!” she posted on her Instagram page.
World ranking: 39
Best World Cup performance: First World Cup Coach: Jose Letelier
Key player: María José Rojas
After Chile failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, the country's national federation did not arrange any matches or training sessions for two years. The team dropped from 41st to 128th in the Fifa rankings. But Fernanda Pinilla, the team's 24-year-old fullback, has acted as president of the female players' union, and increased the visibility of the sport and improved conditions for female footballers. Surprisingly, Pinilla was left out of Chile's 23-player squad by coach Jose Letelier.
Best World Cup performance: Champions, 1991, 1999, 2015
Key player: Alex Morgan
Defending champions and coached by Englishwoman Jill Ellis. Influential striker Megan Rapinoe has gone from patriotic national champion to cultural critic in her country, becoming as famous for her activism on and off the field. The 2015 World Cup winner became the first white woman to kneel at the American national anthem in protest against the administration of current US president, Donald Trump in 2016. Rapinoe has since announced she would take her protest to France and declared: 'I'll probably never sing the national anthem again."
World ranking: 34
Best World Cup performance: Group stage, 2015
Coach: Nuengruethai Sathongwien
Key player: Pikul Khueanpet
The Chaba Kaew used to be managed by former English defender Spencer Prior, who started his playing career at Southend before going on to win the League Cup with Leicester in 1997. After a stint as the assistant coach of the Matildas in 2011, Prior signed a two-year contract with the Thailand women's national team. He stepped down after claiming silver at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, when Nuengruethai Sathongwien - who guided Thailand to their first World Cup - returned as manager.