Welcome to The Football Sack’s Dummies Guide to the Women’s World Cup where you can catch-up on everything you need to know in time for kick-off on Sunday! Come back every day this week for the next chapter of the Dummies Guide.

Dummies Guide to the Women’s World Cup: Chapter Five

USA

The USA will enter the tournament the same way they’ve entered the last few World Cups: as one of the favourites, and subsequently, under a lot of pressure.

Despite their dominance of the game over the last decade and a half, the USA haven’t won the World Cup since they hosted it in 1999. That’s a long time between drinks and their outlook for the tournament is clear: win or bust.

For many of the experienced squad this is the last chance they’ll have to win the cup. It’s lucky they’ll have a strong squad, full of potential match-winners.

Despite Hope Solo and Abby Wambach being four years older than they were in Germany, they remain important players for the team, whilst Alex Morgan and Lauren Holiday are capable of striking fear into the hearts of defences everywhere.

The fact the team are relatively fit heading to Canada – bar Morgan’s minor injury – also bodes well for them. They find themselves in the group of death with Sweden, Australia and Nigeria, and whilst they’re expected to qualify top, a good start is essential to their tournament.

However, drop points against Australia in the opening match and the media will perk up, providing an unwanted distraction.

Japan

The Japanese side will arrive in Canada with a target on their back. Following their victory at Germany 2011 it’s only natural they’ll be one of the teams to beat.

Scary thought; their coach, the highly acclaimed Norio Sasaki, believes his current charges are even better now than they were four years ago.

Most of the same faces are back, including captain Homare Sawa, the Golden Boot winner in Germany, and midfield general Aya Miyama. They’ve enjoyed good form since their victory, claiming a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, winning their first ever Asian Cup in 2014, and currently hold a world ranking of third.

If there are question marks it’s over the age of the squad. Retaining most of the same names from their triumph at the last World Cup means they will have the second oldest squad at the tournament, behind the USA.

While they’ll certainly carry a lot of experience there are just four players under 26 years old, and just one – Bayern Munich forward Mana Iwabuchi – is under 24 years of age. A lack of youthful exuberance just may be their undoing.

Germany

Four years on from hosting the tournament, Germany will look to do what they could not do on home soil and hoist the trophy.

Since the last tournament they’ve gone from strength to strength. Currently ranked number one by FIFA, they were superb in qualifying, scoring 62 goals and conceding just four on their way to winning all 10 games. They also won the Algarve Cup, an annual invitational tournament, last year and thrashed Brazil 4-0 earlier this year.

The imposing Annike Krahn and Babett Peter marshal a miserly defence, while Celia Sasic and Alexandra Popp provide the firepower up front. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and lollypops; last year’s Ballon d’Or recipient, attacking midfielder Nadine Keßler, has been ruled out of the entire tournament due to a knee injury, whilst PSG’s Fatmire Alushi will miss out through pregnancy.

In spite of the high-calibre absentees, this is still a strong German team who should qualify top of their group and are highly favoured to go deep into the tournament. Another victory would make it three cups from the last four tournaments, and if that isn’t motivation, nothing is.

France

Semi-finalists last time around, can the French go two better and win the entire thing? It’s certainly not out of the question.

Runners-up at this year’s Algarve Cup, they breezed through qualifying, going unbeaten on the back of a 14-goal haul from Gaëtane Thiney. In the last year, they’ve also beaten USA, England and Brazil, albeit in friendlies.

The dangerous Louisa Nécib will pull the strings in midfield, and she’ll look to create plenty of opportunities for the front three of Thiney, Marie-Laure Delie and Camille Abily.

A tough group, containing England, Columbia and Mexico, will test the French early and should allow the world to see what they’re made of. They’ve got the squad to go all the way; it’s up to them to step up to the plate, overcome any possible mental barriers standing in their way, and claim the trophy.

Sweden

Sweden arrives in Canada knowing they’ll have a tough task getting out of the group stage, let alone winning the whole thing.

Placed in the group of death with the USA, Australia and Nigeria isn’t the ideal way to start to the tournament, but it would be no surprise to see the Swedes advance.

Captain Lotta Schelin and Sofia Jakobsson are a handful for defenders, whilst Therese Sjögran, Caroline Seger and Nilla Fischer form part of an experienced spine. They also have a not-so-secret weapon in the form of coach Pia Sundhage.

The experienced Sundhage led the USA to two Olympic gold medals, and oversaw their second-place finish at the last World Cup before electing to return to her home country. With Sundhage at the helm, one would be a fool to write off the Swedes.

The Football Sack’s Dummies Guide to the Women’s World Cup
Tune in each day for the next chapter

Chapter One: Matildas World Cup History
Chapter Two: Stars of 2015
Chapter Three: W-League Imports
Chapter Four: Five Moments that Mattered
Chapter Five: The Contenders
Chapter Six: Meet the Matildas

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