Women's World Cup outright tips: Who to back to win in France
With the tournament getting under way this week, we give our best tips to lift the trophy in Lyon this summer.
Best outright bet
Only four different countries have ever won the Women’s World Cup since its inception in 1991, and those are the names we should be looking at this time.
The USA have been most successful with three titles, including the last edition in 2015, and have never finished out of the top four.
Crucially, they travel to France in ominous form, having won each of their last six matches and lost just one in 39.
That run includes winning the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship to qualify for the World Cup, where Jill Ellis’ side won six out of six and scored 26 goals without reply.
Their path out of the group looks favourable, too.
The USWNT play Thailand in their opening match, having beaten them 9-0 when the two sides last met in 2016, before facing World Cup debutants Chile who are ranked 11 places lower than the Thais.
Sweden come next, although it’s likely they will have already secured qualification to the knock-out rounds by then.
The biggest obstacle from then onwards is a potential quarter-final meeting with hosts and joint-favourites France should both sides top their group.
Les Bleus beat a depleted USA 3-1 in a friendly in January, but had failed to win any their previous three meetings.
It’s a predictable bet, but the defending champions should be backed to lift the World Cup for a fourth time at .
If not USA, then who?
If you don’t fancy the Stars and Stripes, then the next-best bet is England.
The Lionesses finished third in the 2015 World Cup, having lost 2-1 to Japan in the semi-final after a stoppage-time own goal from defender Laura Bassett.
They beat Germany 1-0 after extra time to claim the bronze and can build on that success in France.
Phil Neville’s side won the SheBelieves Cup in March this year, drawing 2-2 with USA and beating both Brazil and Japan on the way.
They should top Group D, which they share with tournament debutants Scotland, Argentina – who have lost all six World Cup games they have played in – and Japan.
The toughest game in the knock-out rounds is likely to be a semi-final with either USA or France, who they drew with and beat respectively in their most-recent meetings.
They come into the tournament on the back of a friendly defeat to New Zealand, which has justifiably led to concern.
But, at , the side ranked No.3 in the world are an enticing option if you don’t want to back the favourite.
Elsewhere, Japan offer some each-way value.
They were losing finalists to USA at the previous World Cup, having beaten Netherlands, Australia and England in the knock-out stages.
Asako Takakura’s side share a group with England this time around and, while they are unlikely to beat them to top spot, a second-placed finish could be beneficial for them.
Finishing as runners-up in Group D means Japan would be likely to go into the opposite side of the knock-out draw to Australia, England, France and USA.
They won the 2018 Asian Cup to qualify for this tournament and come into it having lost just two of their last 12 matches, against England and France.
Japan have beaten Brazil and drawn with Germany in that sequence – two sides they could be on course to meet in the latter stages – so looks a big price.
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