The Women’s World Cup begins tomorrow in Germany. It’s expected to be the largest Women’s only sporting event ever, with an expected crowd of 75,000 for the opening match between Germany and Canada. Sepp Blatter’s helpful suggestions that the ladies “wear tighter shorts” and cultivate “a more female aesthetic” were politely ignored. ESPN will be going all in on this and televising every match. You might as well have a few talking points. Here’s a look at the favorites.
Germany: The home team has won seven of eight European championships, and the last two World Cups. They won in 2007 without conceding a goal. This is the last hurrah for striker Birgit Prinz, the female Gerd Muller, who will retire after the tournament. Their Under-20 team is also making a name for themselves. Most betting sites give Deutschland even odds at finishing uber alles.
Brazil: They have the playing style of the men’s team, without the success. They crushed the U.S. 4-0 in the Hope Solo/Briana Scurry semifinal debacle in 2007, but lost 2-0 to Germany in the final. They have Marta, winner of five consecutive FIFA Player of the Year awards. They also have a slightly easier route, not having to play Germany or the U.S. until the final.
USA: The Americans are No. 1 in the uber-accurate FIFA rankings, but they were also the last team to qualify, resorting to a playoff after losing out in CONCACAF qualification to Mexico and Canada. Brandi Chastain’s shirt removal in 1999 was an indelible image, but this team is well aware that’s the last time they won. The U.S. is rebuilding, the rest of the world has improved greatly the last 12 years and American fans will view anything less than winning the tournament as a failure. The team’s performance could also make or break Women’s Professional Soccer in this country. No pressure!
The player to watch will be Alex Morgan. She’s the youngest player on the team, the most dynamic U.S. striker and, likely, will be starting from the bench.
Darkhorses: Keep an eye on the British Commonwealth. Canada, England and Australia all could make some noise.
Familiarity: For the third consecutive World Cup, the U.S., Sweden and North Korea have been drawn in the same group. Odds of that happening? About 0.1 percent.