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Group-by-group preview, analysis, Matildas, Group of Death, Sam Kerr, Alex Morgan, USWNT, star players, who to watch, latest, updates

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is almost upon us.

It will be the biggest iteration of the tournament yet with 32 teams competing across eight groups.

So, who are the favourites among the raft of nations and who could we expect as a surprise package?

Read on for a GROUP-BY-GROUP PREVIEW!

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PART ONE: Preview of EVERY group and which players could catch your eye

PART TWO: Three burning Matildas questions and why their Group B rivals are a threat

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Group A:

NEW ZEALAND (FIFA ranking 26)

Coach: Jitka Klimkova (CZE)

Star player: CJ Bott (Leicester City)

Best World Cup performance: Group stage (1991, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)

The co-hosts are heading into their sixth Women’s World Cup having so far failed to win any of their 15 previous matches at the finals.

They have never got out of their group at the tournament and it would be a surprise if they did so this time, even with the advantage of having a home crowd behind them.

A positive result of any sort in their first match — and the tournament’s opening game — against Norway at Auckland’s Eden Park on July 20 would be a huge confidence boost.

Ranked 26th in the world, the Football Ferns are coached by the Czech Jitka Klimkova, the former national Under-17 coach who took over in 2021.

They may be lacking in household names, but look out for CJ Bott, a full-back with English WSL side Leicester City.

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NORWAY (FIFA ranking 12)

Coach: Hege Riise (NOR)

Star player: Ada Hegerberg (Lyon)

Best World Cup performance: winners (1995)

Norway were powerhouses of the women’s game as they reached the final of the first World Cup in 1991 and then lifted the trophy four years later.

Recent performances have been more underwhelming. They lost comfortably to England in the 2019 quarter-finals and then went out of Euro 2022 in the group stage after a humiliating 8-0 defeat against the English.

The appointment as coach of former star player Hege Riise after the Euros has led to an improvement. Norway cruised through World Cup qualifying and in recent months have beaten the Netherlands, and held England, France and Sweden.

They have depth to their squad, with Chelsea’s Guro Reiten offering creativity from midfield alongside Barcelona duo Ingrid Syrstad Engen and Caroline Graham Hansen.

Then there is Ada Hegerberg, the 2018 Women’s Ballon d’Or winner and prolific striker who will be eager to impress after refusing to play at the 2019 World Cup.

Will hope to get to the last eight at least.

Guro Reiten looms as a key player for Norway. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Guro Reiten looms as a key player for Norway. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

PHILIPPINES (FIFA ranking 46)

Coach: Alen Stajcic (AUS)

Star player: Sarina Bolden (Western Sydney Wanderers/AUS)

Best World Cup performance: first appearance

The 46th-ranked Philippines are appearing at their first Women’s World Cup, fresh from reaching the semi-finals at last year’s Women’s Asian Cup and winning the AFF Women’s Championship for teams from Southeast Asia.

They also took bronze at last year’s Southeast Asian Games but can be under no illusions as to the size of the task awaiting them in New Zealand.

They are rank outsiders in Group A, although in Alen Stajcic they have an experienced coach who has previously managed his native Australia at the Women’s World Cup.

Will hope to cause a surprise or two with Australia-based forward Sarina Bolden providing the main goal threat.

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SWITZERLAND (FIFA ranking 20)

Coach: Inka Grings (GER)

Star player: Ramona Bachmann (Paris Saint-Germain)

Best World Cup performance: last 16 (2015)

Qualified for just their second Women’s World Cup by beating Wales in a playoff after coming second to Italy in their qualifying group.

Will now hope to make a greater impression than at last year’s European Championship, when they went out in the group stage without winning a match.

Former German international Inka Grings took over at the beginning of the year and is aiming to take a side led by Paris Saint-Germain’s Ramona Bachmann and Barcelona’s Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic into the knockout stages.

That would boost morale ahead of Euro 2025, which the Swiss will host.

Ramona Bachmann will be tasked with guiding Switzerland to the knockout stages. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

GROUP B

AUSTRALIA (FIFA ranking 10)

Coach: Tony Gustavsson (SWE)

Star player: Sam Kerr (Chelsea)

Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals (2007, 2011, 2015)

The Matildas have featured at seven World Cups and never progressed beyond the quarter-finals.

But on home soil and with momentum from a string of encouraging results, they are among the favourites with perhaps their most talented squad ever.

Much will depend on the form of Chelsea striker Sam Kerr, Australia’s skipper and leading goalscorer who is one of the superstars of women’s football. She will be the face of the tournament.

Kerr is supported by a host of quality players, including Lyon’s Ellie Carpenter, Caitlin Foord of Arsenal and Manchester City duo Mary Fowler and Alanna Kennedy.

Their Swedish coach Tony Gustavsson was appointed in 2020 and took time to settle in. He now faces the biggest test of his career.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (FIFA ranking 22)

Coach: Vera Pauw (NED)

Star player: Katie McCabe (Arsenal)

Best World Cup performance: first appearance

Ireland scraped into their first World Cup with a playoff win over arch rivals Scotland, reversing decades of underperformance.

Former Netherlands manager Vera Pauw has been central to the turnaround, along with captain and Arsenal talisman McCabe.

In the qualifiers they beat Georgia, held Sweden to a draw and moved to a playoff place with narrow wins over Finland and Slovakia.

In the playoff, Amber Barrett’s 72nd-minute strike was enough to propel them past Scotland and into a maiden finals.

Along with the versatile McCabe, Ireland will rely heavily on experienced US-based Denise O’Sullivan and Birmingham City’s Louise Quinn, who both have more than 100 caps each.

Katie McCabe is Ireland’s talisman. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

NIGERIA (FIFA ranking 40)

Coach: Randy Waldrum (USA)

Star player: Asisat Oshoala (Barcelona)

Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals (1999)

The Super Falcons are by far Africa’s most successful international women’s football team, winning 11 Africa Cup of Nations titles, most recently in 2018.

One of the few nations to have qualified for every World Cup, they are contesting their ninth in Australia and New Zealand, with their best result the quarter-finals in 1999.

In Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala they boast one of the greatest African footballers of all time in the women’s game, while inspirational captain Onome Ebi will be playing in an incredible sixth World Cup at age 40.

CANADA (FIFA ranking 7)

Coach: Beverly Priestman (ENG)

Star player: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns, USA)

Best World Cup performance: Fourth place (2003)

The Tokyo Olympic gold medallists have qualified for every World Cup except the first in 1991, with a fourth-placed finish in 2003 the highlight so far.

They enter this tournament after a disrupted build-up that saw them threaten to strike over pay, funding and contractual issues.

They are also missing key forward Janine Beckie, who has a knee injury. That makes 40-year-old skipper Christine Sinclair, who is the all-time leading scorer in international football, even more pivotal.

Now in her 23rd year on the Canadian team, she is at her sixth World Cup and has made more than 300 appearances for her country.

“We’re going there to win it,” she declared last week.

Christine Sinclair is competing at her sixth World Cup with Canada. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

GROUP C

SPAIN (FIFA ranking 6)

Coach: Jorge Vilda (ESP)

Star player: Alexia Putellas (Barcelona)

Best World Cup performance: Last 16 (2019)

Spain’s preparations were thrown into turmoil last year when 15 players declared themselves unavailable “until situations that affect our emotional and personal state” were resolved.

The players were unhappy with several issues, including the leadership of coach Jorge Vilda. The Spanish federation nevertheless backed him to lead the team into the World Cup.

Three of the 15 were named in the squad for Australia and New Zealand after agreements with the federation were reached on some points, but that means Spain are missing key players.

Twice Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas was included after returning from injury.

Despite the disruption Spain have been mostly winning since the protest began, their only defeat coming against co-hosts Australia.

Vilda’s side remain a serious contender in spite of the off-field troubles.

COSTA RICA (FIFA ranking 36)

Coach: Amelia Valverde (CRC)

Star player: Raquel Rodriguez (Portland Thorns, USA)

Best World Cup performance: Group stage (2015)

Costa Rica made an impact in their only previous World Cup appearance, in 2015, exiting at the group stage after conceding a late goal against Brazil in their final game.

That came after impressive draws against Spain and South Korea that belied their status as tournament minnows.

“Las Ticas” have struggled though for results going into this year’s tournament, losing five matches in a row before defeating fellow qualifiers Haiti 2-0.

Costa Rican great Shirley Cruz was a controversial omission from the squad in what was to have been her swan song.

But they can still call on the goalscoring midfielder Raquel Rodriguez and Priscila Chinchilla, who plays for Scottish champions Glasgow City.

Raquel Rodriguez provides plenty of goals from midfield. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

ZAMBIA (FIFA ranking 77)

Coach: Bruce Mwape (ZAM)

Star player: Barbra Banda (Shanghai Shengli, CHN)

Best World Cup performance: First appearance

Zambia was one of the first African countries to field a women’s team in the 1980s and they are now reaping the reward after qualifying for their first World Cup.

The Copper Queens are enjoying an unprecedented wave of success after also appearing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, where they claimed a draw with China and lost to Brazil by a single goal.

But an Olympic-record 10-3 thrashing by the Netherlands exposed Zambia’s lack of experience at the top level and they go into the World Cup as the tournament’s lowest-ranked team.

That said, they stunned Germany — one of the World Cup favourites — 3-2 away in a friendly last week with skipper Barbra Banda scoring twice.

The forward, who hit back-to-back hat-tricks at the Tokyo Olympics, has been cleared to play after missing last year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations because she had excessive natural testosterone levels.

JAPAN (FIFA ranking 11)

Coach: Futoshi Ikeda (JPN)

Star player: Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City)

Best World Cup performance: Winners (2011)

Japan have fallen behind the top teams since winning the World Cup in 2011 but they remain dangerous and will be looking to re-establish their credentials in Australia and New Zealand.

More Japanese players now ply their trade overseas and Manchester City’s Yui Hasegawa and Angel City’s Jun Endo are among those bringing a new dimension to the national team.

Defender Saki Kumagai, who scored the penalty that won Japan the title in 2011, is the only World Cup winner still around, with Tottenham forward Mana Iwabuchi a surprise omission from the squad.

Recent results have been up and down, and wins over the world’s top sides have been scarce.

But Japan still have plenty of pedigree and coach Futoshi Ikeda knows his players well after previously taking charge of national youth sides.

Manchester City star Yui Hasegawa is a key player for Japan. (Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

GROUP D

ENGLAND (FIFA ranking 4)

Coach: Sarina Wiegman (NED)

Star player: Keira Walsh (Barcelona/ESP)

Best World Cup performance: Third place (2015)

England are reigning European champions and along with holders the United States favourites for the World Cup.

But if they are to win the tournament for the first time England will need to do it without several key players because of injury.

Captain Leah Williamson, Arsenal forward Beth Mead and Chelsea’s Fran Kirby will all miss out with knee injuries.

England’s form has also been a little patchy in recent months. They were held 1-1 by Brazil and then lost 2-0 at home to Australia as their 30-match unbeaten run came to an end.

England’s final warm-up match for the World Cup was an underwhelming 0-0 stalemate with Portugal at home.

But the Lionesses have strength in depth to make up for the injuries and in Sarina Wiegman they have one of the best coaches in the women’s game.

CHINA (FIFA ranking 14)

Coach: Shui Qingxia (CHN)

Star player: Wang Shuang (Racing Louisville/USA)

Best World Cup performance: Runners-up (1999)

China hosted the first Women’s World Cup, in 1991, were fourth in 1995 and then runners-up to the United States in 1999.

But since then they have been caught up and overtaken by the European countries in particular.

China squeezed into the knockout rounds in 2019 before bowing out 2-0 in the last 16 to Italy.

There were better signs however last year when they defeated former World Cup winners Japan in the semi-finals of the Women’s Asian Cup on penalties.

China then beat South Korea 3-2 in the final and attacking midfielder Wang Shuang, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain, was one of the players of the tournament with five goals.

Much will depend on Wuhan-born Wang if they are to make an impression in Australia and New Zealand.

Wang Shuang played an important role in helping China get to the World Cup. (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

HAITI (FIFA ranking 53)

Coach: Nicolas Delepine (FRA)

Star player: Melchie Dumornay (Lyon/FRA)

Best World Cup performance: First appearance

Haiti are one of the feel-good stories of this World Cup.

They defied instability back home to qualify for the first time in their history, via the play-offs.

The young squad, boasting a number of players who ply their trade in France, is considered something of a “golden generation”.

The undoubted pick is the 19-year-old Melchie Dumornay, whose performances for Stade de Reims earned her a move to heavyweights Lyon.

The attacking midfielder is considered one of the most promising players in world football.

Haiti will be many people’s second team, but it would be a shock if they get out of the group.

DENMARK (FIFA ranking 13)

Coach: Lars Sondergaard (DEN)

Star player: Pernille Harder (Bayern Munich/GER)

Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals (1991, 1995)

The Danes will be expected to make it out of the group along with England, having romped their way through qualifying with a perfect eight wins in eight matches.

Pernille Harder will be key if they are to equal or improve on their best World Cup showing of getting to the quarter-finals.

The skipper made her international debut aged 16 and promptly scored a hat-trick.

Now 30, she is a two-time UEFA Women’s Player of the Year and has been described by Chelsea manager Emma Hayes as “one of the best attacking players in the world”.

Recently left Chelsea at the end of her contract and joined Bayern.

Pernille Harder is a two-time UEFA Women’s Player of the Year. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

GROUP E

UNITED STATES (FIFA ranking 1)

Coach: Vlatko Andonovski (MKD)

Star player: Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)

Best World Cup performance: Winners (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019)

The superpower of international women’s football, the United States are aiming to win a third consecutive World Cup and a record-extending fifth overall.

English-born Jill Ellis led the team to their last two victories before being replaced by Vlatko Andonovski.

Born in the former Yugoslavia in what is now North Macedonia, Andonovski moved to the USA over two decades ago and became national coach in 2019 after enjoying success at club level.

After only taking bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, Andonovski’s side must show that they can still outperform an ever-improving European contingent, not to mention an Australia side with high hopes as co-hosts.

The tournament represents a World Cup farewell for icon Megan Rapinoe, who is now 38 and will retire after this season.

There is still huge quality throughout the squad, even with Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario falling victim to the knee injury curse sweeping through the women’s game, with Alex Morgan no doubt set to play a starring role.

Would be a huge surprise if they failed to make the semi-finals at the very least.

VIETNAM (FIFA ranking 32)

Coach: Mai Duc Chung (VIE)

Star player: Huynh Nhu (Lank FC Vilaverdense/POR)

Best World Cup performance: First appearance

Vietnam are heading to their first World Cup — men’s or women’s — off the back of their run to the quarter-finals of last year’s Asian Cup.

History was made by a team coached by Mai Duc Chung, who told FIFA.com that Vietnam “won’t set high ambitions”, but added: “We are not scared”.

An opening game against the holders is a daunting prospect, and Vietnam will hope to avoid the fate that befell their Southeast Asian rivals Thailand, who lost 13-0 to the United States in their first game at France 2019.

Vietnam’s star player is striker Huynh Nhu, who last year became the first woman from the country to join a professional European club when she signed for Lank Vilaverdense in Portugal.

NETHERLANDS (FIFA ranking 9)

Coach: Andries Jonker (NED)

Star player: Lieke Martens (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)

Best World Cup performance: Runners-up (2019)

The Netherlands only recently emerged as a force in the women’s game, winning Euro 2017 as hosts and then enjoying a remarkable run at the 2019 World Cup as they went all the way to the final before losing 2-0 to the United States.

Yet a repeat of that performance appears unlikely.

Those feats were achieved under former coach Sarina Wiegman, who left after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 to take charge of England. Her successor, Englishman Mark Parsons, oversaw a quarter-final exit to France at last year’s Euro and was replaced by Andries Jonker.

The Netherlands eased through World Cup qualifying but they head to New Zealand without prolific striker Vivianne Miedema as she continues her recovery from an ACL injury suffered last December.

It will therefore be up to the likes of winger Lieke Martens and midfielder Danielle van de Donk to lead the Dutch charge.

Lieke Martens must take up the attacking impetus due to Vivianne Miedema’s injury. (Photo by Armando Babani/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

PORTUGAL (FIFA ranking 21)

Coach: Francisco Neto (POR)

Star player: Jessica Silva (Benfica/POR)

Best World Cup performance: First appearance

Portugal took the long route to qualify for their first Women’s World Cup. They came second in their qualifying group behind Germany, then won play-offs against Belgium and Iceland.

That set up an inter-confederation playoff in February against Cameroon, which Portugal won 2-1 thanks to a 94th-minute Carole Costa penalty.

Before that, Francisco Neto’s team went out of last year’s Euro without winning a game, but they did hold European champions England to a 0-0 draw away in a friendly earlier this month.

Being drawn in a group with the two finalists from the 2019 edition means it would be a big surprise if Portugal were to go beyond the first round.

GROUP F

FRANCE (FIFA ranking 5)

Coach: Herve Renard (FRA)

Star player: Kadidiatou Diani (unattached)

Best World Cup performance: Fourth place (2011)

France are in many ways the great underachievers of international women’s football. They have never won a major title and have made a nasty habit of falling short, going out of the last two World Cups in the quarter-finals and in the semi-finals of last year’s Euro.

Les Bleues are also recovering from a turbulent few months following the sacking of Corinne Diacre as coach in March.

Diacre was ditched after several leading players, including captain Wendie Renard and star forward Kadidiatou Diani, said they would no longer play under her.

She was replaced by Herve Renard, who led Saudi Arabia to a famous win over Lionel Messi’s Argentina at the men’s World Cup in Qatar.

The new coach’s task is complicated by injuries, with attacking stars Delphine Cascarino and Marie-Antoinette Katoto ruled out of the competition.

Nevertheless France have the quality to go far and the quarter-finals must be a minimum objective.

JAMAICA (FIFA ranking 43)

Coach: Lorne Donaldson (JAM)

Star player: Khadija Shaw (Manchester City/ENG)

Best World Cup performance: Group stage (2019)

Jamaica are back at the Women’s World Cup after losing all three group games on their debut in 2019. They qualified after finishing third at last year’s CONCACAF W Championship.

The Reggae Girlz will be doing very well to make it out of the group but they will at least hope to avoid losing every match this time.

In prolific Manchester City forward Khadija Shaw they have one of the very best in the business — she scored 20 goals in the English Women’s Super League in the season just finished.

Others ply their trade at a high level in Europe or the United States, but a dispute with their national federation over what the team called “extreme disorganisation” has clouded their preparations for the tournament.

Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw scores goals for fun with Manchester City in the WSL. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

BRAZIL (FIFA ranking 8)

Coach: Pia Sundhage (SWE)

Star player: Marta (Orlando Pride/USA)

Best World Cup performance: Runners-up (2007)

Brazil got to the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup and then reached the final in 2007, losing to Germany. However, they have faded as a force in recent years, going out of the last two World Cups in the last 16.

Nevertheless, the team that dominates in South America will hope to make an impact this year in what will be the last World Cup for Marta, the six-time world player of the year who is now aged 37.

From Tamires and Rafaelle at the back, to Geyse and Andressa Alves up front, Brazil have enough other top-level players to go beyond the first knockout round this time.

The team is coached by the veteran Swede Pia Sundhage, who twice led the United States to Olympic gold and won Olympic silver as coach of her home country.

PANAMA (FIFA ranking 52)

Coach: Ignacio Quintana (MEX)

Star player: Marta Cox (Pachuca/MEX)

Best World Cup performance: First appearance

Ranked 52nd in the world and appearing at their first Women’s World Cup, Panama are one of the rank outsiders in Australia and New Zealand.

The Canaleras, coached by the Mexican Ignacio Quintana, were the last team to qualify when they beat Paraguay 1-0 in the final inter-confederation playoff in New Zealand in February.

Midfielder Marta Cox was key in qualifying and will have an important role to play, while Panama also have high hopes for Riley Tanner, a United States-born forward with Washington Spirit who has opted to represent the land of her mother’s birth.

Their first match is against Brazil in Adelaide on July 24.

GROUP G

ARGENTINA (FIFA ranking 28)

Coach: German Portanova (ARG)

Star player: Estefania Banini (Atletico Madrid/ESP)

Best World Cup performance: Group stage (2003, 2007, 2019)

Lionel Messi and his side won the men’s World Cup in Qatar, but ambitions are far more limited for Argentina’s women’s team.

Argentine women’s football is still semi-professional, meaning players can only make a partial living off the sport.

They have been at the Women’s World Cup three times and are yet to win a match in nine attempts.

In 2019, they again failed to get out of their group, but they did pick up points in draws with Scotland and former world champions Japan.

In Australia and New Zealand, they are aiming to make a piece of history by reaching the knockout rounds.

“We don’t think we’ll win the World Cup, but we’ll give a good account of ourselves,” veteran goalkeeper Vanina Correa told FIFA.com.

Experienced midfielder Estefania Banini, an ever-present for Atletico Madrid, is the team’s talisman.

Estefania Banini will be pivotal to Argentina getting to the knockout stages. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

ITALY (FIFA ranking 16)

Coach: Milena Bertolini (ITA)

Star player: Manuela Giugliano (Roma/ITA)

Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals (1991, 2019)

Coach Milena Bertolini left out the 34-year-old long-time captain Sara Gama from her squad as she looks to the future.

The teenage Barcelona midfielder Giulia Dragoni was called up, underlining how Bertolini is putting her trust in a new generation.

Dragoni is unlikely to start given the stiff competition in a midfield led by Manuela Giugliano, but she could well play a part as Italy try to show that they are better than their dismal display at Euro 2022.

They flopped at the tournament, finishing bottom of their group, taking one point from three games.

Italy reached the quarter-finals at the last World Cup, but expectations are more modest on this occasion.

Their time could come instead in 2027.

SOUTH AFRICA (FIFA ranking 54)

Coach: Desiree Ellis (RSA)

Star player: Thembi Kgatlana (Racing Louisville/USA)

Best World Cup performance: Group stage (2019)

The lowest-ranked team in what looks like an open group, South Africa will have to do something special to reach the knockout rounds.

They have appeared at the tournament only once before, in 2019, when they lost all three matches and scored one goal.

Preparations for this World Cup were overshadowed by a pay row with South African football authorities, but that seems to have been resolved.

The Banyana Banyana are African champions and their squad is largely made up of players from the domestic league.

US-based forward Thembi Kgatlana is a lynchpin of the side and is now fit and firing following injury.

Attacking midfielder Linda Motlhalo is another playing overseas, with Glasgow City in Scotland.

Thembi Kgatlana has been a constant presence for the Banyana Banyana. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

SWEDEN (FIFA ranking 3)

Coach: Peter Gerhardsson (SWE)

Star player: Fridolina Rolfo (Barcelona/ESP)

Best performance: Runners-up (2003)

Undoubtedly the strongest team in the group, it would be a major surprise if Sweden do not get to the last 16 at the very least.

They have a long and proud history in women’s football, having featured at the first World Cup in 1991, where they finished third.

Sweden have been to every World Cup since, losing to Germany in the 2003 final and coming third last time.

They reached the semi-finals at the Euros last year before being soundly beaten 4-0 by hosts and eventual champions England.

Sweden’s squad boasts some top talent and numerous players who feature at leading European teams, including the Chelsea pair of midfielder Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and goalkeeper Zecira Musovic.

There is also the Arsenal trio of Stina Blackstenius, Lina Hurtig and Amanda Ilestedt, plus Filippa Angeldal at Manchester City.

Fridolina Rolfo is a goal-scoring and pacy left winger at Barcelona who can also play up front.

GROUP H

GERMANY (FIFA ranking 2)

Coach: Martina Voss-Tecklenburg (GER)

Star player: Alexandra Popp (Wolfsburg/GER)

Best World Cup performance: Champions (2003, 2007)

Germany are two-times world champions and will once again be among the favourites.

They suffered heartbreak after losing to hosts England 2-1 in extra-time in the final of last year’s Euros.

It was especially devastating for star player Alexandra Popp, who was ruled out of the match at Wembley after picking up an injury in the warm-up, having scored six goals on the way to the final.

Germany have beaten the United States and France in friendlies since then, but recent results have been mixed and they lost 3-2 at home to fellow World Cup qualifiers Zambia earlier this month in a major shock.

The Germans have quality throughout their squad and feature 10 players from Champions League runners-up Wolfsburg.

They start just behind England and holders the United States as favourites.

Alexandra Popp will not want to miss out on yet another final should Germany go all the way in Australia. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

MOROCCO (FIFA ranking 72)

Coach: Reynald Pedros (FRA)

Star player: Ghizlane Chebbak (AS FAR/MAR)

Best World Cup performance: First appearance

Tournament debutants Morocco are the first Arab nation to play at a Women’s World Cup, having finished runners-up at last year’s Africa Cup of Nations behind winners South Africa.

The Atlas Lionesses can draw on players from around Europe’s top leagues and at home, led by inspirational captain Ghizlane Chebbak.

Coach Reynald Pedros also has pedigree, having led women’s giants Lyon to two Champions League and two domestic French titles before joining Morocco in 2020.

Morocco start among the lowest-ranked teams at the World Cup and results in friendlies this year have been inconsistent.

But Chebbak insists she and her teammates “aren’t going to the World Cup to make up the numbers”.

COLOMBIA (FIFA ranking 25)

Coach: Nelson Abadia (COL)

Star player: Daniela Montoya (Atletico Nacional/COL)

Best World Cup performance: Last 16 (2015)

Colombia are known as “the Powerpuff Girls” and will be hoping to pull off some superpowered results in Australia and New Zealand.

The Colombians beat Argentina to reach the final of last year’s Copa America and only missed out on the trophy after a 1-0 defeat to Brazil.

Colombia have fared well against weaker sides since then but lost to both France and Italy in friendlies earlier this year.

They have still come a long way since their World Cup debut in 2011, when they exited at the group stage without scoring a goal.

SOUTH KOREA (FIFA ranking 17)

Coach: Colin Bell (ENG)

Star player: Ji So-yun (Suwon FC/KOR)

Best World Cup performance: Last 16 (2015)

South Korea stuck a total of 10 goals past Zambia in two friendly matches earlier this year, then beat another World Cup team, Haiti, 2-1.

Led by creative force Ji So-yun, now back in her home country after eight successful years at Chelsea, the Koreans are aiming to get past the World Cup group stage for only the second time.

Their recent record against European teams is not good though, losing to England, Belgium and Italy at the Arnold Clark Cup in February.

English coach Colin Bell will relish facing Germany, having spent three decades there as a player and coach.

He will be relying on a mostly domestic squad, with 16-year-old US-born forward Casey Phair a notable exception — and an exciting addition to an otherwise unspectacular team.

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