Women's World Cup: Which teams are the favourites and who could spring a surprise?
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Last Updated: 07/06/19 6:12pm
The Women's World Cup starts on Friday, but who are the favourites and which teams could spring a surprise? Fara Williams, Rachel Yankey and Kelly Smith discuss.
The trio, who have their fair share of international experience with 416 caps between them, featured on the first edition of the Women's World Cup podcast, sponsored by Visa, to preview the upcoming tournament.
While England and their preparations were high on the list, there was also a wider look at the teams tipped to win the competition and those that may be considered as outsiders.
The reigning champions - USA
Kelly Smith: "They've got a really strong squad. They've leaked goals this year more than anything and their centre-back pairing hasn't really been solidified in Jill Ellis' mind.
"They've changed formation to a 4-3-3 but their front three are always going to score goals - they have a fantastic understanding and relationship. Tobin Heath is a creator and a goalscorer. They are always going to score goals, but defensively, they are a bit more suspect than they have been in the past and teams don't actually fear the USA anymore.
"When Fara, Rachel and I used to play, you felt like you had lost against before you even got on the pitch because they were so good, but now, other nations don't hold that fear factor about them. Teams like France, Germany, the Netherlands and England are all doing so well and beating top teams amongst them.
"It is possible, they have the squad and the strength on the bench with Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh among others, who are goalscorers that can change games, but it is so unknown."
The hosts - France
Kelly Smith: "The French public are really positive and they really believe the French team can win it on home soil. They saw the men's team win the World Cup in Russia and there is a lot of belief and excitement around the women's team.
"I think the French team have an added bonus that they've played in most of the stadiums in front of big crowds in warm-up games, while it is an unknown for the rest of the teams. The buzz around the French team and the firepower they have, they are in form and are looking to win the trophy on home soil.
"For the last two tournaments, France exited at the quarter-finals and they have this label of being one of the best teams in the world but when it gets to the pressurised situations and knockout stages, they choke. But they want to get rid of that tag and it's how they deal with that pressure and expectation."
SheBelieves winners - England
Fara Williams: "This is one of the only tournaments that England have gone to as one of the favourites. I think it shows how much they have closed the gap to the best teams in the world. I think the players are excited and they really believe they can bring the trophy home.
"I think this is England's best chance. They've been together a long time now, Phil has pretty much kept the team the same for the last 18 months and they've only had two defeats in that period. They're in a good place at the moment, they're full of confidence and this is their best chance."
The European champions - The Netherlands
Kelly Smith: "The Netherlands are an outsider with the form they're in and the goals they're scoring and they won the European Championships in their home country."
Rachel Yankey: "The Netherlands' strike force is just fantastic. Going forward, I think they're going to worry teams and for people having an outside bet, I'd go for them to win it."
Fara Williams: "We haven't really spoke about Holland and they're European champions so we should be. They qualified the hard way, they didn't come through in their group, they went to a play-off with Denmark but they are certainly a team we need to worry about."
The debutantes - Scotland and Jamaica
Kelly Smith: "Being a home nation and Scotland's first World Cup, you'd like to see them do well - just not in the opening game [against England]. I'd like to see them come second and get out of the group.
"Shelley Kerr has got a great way about her and the way she manages her players. They all love playing for her and it would be nice to see Scotland go on a run and do something special.
"People are talking about Jamaica being at their first tournament. They've got a fantastic player in Khadija "Bunny" Shaw who is scoring goals for fun and they play a nice, open, attacking style of football.
Fara Williams: "I watched them [Jamaica] against Scotland the other day in a friendly and they caused Scotland some problems. They went a goal behind and the striker Bunny Shaw was fantastic, she scored both goals.
"I spoke to our manager [at Reading] about signing her because we're looking for a striker and she's an unknown, but they're ranked outside the top 40 so they can't come and play in the FAWSL so it's disappointing."
Kelly Smith: "Germany have a really good mix of young and experienced players, they're coming back into people's minds. Potentially England with the squad they have and the confidence and belief.
"You've got Japan, a lot of players have come up through their youth system so they're bonded and together. People are talking about Brazil but I don't think they're that good. They're an ageing side and Marta might not even be fit for the opening game. Norway are outsiders too but it's so exciting because you can't predict it."