The time for talking is almost done. Twenty-four nations head to France this week in search of glory as the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in Paris on Friday.
With national federations increasingly taking the women’s game seriously, a greater number of countries than ever have a chance of success this summer, and the buildup has thrown up some unexpected results in friendly matches.
Based on who has enjoyed the best run of form going into the tournament, our Women’s World Cup Power Rankings is a list of the top nations in order of form, performance and expectations ahead of the big kick-off.
It’s been a difficult buildup for Thailand. The nation who made their debut in 2015 have lost 10 of their last 11 games, with their only win coming against Hungary.
They recently held hosts France for 45 minutes in a friendly before going on to lose 3-0, but everything points to a difficult tournament for a side in the same group as Sweden and USA.
Cameroon’s run-up to the finals has been difficult to judge, as they’ve largely played the academies of club sides, but they did lose without scoring in games against fellow World Cup-bound outfits Spain and China.
It’s been 12 years since Argentina played at a Women’s World Cup, and being placed in a difficult Group D (with England, Scotland and Japan) won’t give them much encouragement based on recent form.
They have largely played university sides in the USA but lost all three of their Cup of Nations games in March against South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.
21. South Africa
Desiree Ellis’ side are also making their debut in France this summer, following on from their run to the Africa Women Cup of Nations final last year, where they lost to Nigeria on penalties.
They haven’t won a match in 2019 but pushed some good teams a long way, losing 2-1 to European champions the Netherlands and forcing a 0-0 draw with Sweden. However, a 7-2 loss to Norway at the weekend leaves big question marks about their defence heading into the tournament.
Preparations for tournament debutantes Chile started well with an impressive win over Australia in November, but a heavy 5-0 defeat to the same opponents a few days later, coupled with a 7-0 drubbing by the Netherlands in April, won’t have done much for morale.
They have also suffered losses against Jamaica (twice), Colombia and Germany this year, so things don’t look too good for the South Americans.
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The third of four sides heading to their first Women’s World Cup, Jamaica have the potential to excite and have already beaten Chile twice this year.
They have only lost once in 2019, and they pushed Scotland in the 3-2 defeat at Hampden Park, but can they replicate such performances on the big stage?
The Africa Cup of Nations winners boast Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala in attack but generally flatter to deceive at World Cups.
They are the only team to score against a defensively solid Canada in 2019 but showed their lack of outright quality in disappointing losses to Austria and Belgium—two nations who failed to qualify for the finals.
Runners-up 20 years ago, things have changed for China in the two decades since. They have a couple of stars in the making, but the team is lacking in certain areas.
They beat rivals South Korea in January but followed that up with losses to Norway and Denmark before a respectable draw with the Netherlands at the Algarve Cup in March. They haven’t played top opposition since, but they aren’t the worst team competing in France.
16. New Zealand
Under former USA head coach Tom Sermanni, New Zealand have the most experienced manager at the World Cup.
The Scot has added some solidity to the team, but it’s been a mixed 2019 with four wins and four losses so far.
Good wins against Mexico, Norway and Argentina gave cause for optimism, and an impressive 1-0 victory against England last weekend boosted the spirits further. However, despite the clean sheet in that game, they looked less than solid at the back during a nervous first half in a 1-0 loss to Wales on Wednesday.
15. South Korea
South Korea are now regulars in Women’s World Cups and opened their year up with an impressive 5-0 win against Argentina, but things have gone backwards since.
They have lost to rivals China and Australia as well as an Iceland side that missed out on qualification. Bar one or two key players, it’s hard to see where they can make a genuine impact.
It just hasn’t happened for Brazil in the last 12 months. Since a good win against Japan last July, they have lost their last nine games and appear to be in free fall ahead of the tournament.
They have given themselves a tough run of games against top sides in each of their friendlies but have always come out on the wrong side, and it’s hard to see things turning around in the next few weeks.
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A side who could spring a surprise or two in France, the Italians are naturally well-drilled and unbeaten in 2019 but haven’t really met top opposition yet.
All of their recent games have been against non-World Cup opposition, but they did beat a good Switzerland side 3-1 last week.
In a group with neighbours England and 2015 finalists Japan, nobody has given Scotland much of a mention, but with a few top-class players and some exciting youngsters, they have every chance of upsetting a few people.
They are also in decent form, having lost just 1-0 to both world champions USA and Canada and going unbeaten in five games, including a win against Brazil.
No Ada Hegerberg, but potentially no problem for an exciting Norway side rejuvenated since Euro 2017.
They won one of the major warm-up tournaments in the form of the Algarve Cup in March, but their form has been up and down. They have lost to Sweden, Japan, Canada and New Zealand in the last seven months but enter the tournament on the back of a 7-2 hammering of South Africa.
Spain always seem to flatter to deceive when it comes to major tournaments. One of the best sides in the world from box to box, their inability to score goals holds them back.
They drew 0-0 with top-five-ranked Canada last week, pushed England all the way in April and recently drew with Japan, but there’s still a feeling they are just missing something to mount a real challenge.
Sweden have often been solid under manager Peter Gerhardsson, but mixed results raise questions about their consistency.
Impressive wins, including 2-0 away to England, show their potential, but they’ve also come out on the wrong end of results against sides they should be beating. Plenty of potential but still an outsider for now.
Many people’s dark horses to finally make a play for the big one, Australia are coming in off the back of a controversial managerial sacking but have plenty of star power.
A 5-3 loss to the USA showed both their quality in attack and potential weakness at the back, and they also lost to France and Chile before Christmas. A 3-0 defeat at the weekend against the Netherlands has only emphasised their defensive concerns.
They might go close, but not close enough.
It would be foolish to rule out a side who have been in the last two World Cup finals, but the fact Japan rarely show their hand until the tournament starts makes them hard to judge.
They’ve only won once all year but took an experimental side to the SheBelieves Cup and still drew with the USA.
A thrilling 2-2 draw with Germany followed in a friendly, but we’re yet to see what Japan can really do ahead of the tournament after another draw against Spain.
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Head coach Phil Neville will be looking to go one better than predecessor Mark Sampson did four years ago when England reached the semi-finals, and many expect them to mount an assault on the competition.
However, their form at the moment has been up and down. Winning the SheBelieves Cup will breed confidence, but the Lionesses haven’t always looked convincing and failed to break down Sweden, Canada and New Zealand in home defeats.
Set-piece frailties are also a worry, but if they get everything together, they have the quality to go all the way.
The European champions have endured a so-so two years since 2017.
A disappointing Algarve Cup, where they failed to win a game, followed having to actually go through a play-off to reach France.
They hammered Chile 7-0 in April and showed what their star players can do when they turn it on. The weekend’s 3-0 victory against a strong Australia side should be taken as a statement of intent for a team who look like they’re getting back to their best at just the right time.
Despite their FIFA ranking (fifth), nobody is talking about the nation who hosted the tournament four years ago.
Star striker Christine Sinclair is closing in on Abby Wambach’s international goalscoring record, but it’s at the other end where Kenneth Heiner-Moller’s side are making an impression.
They’ve conceded just one goal all year and have the foundations to go a long way in France. They beat England in Manchester in April and look well-drilled all over the pitch. They could spring a surprise.
If there’s one thing we know in football, it’s you should never rule out the Germans.
They have hit the ground running under new head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg and laid down a marker by beating hosts France in their own backyard earlier this year. But there still appears to be a missing piece for a side that have a nice blend of youth and experience.
They struggled to find their way past Chile in a friendly last week, and it feels like there’s a few more gears they still need to rediscover.
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Consistency and experience is going to be key if Jill Ellis and her side want to defend the title they won so convincingly four years ago.
You can’t rule out a side that has lost only once since the end of 2017, but that defeat came against France in deserved fashion.
Ellis has made minimal changes to her squad, and it will be interesting to see how far experience takes them this time around.
They haven’t conceded in four games but did ship three goals against Australia in April, and it does appear there are some defensive concerns for the U.S., particularly in the full-back areas.
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The hosts are looking good and have won nine of their last 10 games, with the only defeat coming in a tight encounter with Germany in February.
They took apart holders USA in January in a show of what this team can do in front of a capacity home crowd and followed that up with a 3-1 win against 2015 runners-up Japan.
Corinne Diacre’s team have quality all over the pitch and several world-class talents. There’s always been a question mark over their mental strength on the big stage, but they’ll take heart from how home advantage buoyed the Netherlands two years ago.