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Women’s World Cup 2019: Group A preview

France is the favorite to top group, but there are three teams here who could sow chaos amongst themselves.

France v Austria - UEFA Women’s Euro 2017: Group C Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The Women’s World Cup kicks off on June 7 as hosts France take on South Korea. Group A is pretty friendly to France in that there’s three teams they should be able to beat, but it’s also tough in that every single one of them can put up a fight and potentially give France a scare. You’d be smart to pick France topping group, but as to who will take the #2 spot, that’s a harder puzzle to piece together.

SCHEDULE

June 7
France vs Korea Republic, 3 PM ET

June 8
Norway vs Nigeria, 3 PM ET

June 12
Nigeria vs Korea Republic, 9 AM ET
France vs Norway, 3 PM ET

June 17
Nigeria vs France, 3 PM ET
Korea Republic vs Norway, 3 PM ET

FRANCE

Rank: 4

Recent record: Some important recent scores are beating Japan 3-1 in April and beating the US 3-1 in January. But they also lost to Germany 1-0 in February, perhaps giving everyone a taste of how tight the margins could be among the top contenders this summer.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: Certainly fans should always be keeping Big Wendie Renard in the backs of their minds, as she’ll probably be the one holding things together if times get tough for France, but young midfielder Kadidiatou Diani could be the player who helps France unlock goals, particularly if Eugenie Le Sommer is struggling.

KOREA REPUBLIC

Rank: 14

Recent record: Heading into this World Cup, South Korea got tuned up by Sweden in a closed door friendly, losing 4-0. They’ve got another game against Sweden today, but honestly, Korea’s time is probably still on the horizon. If they can continue developing their youth program, 2023 could hold better odds.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: Ji So-Yun has long flown just under the radar of the international scene despite her years-long steady performance for Chelsea in the midfield. She’s got quite a tidy first touch, a sense of attacking spaces, and a little bit of that flair that can make you suddenly go “Wait, where did that come from?”

NORWAY

Rank: 12

Recent record: Norway was able to beat both Denmark and China earlier this year, but then fell 1-0 to New Zealand in April. That and their loss to Canada exposed serious gaps in their defense, simple but devastating goofs that are going to get gobbled up at the World Cup.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: Caroline Graham Hansen just moved from German heavyweights Wolfsburg to Barcelona on a two-year deal. She’s a big, crafty winger who can slash a defense open pretty quickly or pick out an assist.

NIGERIA

Rank: 38

Recent record: Nigeria had a rough time of it at the Cyprus Cup this year, losing 4-1 to Austria and 1-0 to Belgium. They managed a 4-3 win over Slovakia, but you can’t count on just outscoring opponents - although that would probably be super entertaining for the rest of us. However, if Nigeria’s defense stays disciplined, then their ability to open a game very quickly on the counter could have them surprising a lot of teams and getting them in position for R16.

Odds of winning: Favorite/In the Running/Dark Horse

One to watch: Asisat Oshoala is incredibly fun to watch and there’s a reason she’s been named African footballer of the year three times already. She’s fast, she’s got tricky feet and body movement, and she’s willing to try things on the field other players might consider audacious. Check out this highlight from her time in the Chinese Women’s Super League (she’s since completed a permanent move to Barcelona). It’s not the greatest competition, but it’s a neat look at how Oshoala plays with verve.

Who do you think will top Group A? Will hosts France win - thus positioning them for a quarterfinal matchup with potential Group F winners the United States? Let us know in the comments!