Later this afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup will kick off. Hosts Canada will play China in what is bound to be an exciting start to the largest Women’s World Cup yet. Women’s football has been growing immensely in the past two decades around the world, and for this seventh edition of the Women’s World Cup the number of participating teams has been increased from 16 to 24. The four teams that hold a World Cup title – the United States, Germany, Norway, and Japan – will be eagerly looking to earn one more title. However, the first match already will have two of the most anticipated teams going ahead in the tournament. Canada will be striving for their first World Cup victory and a win on home soil. Canada, led by captain and national all time scorer Christine Sinclair, are a formidable team at the Women’s World Cup, but have never reached higher than a fourth place finish in 2003. Similarly, China are veterans of the World Cup. They hosted the first tournament in 1999 and again in 2007. However, the Chinese have only reached the finals once in 1999, where they lost on a penalty shootout to the United States. That final was watched by over 90,000 spectators at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and held the record for the most attended women’s sporting event in history. China are looking to reemerge as a strong team in women’s football after unexpectedly losing to eventual champions Japan in the qualifying playoff and failing to reach the tournament four years ago.
One of the benefits of expanding the final tournament from 16 to 24 teams is the sheer number of teams who are making their debut this year. A total of eight countries will make their first appearance on women’s football’s biggest stage. These countries are Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, and Thailand. However, also because of the increased number of teams, few of the first time participants have a chance at making it out of the group stage. Three debutants; Switzerland, Ecuador, and Cameroon, have all been drawn in the same group with defending champions Japan. Thailand and the Ivory Coast are the less favored in their group against powerhouses Germany and Norway. However, there is still a lot to be proud of for these countries in showing how fast and how far women’s football has spread around the world. The Thai women’s team became national heroes with their qualification after defeating Vietnam 2-1 in a playoff match. The 2015 Women’s World Cup will mark the first appearance of Thailand in any World Cup, men’s or women’s.
On the whole, this World Cup is sure to be a show of how much larger the competitive playing field is for women’s football now. With more countries such as Thailand having success on the international stage in women’s football, it is encouraging more women to pursue the sport. Even in the Netherlands, the recent success of the women’s football team placing third in the Women’s Euro 2009 tournament has encouraged more young girls to take up football competitively and professionally. The number of top contender teams has also expanded recently. Japan’s underdog victory in the 2011 Women’s World Cup demonstrated how competitive the game has become, and teams such as Brazil, France, and Sweden will now surely want to follow up Japan’s entrance into the list of champions with a championship of their own.
Group A: Canada, China, New Zealand, Netherlands
Group B: Germany, Ivory Coast, Norway, Thailand
Group C: Japan, Switzerland, Cameroon, Ecuador
Group D: United States, Australia, Sweden, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, South Korea, Spain, Costa Rica
Group F: France, England, Colombia, Mexico