There's plenty of pressure on France to win the Women's World Cup on home soil, but first Les Bleues must navigate an intriguing group that includes a Norway side missing the game's brightest star.
The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup is on the horizon as 24 nations descend on France this summer to compete for the ultimate prize.
There's plenty of pressure on the host nation to deliver and accomplish the feat that its male counterparts did in Russia last summer, that being lifting the World Cup trophy. Just like with Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe & Co., there is talent–and veteran experience–to spare for Les Bleues, who came up short of expectations four years ago in Canada but sent a message that they're perhaps ready to cash in on their abilities this summer by beating the U.S. women in a friendly this winter.
Before they can think about a deep run, though, they'll have to navigate the group stage. Here's a closer look at France and its opponents in Group A: South Korea, Norway and Nigeria:
FIFA Ranking: No. 4
Best World Cup: Fourth (2011)
Coach: Corinne Diacre - The 44-year-old was formerly a French international herself and went to one World Cup and three European Championships as a player. She was an assistant coach with Les Bleues from 2007 until 2013, before returning to the fold to take the top job in 2017.
Player to Watch: Eugenie Le Sommer - She has been there and done it all for Lyon at the club level after recently winning an incredible sixth Women's Champions League trophy. With a fine international strike rate of a goal every other game, her time to conquer the world stage is now.
Rising Star: Delphine Cascarino, 22 - Previously won the Under-17 World Cup in 2012 and has made the transition to the senior setup after establishing herself with Lyon at the club level.
Expectations: With a strong domestic club scene and a talented squad on home soil, French fans will want to see their team capture a second World Cup trophy in the space of 12 months.
Miscellaneous: Oddly, this will only be France's fourth Women's World Cup after failing to qualify for the tournament on four previous occasions in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2007.
FIFA Ranking: 14th
Best World Cup: Round of 16 (2015)
Coach: Yoon Deok-yeo - Appointed in 2013 after coaching at various men's clubs in South Korea, as well as the country's Under-17 men's national team. He was himself once an international player, representing the men's team between 1989 and 1991.
Player to Watch: Ji So-yun - The Chelsea star has been plying her trade in England since moving from Japan in 2014 and has won five domestic trophies and played in two Champions League semifinals. She has been in the PFA Team of the Year four times in five years.
Rising Star: Han Chae-rin, 22 - A goal against the United States on her senior debut in 2017 was a strong way for the midfielder to begin her international career.
Expectations: The South Koreans will be looking to at least replicate a successful 2015 tournament, during which they reached the knockout rounds of a World Cup for the first time.
Miscellaneous: As many as 10 of the 23 players in the squad are drawn from club side Hyundai Steel Red Angels, who have been South Korean champions six times since 2013.
FIFA Ranking: 12th
Best World Cup: Winners (1995)
Coach: Martin Sjogren - The Swede began coaching women's football in his homeland in his 20s and was appointed by top club Linkopings in 2012. He then made the step into international coaching when Norway came calling in 2016.
Player to Watch: Caroline Graham Hansen - The attacking midfielder has recently signed a deal with growing European force Barcelona and will move to Spain after the World Cup after five successful years with perennial German champions Wolfsburg.
Rising Star: Ingrid Syrstad Engen, 21 - Likely the player who will replace Hansen at Wolfsburg after agreeing a transfer earlier this year, but remaining at existing club LSK until the summer.
Expectations: Getting out of the group will be the minimum expectation for a nation whose standing in the global game has somewhat fallen. Going beyond the quarterfinals will be tough, though.
Miscellaneous: The absence of Ada Hegerberg promises to cast a huge shadow on Norway, with the increasingly high-profile Ballon d'Or winner retiring from international football in 2017 over gender inequality and a lack of respect from the Norwegian federation, and refusing to reverse her decision. Whatever Norway does or does not accomplish this summer will be cast in a different light because of Hegerberg's self-induced omission.
FIFA Ranking: 38th
Best World Cup: Quarterfinals (1999)
Coach: Thomas Dennerby - Most famous for a seven-year stint in charge of Sweden's women's national team from 2005 until 2012, during which time the country finished third at the 2011 World Cup. Took over the Nigeria job last year.
Player to Watch: Asisat Oshoala - The former Liverpool and Arsenal player recently played for Barcelona in the Champions League final after returning to Europe from China earlier this year. She was previously BBC Women's Footballer of the Year in 2015 and is still only 24.
Rising Star: Anam Imo, 18 - Contracted to the esteemed Swedish club Rosengard and won't even celebrate her 19th birthday until November.
Expectations: It has been 20 years since Nigeria went beyond the group stage, while it has won just one World Cup game since then. Getting a positive result would be a start.
Miscellaneous: Nigeria is one of only seven countries in Women's World Cup history to have qualified for every tournament, more than Canada, China, England and France.
Group A Fixtures
|June 7||France vs South Korea||3 p.m.||Parc des Princes, Paris|
|June 8||Norway vs Nigeria||3 p.m.||Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims|
|June 12||Nigeria vs South Korea||9 a.m.||Stade des Alpes, Grenoble|
|June 12||France vs Norway||3 p.m.||Allianz Riviera, Nice|
|June 12||Nigeria vs France||3 p.m.||Roazhon Park, Rennes|
|June 12||South Korea vs Norway||3 p.m.||Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims|
*All times Eastern