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  • With the 2019 Women's World Cup widely regarded to be the most wide-open competition in the tournament's history, will any contenders for the USA's throne seize it away from the Americans? Here's who our experts see winning it all in France.
By SI.com Staff
June 05, 2019

The 2019 Women's World Cup is widely regarded to be the most wide-open competition in the tournament's history.

As more and more nations dedicate resources to growing the game on their respective home soils, the quality of national teams around the world has grown. Whereas previously it was the USA and perhaps another team or two considered as the most serious threats to win the Women's World Cup, this year's edition in France features even more sides that will enter the competition thinking they are capable of knocking off any team that stands in their way.

The USA remains the odds-on favorite to win it again after conquering the 24-team field in Canada four years ago, but a number of contenders are eyeing the throne.

So how will the next month play out? Here are SI's expert picks for the competition, made by Kellen Becoats, Avi Creditor, Luis Miguel Echegaray, Laken Litman and Grant Wahl.


KELLEN BECOATS

GROUP WINNERS: A: France | B: Germany | C: Australia | D: England | E: Canada | F: USA

GROUP RUNNERS-UP: A: Norway | B: Spain | C: Brazil | D: Japan | E: Netherlands | F: Sweden

TOP THIRD-PLACE FINISHERS: A: South Korea | C: Italy | D: Scotland | E: New Zealand

This World Cup will feature plenty of intriguing quarterfinal matchups that would make for good finals: USA-France, Germany-Sweden and Australia-Canada, as I see it. While there have been a lot of questions about the Americans’ defense, I think the USWNT defeats the home team to move on and is talented enough to dispatch either Brazil or England to make it to another World Cup final.

On the other side of the bracket, this will be the tournament of Sam Kerr. Kerr is my choice for the Golden Boot, and her goals will lead Australia to the semifinals, where it will face a Germany squad with Dzsenifer Marozsan playing at the height of her powers and still not over the semifinal exit in 2015. Expect that semifinal to have plenty of fireworks but for Germany to squeak through and set up another meeting with the U.S., the team that knocked the Germans out the last time around. Ultimately, I think the USWNT’s plethora of attacking options overwhelm Germany and the Americans become the first team to repeat as Women’s World Cup champions since Germany did it in 2003 and 2007.


AVI CREDITOR

GROUP WINNERS: A: France | B: Germany | C: Australia | D: England | E: Netherlands | F: USA

GROUP RUNNERS-UP: A: Norway | B: Spain | C: Brazil | D: Scotland | E: Canada | F: Sweden

TOP THIRD-PLACE FINISHERS: A: Nigeria | B: China | D: Japan | E: New Zealand

Two things can be true: This may be the best U.S. women's national team ever assembled. And it may wind up going home with the USA's worst finish at a Women's World Cup. The looming specter of France in the quarterfinals hangs over the competition. It's not that the U.S. can't win that game, and it's not that France's 3-1 win over the U.S. in a winter friendly suddenly makes the Americans the underdog. It's just a very tricky early opponent–to say nothing of a potential showdown in the last 16 vs. a Spain team that gave the U.S. a scare a game after the loss to France. Factor in the wild card of VAR–which, if it were implemented in 2015, perhaps the USA doesn't beat Germany in the semifinals–and there's plenty of reason to be wary of already planning a back-to-back parade.

The USA absolutely can–and might!–win it all. But it's one of four or five teams that can confidently feel that way. A very balanced and deep England, riding the high of its SheBelieves Cup triumph, is another of them and has a considerably more favorable draw until the semis, provided it takes care of business in the group stage. 

It's coming home.


LUIS MIGUEL ECHEGARAY

GROUP WINNERS: A: France | B: Germany | C: Australia | D: England | E: Canada | F: USA

GROUP RUNNERS-UP: A: Norway | B: Spain | C: Brazil | D: Japan | E: Netherlands | F: Sweden

TOP THIRD-PLACE FINISHERS: A: Nigeria | B: China | C: Italy | D: Argentina

Firstly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Given the team’s depth, abundance in talent, overall ability and the fact that this is the best squad the nation has ever brought to the tournament, the question stands: Why am I not picking the U.S to win a fourth World Cup title?

To begin with, the expected scenario from the side of their bracket does not suit Jill Ellis’s squad. Sweden, the last opponent in the group stage and America’s first real test, will be a physically demanding game that asks a lot of the team. The U.S will win the game and again in the round of 16 against Spain, but as a result it will face a hungry, adrenaline-filled France in the last eight–my pick to win it all.

Aside from feeling energized by the home support, it’s really about this squad. From Lyon powerhouses Amandine Henry (the captain), Wendie Renard, Eugenie Le Sommer and Delphine Cascarino to the exciting Valerie Gauvin, head coach Corinne Diacre is spoiled with choices. The fact that Marie-Antoinette Katoto (the French league’s top scorer with PSG) didn’t make the squad shows how good this team really is.


LAKEN LITMAN

GROUP WINNERS: A: France | B: Germany | C: Brazil | D: England | E: Netherlands | F: United States

GROUP RUNNERS-UP: A: Norway | B: Spain | C: Australia | D: Japan | E: Canada | F: Sweden

TOP THIRD-PLACE FINISHERS: A: South Korea | B: China | C: Italy | E: New Zealand

First, let’s all agree how seriously unfortunate it will be if the United States and France meet in the quarterfinals. That’s too early for two World Cup favorites to play each other. The game itself will arguably be one of the most competitive matches in the tournament—and it will be in Paris—but nobody wants to see either of these powers ousted so quickly.

Having said that, the Americans are the favorite to win their fourth World Cup this summer. Led by a powerful attack, Jill Ellis will rely on her front line of Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe and then sub in players like 2015 World Cup hero Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh. There are some question marks surrounding the U.S. though: primarily regarding the defense, which lacks depth and struggled against top competition this year (vs. France and England), and then goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who is starting in her first major tournament as Hope Solo’s successor.

The U.S. begins tournament play with two non-threatening opponents in Thailand and Chile. But after that, every game will be fast and competitive, with Sweden coming in the final group stage game and other teams proving they’re catching up to the United States. Potential opponents France, England, Germany and Japan all have a legitimate chance of beating anybody this year. The U.S. may have looked more sloppy than crisp in its final tune-up games, but expect the Americans to dominate and score lots of goals as they strive to defend their title.


GRANT WAHL

GROUP WINNERS: A: France | B: Germany | C: Australia | D: England | E: Canada | F: USA

GROUP RUNNERS-UP: A: Norway | B: Spain | C: Brazil | D: Japan | E: Netherlands | F: Sweden

TOP THIRD-PLACE FINISHERS: A: South Korea | B: China | D: Scotland | E: New Zealand

Mark it down: The team that wins the France-USA quarterfinal in Paris will win the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Too many people think France is poised to take down the U.S. in that game, but this French team has too much of a history when it comes to choking in big tournaments, and I think that’s what will happen here as well. Look for a deep run from Australia, which has a loaded team that gives everyone fits (including the U.S.). In another surprise, Brazil will go out in the round of 16 to Norway, adding to the run of underperforming talented teams from Brazil. You can blame their federation, which has done a generation of talent no favors.

Ultimately, the U.S. will beat a stubborn (and good) Germany team in the final. But the game of the tournament will be France-USA in the quarters, and that one will be an all-timer.

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