It's almost here! This Friday, we'll be congregated in front of our screens, some of us perhaps even in the stands in France, celebrating the start of the Women's World Cup. But with 24 amazing teams and a jaw-dropping 36 matches to watch, how can you best prioritize? Here are the group stage matches we're most excited to tune in for.
And to be clear, just because your faves aren't mentioned in this list doesn't mean they're not worth watching. We're stoked to see Chile make their tournament debut, can't wait for the triumphant return of Thailand and encourage you to learn more about the rising stars of Jamaica's Reggae Girlz, including two names Washington Spirit fans might recognize, Chinyelu Asher and Cheyna Matthews. We hope you'll tune in to as many matches as you can and share your thoughts and favorite moments with @thevictorypress!
France vs. South Korea
June 7th @ 12:00 PM Eastern
This is the tournament opener, and it's a banger. It's like opening your music festival with Carly Rae Jepsen and then things somehow get even more awesome from there. France has home pitch advantage, and a good-sized chunk of its roster, (including veteran keeper Sarah Bouhaddi, Eugénie Le Sommer, and captain Amandine Henry) are riding high off winning the double with Lyon.
Les Bleues come into this tournament as a frontrunner, but don't sleep on South Korea. Veteran midfielder Ji So-yun was instrumental in the recent successes of Chelsea's women’s side, and Cho So-hyun, their most capped player, crushed it in her first season at West Ham. Tune in to kick off the tournament with some experienced legends for both sides, and for a crash course on who's who in the European domestic leagues.
Germany vs. China
June 8th @ 9:00 AM Eastern
Two of the most exciting players in this matchup have strong performances in France'a Ligue 1 Fémenin in common. 2019 women's Ballon d’Or candidate Dszenifer Maroszán was instrumental in back-to-back-to-back Champions' League titles for Lyon, while Paris Saint-Germain star Wang Shuang, the cornerstone of the Steel Roses (another great nickname!), is reverently referred to as "the female Messi" in China.
Two dynamic, creative, engaging attacking players playing gorgeous, thoughtful attacking football is reason enough to tune in, as Germany looks to continue their unbeaten run in 2019 so far while China looks to be a giant-killer in the tournament once again following their run to the Quarterfinals in 2015.
Norway vs. Nigeria
June 8th @ 3:00 PM Eastern
Norway's in an interesting place right now. They've improved on their world ranking and been in excellent form so far this year, including victory in the Algarve Cup against some of the world's best. But they're without their best player, Ada Hegerberg, who dominated the UEFA Champions League finals with Lyon and is protesting the Norwegian FA's treatment of women's sport.
When it comes to iconic veterans, everyone will be talking about Brazil's Formiga, and rightly so. But defender Onome Ebi of Nigeria is about to set foot at her fifth World Cup, the first African footballer to reach this iconic milestone. Ebi brings consistency and experience to the Super Falcons, and will be key in slowing Norway's attack.
England vs. Scotland
June 9th @ 11:00 AM Eastern
Spotted dick vs. haggis. Joss Stone vs. KT Tunstall. Rachel Daly vs. Rachel Corsie. When it comes to The Narrative, you don't get much better than an inter-island derby in this Group Stage.
England are old pros at this, having gone far the last few tournaments and finishing third in Canada in 2015. They're looking strong heading into the tournament, most recently blanking Denmark in an international friendly. They've also held their own against regular World Cup title contenders like the United States, Brazil, and Japan so far in 2019.
But let's talk about Scotland now. Corsie and prolific, creative vice-captain Kim Little led their side to a first-place finish in a tough qualifying group, top-five placement in the Algarve Cup and even a shock victory over Brazil. If key playmakers like Little can stay healthy, Scotland may have a chance. (Also, it's no Indomitable Lionesses, but Tartan Terriers is also a Very Good Sports Nickname.)
Australia vs. Brazil
June 11th @ 12:00 PM Eastern
I'm losing my mind with excitement thinking about the high golazo potential with this matchup. On one side, NWSL Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord; on the other, World Cup icon Marta and Debinha. These are two sides who are perpetual strong competitors, but neither have made it to the top of the podium, and both will be hungry.
Australia comes in with much stronger form as of late, including a dominant performance in the Cup of Nations, while Brazil have gone without an international victory since July 2018. Both sides boast experience, firepower, and massive names, and they both have something to prove. With the skills and the narrative off the charts, this one is not to be missed.
Canada vs. The Netherlands
June 20th @ 12:00 PM Eastern
Another match with jaw-dropping goal potential is the clash between Canada and the Netherlands, the attacking sorcery of Christine Sinclair and Nichelle Prince against yet another prolific Lyon star, Shanice van de Sanden.
All eyes will be on the young soccering wünderkinds for both sides. There's Canada's Jordyn Huitema, who is 18 years old and already has six international goals at the senior level (and forewent college to sign with PSG), which is absolutely wild to think about. At 22, Vivianne Miedema has nearly 75 caps under her belt and has already weathered the experience of coming into the 2015 tournament with high expectations and the label of "most gifted striker in Europe." And Miedema shows no signs of stopping, having netted 29 goals and 10 assists for Arsenal this season.
If either or both can deliver in this tough group stage clash, we're in for a ride.
Sweden vs. United States
June 20th @ 3:00 PM Eastern
This is one of those group stage matches where it's staggeringly unfair that this is just a group stage match. The USWNT comes into the World Cup as a juggernaut seeking to repeat the success of the last tournament. Many of their players from the last go-round are returning. A well-rounded midfield with Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, and Lindsey Horan in it, not to mention the creativity and power of the likes of Tobin Heath and America's Best Top Striker Who Is A Left Back Now For Some Reason, Crystal Dunn, should have even the most fervent USWNT haters excited. You probably already know all this.
If anyone can slow down the USWNT’s campaign, it's Sweden. After all, they've done it before, and there's nothing like old grudges to give a group stage match even more stakes. Watch for the technical mastery of veteran midfielder Kosovare Asllani, who you may also recognize from having this baller statue made of her, celebrating Sweden's footballing women.
(Photo: Валерий Дед/Wikimedia Commons)