FIFA Women's World Cup 2019: All you need to know about upcoming mega event in France

During the first Women's World Cup in 1991, only fans in host nation China could watch games on television. This year's edition in France will be shown live in more than 200 countries.

FIFA, the governing body of world football, is aiming for a global audience of one billion for the 24-team women's football mega event that runs from 7 June to 7 July.

The competition can help women's football emerge from the shadow of the men's game, particularly in Jamaica and South Africa, who have qualified for the first time.

France will host the Women's World Cup for the first time and the matches will be held in nine cities across the country. The United States are the defending champions while the likes of Germany, Japan, France and England are among favourites to lift the trophy. This will be the first Women's World Cup where FIFA will use video assistant referee, commonly known as VAR.

Venues

 FIFA Womens World Cup 2019: All you need to know about upcoming mega event in France

The stadium in Lyon where the final of the Women's World Cup will be held. Reuters

Lyon's Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Parc des Princes in Paris, Nice's Allianz Riviera, Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, Roazhon Park in Rennes, Le Havre's Stade Oceane, Valenciennes's Stade du Hainaut, Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims and Stade des Alpes in Grenoble are nine venues for the tournament.

Parc Olympique Lyonnais, the home stadium of one the most successful women's football team in France, Lyon, has the maximum capacity among the nine venues with 59,186 seats followed by Parc des Princes, which has a seating capacity of 47.929.

The first match is between hosts France and South Korea and it will take place at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Lyon will host both the semi-final matches and also the final on 7 July while the third place match will be played in Nice.

Groups

A total of 24 teams have qualified for the main event in France and they have been divided into eight groups. Apart from Jamaica and South Africa, the other two countries who are participating for the first time in the tournament are Chile and Scotland.

Group A: France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria.
Group B: Germany, China, Spain, South Africa
Group C: Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica
Group D: England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan
Group E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands
Group F: United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

The top two teams in each group and four best third-placed teams will progress to the Round of 16 round. Click here for the full schedule and match timings of the World Cup games.

History

The first edition of the World Cup saw United States captain April Heinrichs lift the trophy after her team beat Norway 2-1 in the final. Norway made amends for missing out on the trophy the first time when they defeated Germany in the final of the 1995 Women's World Cup held in Sweden. United States were again the winners in the 1999 edition while Germany won back-to-back titles beating Sweden and Brazil in 2003 and 2007 respectively.

In the 2011 edition, Japan became the first Asian side to win the World Cup when they overcame the challenge from the US in the penalty shootout. They also made it to the final next time around but the US had their revenge in 2015, beating them 5-2.

The favourites 

In the 34 years since a makeshift team played their first international, the Americans have forged a record of success unparalleled in women's football. Since the first women's World Cup in 1991, the USA has won the tournament three times and finished runner-up once.

Over the same period, the USA has won four gold medals and a silver since women's football was launched at the 1996 Olympics. It is the sort of record that the USA men's team – who did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup – can only dream of.

So how have they done it? Why has generation after generation of US women emerged as world-beaters?

The roots of US dominance can be traced back to landmark legislation passed in 1972 known as Title IX. The law banned gender discrimination in federally-funded education programs and paved the way for a new generation of female athletes.

Karen Blumenthal, author of 'Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed The Future of Girls in America' said the legislation transformed the sporting landscape of high schools and colleges across the United States.

Hosts France will bank on the home support to make maximum impact in the tournament. They are fourth in the world rankings and have been playing some of their best football ahead of the tournament.

“We are in marching order,” France head coach Corinne Diacre said after France beat 2015 World Cup runners-up Japan 3-1 last month, three months after beating the U.S. by the same scoreline.

They have won nine of their last 10 games, scoring 32 goals and conceded just four, with just one loss, against Germany (0-1) in February.

“Our goal is to win the title. It is not a dream because when I dream usually my dreams do not come true. We have been working well up until now but we still have a long way to go.” Diacre said.

Two-time champions Germany will be hoping to restore some pride after the men's team failed to impress in the 2018 World Cup. Ranked second in the world, Germany will aim to do justice to their ranking after they missed out reaching finals in the last two editions.

“This World Cup is very important for Germany to show that we are good and better than the media think,” Germany defender Carolin Simon said.

England, who finished in third place in the 2015 edition, are currently ranked third in the rankings and are among the bookmakers’ favourites, along with hosts France and United States. For England Fran Kirby, winning the World Cup will give them the leverage for equal pay talks.

“Ultimately we need to grow the women’s game. That’s the biggest issue, it always has been. Then you can talk about equal pay and everything else. We need to win the World Cup to have a leg to stand on in those situations, Kirby told to reporters.

Top 10 Rankings 

1 - USA - 2101 points
2 - Germnay - 2072 points
3 - England - 2049 points
4 - France - 2043 points
5 - Canada - 2006 points
6 - Australia - 2003 points
7 - Japan - 1991 points
8 - Netherlands - 1967 points
9 - Sweden - 1962 points
10 - Brazil - 1944 points

Mascot

This year's World Cup mascot is called 'Ettie', a young chicken with "a passion for life and football." According to the FIFA website, Ettie is the daughter of Footix, the official mascot from the 1998 FIFA World Cup, which was also held in France. "Her strong family connection to the Gallic rooster, who is still a popular national French symbol, makes her a fitting choice as the official mascot for the 2019 Women’s World Cup," the website read.

With inputs from AFP and Reuters.

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Updated Date: May 27, 2019 15:38:05 IST