Five things to know about the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup

Barcelona's treble-clinching win in the Champions League final against Juventus brought another season of club football to a close but football fans need not lament. The seventh FIFA Women's World Cup began on Saturday (6 June) in Canada.

The tournament features 24 teams, making it largest Women's World Cup yet, is being held in the cities of Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton and will span five different time zones.

Here are five things you should know about the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015.

 Five things to know about the 2015 FIFA Womens World Cup

The FIFA trophy of the Women's FIFA World Cup. Reuters

The players to watch

There is no one hotter in women's football than 20-year-old Nigerian forward Asisat Oshoala. She currently plays for Liverpool in the Women’s Super League and is the newly crowned BBC women’s footballer of the year. Last year she was the player of the tournament and top goalscorer in the world under-20 finals.

Oshoala was one of the biggest reasons why Nigeria reached the final. According to the Guardian she shocked her parents by dropping out of school in order to pursue a career in professional football.

But the most well-known female footballer is 29-year-old Brazil forward Marta who a five-time winner of Fifa’s female Footballer of the Year award and is playing in her fourth World Cup. Brazil legend Pele calls her "Pele with skirts," CNN reports. Need another reason to love her? She is also one of the most vocal campaigners in the battle for equality in women's football.

"There's still the prejudice of thinking women are the weaker sex or that they weren't born to play sports," Marta said to CNN's "An Uneven Playing Field" documentary.

Meanwhile veteran US team captain Christie Rampone hopes to become the first 40-year-old to lift the trophy.

The teenage brigade that comprises of 17-year-old midfielder Jessie Fleming. Team Canada flush with young talent. Canada’s rising young star made her senior international debut at 15.

Another teenager, Vivianne Miedema, is called “the most gifted in Europe” and “the Arjen Robben of the women’s game”  is only just 18. She plays professionally for Bayern Munich is the one to watch as the Oranje make their world cup debut. She was the top-scorer in European World Cup qualifying,

Japanese veteran Homare Sawa, their key attacking midfielder and the woman voted player of the tournament at Germany 2011 has recovered from an injury will also bring some huge experience to the tournament as she plays her sixth World Cup. You can read about a few of the other players in The Guardian's list here.

First World Cup to be played on artificial turf

This is the first football World Cup in both the male and female categories to be played on artificial turf. And the players are not happy. Players have in the past expressed concerns over potential injuries from the artificial turf, but a lawsuit has been dropped by the athletes after FIFA refused to change it's stance on the issue. Team USA’s Sydney Leroux said in an interview with Vice Sports, that playing the World Cup on artificial turf is like running on cement. “Between men and women … this is not equal. We're the guinea pigs,” she adds.

However for the players there was hope: FIFA agreed not to use artificial turf in the next world cup that will be hosted by France in 2019. But an hour before kick-off in Edmonton, Canada the fake grass measured 120 degrees, or 49 degrees Celsius, according to a Fox Sports sideline reporter.

The Washington Post reports that according to a study cited by the Las Vegas Sun in 2009, it found artificial turf above 122 degrees is considered unsafe for sustained athletic use and that, depending on the air temperature, turf can get as hot as 180 degrees.

Gender discrimination much FIFA?  Artificial turf has never been used in a men’s World Cup and both the tournaments scheduled for 2018 and 2022 will be played on real grass.

FIFA's gender testing rule for Women's World Cup is just plain weird

Since 2011, the participating teams have been required to sign a declaration guaranteeing that all the players nominated to the World Cup were "of an appropriate gender." Weird ? Yup, it is.

CBC quotes FIFA as saying, "It lies with each participating member association to … ensure the correct gender of all players by actively investigating any perceived deviation in secondary sex characteristic." And according to German newspaper Bild,  the German Football Association used players' gynecological reports as evidence. German team manager Doris Fitschen told the newspaper, "We are glad to be able to confirm that all our players are female."

Though the german players have taken this in their stride and are amused there are others who are not. In 2013, South Korean player Park Eun-seon was accused of being a man by six rival teams in the South Korean women's league, all demanding she submit to a gender test. She has since talked to CNN about her ordeal publically calling it "heart-breaking and humiliating." Equatorial Guinea's Genoveva Anonma was forced to "strip naked" to prove that she was a woman.

USA are the favourites to win the World Cup

The US is one of the top favorites to win this year's tournament, but that doesn't mean it's not going to be tough. The team is ranked second in the world, according to NPR, and features both veteran and rising stars like goalie Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Morgan Brian and midfielder Carli Lloyd. 15 of the 23 woman on the team have had previous World Cup experience.

The odds are also in their favour as fivethirtyeight.com predicts that the team has a 28% chance of claiming its third world title in 2015. Germany comes in a close second with 27%. Meanwhile jumping the gun, US media company SB Nation have proudly proclaimed that "the United States women are winning the World Cup. Middle fingers up to the world."

Nigeria are the underdogs everyone should watch out for

Nigeria pulled a plucky draw against 5th ranked Sweden as Francisca Ordega scored a late equaliser for Nigeria to earn a 3-3 draw with Sweden in their Group D Women’s World Cup opener on Monday. Nigeria have won the African Women's Cup and have budding star Asisat Oshoala on their team. Nigeria had injury laden Sweden on the back foot for most of the match despite them being 2-0 up.

So put your gender biases aside, you don't want to miss out on some exciting football this month.

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Updated Date: Jun 09, 2015 16:40:01 IST

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