It's only a matter of days until the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off in France. The women's game has never been stronger than right now, so there's plenty of expectation for this to be the best tournament yet. Before the event gets underway, here's your ultimate guide on everything you need to know.
Nine city's stadiums in France will host matches during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, including Paris (Parc des Princes), Lyon (Stade de Lyon), Nice (Stade de Nice), Montpellier (Stade de la Mosson), Rennes (Roazhon Park), Le Havre (Stade Océane), Valenciennes (Stade du Hainaut), Reims (Stade Auguste-Delaune), and Grenoble (Stade de Alpes).
The event will take place between June 7 - July 7, 2019 (June 8 - July 8, 2019 AEST).
MATILDAS MATCHES KICK-OFF DATES AND TIMES
The Matildas will play three group stage matches where they will hope to qualify for the round of 16 and go on to the latter stages of the tournament. The final will take place on July 7 (July 8 AEST) in Lyon.
Matildas vs Italy at Stade du Hainaut - Sunday, June 9, 2019 - 9pm (AEST)
Matildas vs Brazil at Stade de la Mosson - Friday, June 14, 2019 - 2am (AEST)
Matildas vs Jamaica at Stade de Alpes - Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 5am (AEST)
HOW TO WATCH
Optus Sport and SBS will be broadcasting matches from the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. For online coverage and to track the latest news form the tournament, the Wide World of Sports website has you covered.
A total of 24 teams qualified for the tournament:
Australia, France, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, USA, Canada, Jamaica, Cameroon, New Zealand, South Africa, Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Eugenie Le Sommer (Forward) and Amandine Henry (Midfield) France
Captain Henry is the heartbeat of the team and Le Sommer leads the line. Together, the Olympique Lyon pair will aim to fire France to their first World Cup, emulating their men's team from Russia last year.
Alex Morgan (Forward) and the American 'dream team'
Morgan is the superstar, but what a support act. Megan Rapinoe is a deadly asset. Mallory Pugh is rising through the ranks. Cristen Press and Tobin Heath have proven class and then there's Carli Lloyd, who like Morgan has over 100 international goals. Oh, and that's just the USA forward line. The team to beat.
Sam Kerr (Forward) Australia
Sure, the Matildas have other threats but the 25-year-old captain fantastic is central to Australia's hopes of a deep run. Kerr has 23 goals in 27 international appearances and should add to that tally in France. Even when not scoring, her high press is crucial to Australia's hopes.
Alexandra Popp (Forward) Germany
A two-time German footballer of the year, Popp arrives in France after a prolific campaign for German champions Wolfsburg. Popp, 27, is a key player for a national team unbeaten in a year.
Marta (Forward), Formiga (Midfield) and Cristiane (Forward) Brazil
With a combined age of 108 and 15 World Cups between them, this trio knows what it takes. Formiga will become the only player to play at seven World Cups when she makes it onto the pitch; Marta has won more individual awards than any other female footballer and Cristiane has an incredible goalscoring history.
Lucy Bronze (Defender) England
Plainly the best fullback in the world, although her versatility could see her utilised in several roles, Bronze will aim to fire England to their best-ever women's World Cup result this month. No need to question her credentials, her middle name is quite literally 'Tough'.
Kim Little (Midfield) Scotland
Australian fans need no introduction to Little. Her one season in the W-League was magnificent, featuring prominently in Melbourne City's 100 per cent winning season; the only one in Australian domestic history. She's since reunited with then-City boss Joe Montemurro to win the English league with Arsenal.
Christine Sinclair (Forward) Canada
A living adornment to the game, Sinclair has featured at national team level for two decades - scoring in each year. With three goals in France, the 35-year-old will become the game's all-time greatest international scorer.
Vivianne Miedema (Forward) Netherlands
Miedema is another Arsenal title-winner featuring in France; she won the English league's golden boot and followed that up with a lethal strike against Australia in their friendly win on the weekend. One part of a feared attacking trident with Shanice van de Sanden and Like Martens.
Ji So-yun (Midfield) South Korea
The creative Chelsea player was central to getting South Korea to the World Cup and will be a big part of how her country fares. The Matildas know all about her talents; Ji was the only player to breach Australia's defence in the March's Cup of Nations.
BIGGEST TALKING POINTS
World's best player won't be there
Norway forward Ada Hegenberg is the game's best player, but she has sensationally opted not to play for her side in France, protesting her federation's treatment of female players. She has warm support across the game for her stance, yet few are brave enough to make such personal sacrifices to make their point.
Denmark miss out
Danish striker Pernille Harder is renowned as one of the best female footballers in the world. She was voted as the best women's football player in the world by newspaper The Guardian and Harder top-scored in this season's European Champions League. But unfortunately, despite the strength within the Danish side, Harder was unable to get her country past Sweden and the Netherlands to qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup.
Can Australia's defence hold up?
There was a lot of talk about the Matildas winning the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, but some tough losses in warm-up matches against the Netherlands and USA were a brutal reality check. Australia's goal first should be, as always, to plot a route out of their group. On the evidence of Eindhoven, that will be tricky enough with improving Italy and nemesis Brazil in the way. The Matildas remain dangerous going forward but are battling at the back. They've now been found out in their last four away outings; a 5-3 loss to USA in April was preceded by a 2-0 loss to France and a scarcely merited 1-1 draw in England last October.
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS
"It’s expected that the Matildas go further than we’ve ever been. People call this a golden generation. We’ve got players that have been together for many years now. If we don’t make semis at a minimum I think this campaign is a failure. If we make it past those final stages I think it’s anyone’s game.
I think the teams to beat in France will be France firstly. Most importantly being at home and they’ve had a taste seeing the men win the World Cup so they’ll want to do the double. It would be massive. Also Spain are a big chance. They’ve been outstanding. Their domestic league recently has shone, so they’ll be a team to watch. And the third team with a shot, no-one has spoken about - Scotland. They’re going to be up against England and that will be one of the best matches of the World Cup. I’ve had the Scottish captain play at Canberra United this past season and they’ve got one of the best players in the world in Kim Little their first World Cup. Their results in the last few months in the lead up have been outstanding. No-one is talking about them but they’ve got that winning mentality and will definitely be a team to watch." - Heather Garriock, former Matildas star, now coach.
- with AAP