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Luck of the Women's World Cup draw? How the top teams fared

Alex Morgan and the USWNT will look to defend their title for the first time in its history.
Alex Morgan and the USWNT will look to defend their title for the first time in its history.

How did some of the top contenders for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup fare in Saturday's draw? Our experts break it down:

United States (Group F)

This starts out as a dream draw, even with the Americans facing Sweden for a fifth straight World Cup and after the Swedes eliminated them from the 2016 Olympics. But Thailand was the Pot C team that every contender wanted, and Chile looked overmatched in two recent meetings. The USWNT also only needs to travel about 200 miles in the group, will be familiar with Le Havre after playing there in January and gets a game in Paris, where it could play in the knockout round. Trouble looms after that. The immediate danger is a potential round of 16 game against Spain, or even Germany, as the runner-up from Group B, a far cry from playing Colombia in the same round in 2015. Survive that, and the most likely scenario is a quarterfinal against France in Paris. That, too, is a far cry from a quarterfinal against China on a neutral field four years ago. -- Graham Hays

Germany (Group B)

A straightforward draw wouldn't fit the narrative for Germany, but this could have been worse. From a coaching change (Martina Voss-Tecklenburg now in charge after interim coach Horst Hrubesch salvaged an initially turbulent qualifying campaign), to the pulmonary embolism that sidelined captain Dzsenifer Marozsan for much of 2018, it hasn't been business as usual. China and South Africa can be managed, but drawing Spain, perhaps the biggest X factor in the draw, is cause for uneasiness, even when you haven't lost a group game since 1995. Win Group B and a third-place team awaits in the round of 16. But the price for finishing second in the group could be a round of 16 matchup against the U.S. That makes Spain versus Germany on June 12 one of the matches of the tournament. -- Graham Hays

France (Group A)

France will be happy with the draw it got Saturday in Paris. It wanted to avoid Brazil or Japan, and it has. The list of fixtures should also enable France to get from strength to strength in this group stage to arrive at its peak for the round of 16. With Korea on the tournament's opening day (June 7) in Paris, Norway, 13th in the world rankings in Nice (June 12) and then Nigeria, who won the last Women's Africa Cup of Nations, in Rennes (June 17), France could be in for the perfect star in its World Cup. -- Julien Laurens

England (Group D)

Of course, it had to be Japan and Scotland. This is the most motivating draw England could have, facing the team who knocked the Brits out of the last World Cup and their old foes. Fresh from the hammer blow of vice-captain Jordan Nobbs' World Cup-ending knee injury, England will have to do it the hard way if it is to top Group D. Japan, runners-up in 2015, offer the sternest test for Phil Neville's side; but Scotland, growing in form and stature under Shelley Kerr, will fancy an upset in its maiden World Cup. The England-Scotland match in Nice on June 9 will be a repeat of England women's first match, dating back to 1972. Argentina should be straightforward for the Lionesses, but judging by this pool, if England reach the knockout stage, there is no danger of the team being undercooked. -- Tom Hamilton

Canada (Group E)

Canada has reason to be most displeased about drawing one of the many rematches in this tournament. Although the Netherlands had to go through the European playoff to qualify, it was a team to avoid. Few teams in the world have progressed more in the past four years than the Dutch, who went from World Cup rookies in 2015 to European champions in 2017. All of which means this a much better Dutch team than Canada faced in 2015 -- and that group ended in a draw in Montreal. While New Zealand can be tricky, the Dutch and Canadians should both be on six points entering the group finale in Reims on June 20. The solace for the loser is that winning the group guarantees little, with England or Japan likely waiting in the round of 16. Finishing second, meanwhile, likely means opening the knockout round against Sweden (but possibly the U.S.). -- Graham Hays

Australia (Group C)

The Matildas might have preferred to start anew rather than play Brazil yet again. Australia eliminated Brazil from the 2015 World Cup. Brazil returned the favor in the 2016 Olympics. But the game on June 13 is a symbolic opportunity for the Australians to prove they have truly passed the Brazilians as championship contenders. More pragmatically, this also looks like the weakest Brazilian team in some time. Given draw restrictions and predominance of Asian teams in Pot C, drawing Italy in the group is an acceptable outcome, albeit a tricky opening game. There is wiggle room for Australia should it stumble because, rather than face a group winner, the second-place team faces the Group A runner-up, likely Norway or Korea, and a comparable quarterfinal. -- Graham Hays

Japan (Group D)

If Japan was the Pot 2 team that no one wanted to face, the draw will make for decent reading in Tokyo. While England and Scotland scrap it out in the opening game, the Nadeshiko will be confident of taking three points against Argentina to move into a commanding position ahead of what should be another three-point haul against Scotland. All going well, a place in the knockout stage should be secured before the final game against England, the strongest team in the group on paper. The 2011 Women's World Cup winners might not quite be at those heights these days, but the team has been in good form of late, arriving in France for the draw with a run of six straight wins. -- John Duerden

Brazil (Group C)

Saturday's copy of Lance!, Brazil's daily sports newspaper, failed to contain a single mention of the draw for next year's Women's World Cup -- which stands as a potent symbol of the problems the game is facing in these parts.

Marta is revered as perhaps the greatest player in the history of the women's game, but so much of her inspirational effect appears to have been squandered. Marta's Brazil came in second in the 2007 World Cup and won silver medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. But they have not come close since those near misses. As the sport has developed rapidly in tactical, technical and, perhaps especially, physical terms, Brazil have been overtaken and were not even in the first pot of favorites in the draw for 2019.

But the draw has not been unkind. The seeded team in Group B is Australia, who eliminated Brazil in the second round in 2015. The teams have fought many narrow battles in recent times, Brazil has usually come out on top.

Also in the group are Italy, who Brazil have not faced in competitive action since a 2-0 win in 1999, and Jamaica. Group C, then, looks very accessible. But with only eight of the 24 teams exiting the competition at the group stage, it seems clear the real competition for Brazil -- and the quest for some much-needed column inches -- will start at the knockout stage. -- Tim Vickery


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