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2019 Women’s World Cup preview: Groups A, B and C

France Women v Germany Women: International Friendly

LAVAL, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 28: Melanie Leupolz of Germany is challenged by Amandine Henry of Franceduring the Women’s International Friendly match between France Women and Germany Women at Stade Francis-Le Basser on February 28, 2019 in Laval, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

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The Women’s World Cup begins Friday at the Parc des Princes in Paris, where hosts France will tangle with South Korea to kick off a month-long chase for the honor of being crowned the best team in women’s football.

Here’s the lowdown on half of the field.
Group A

The inside track: Hosts France are hoping for a title, or at least a Top Three finish for the first time in history. The French have lost just once since the start of 2018 and have Eugenie Le Sommer leading the line. Norway would present a genuine title threat were it not for the continued boycott of national team duty by Ballon d’Or Feminin winner Ada Hegerberg, who is protesting for equality. South Korea is hoping for a knockout round game, while Nigeria is hoping its dominance of Africa can translate past the group stage for just the second time in eight tries.

Game schedule

Friday, June 7: France v. South Korea

Saturday, June 8: Norway v. Nigeria

Wednesday, June 12: Nigeria v. South Korea

Wednesday, June 12: France v. Norway

Monday, June 17: Nigeria v. France

Monday, June 17: South Korea v. Norway
Three star players to watch

1) Eugenie Le Sommer, France (below)
2) Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria
3) Maren Mjelde, Norway
Prediction

France and Nigeria win their openers, meeting for the Group A winners’ path on the final day. The hosts get it done.

Wolfsburg v Lyon - UEFA Women's Champions League: Quarter Final Second Leg

WOLFSBURG, GERMANY - MARCH 27: Eugenie Le Sommer of Lyon celebrates the third goal for Lyon during the UEFA Women’s Champions League: Quarter Final Second Leg match between Wolfsburg and Lyon at AOK Stadion on March 27, 2019 in Wolfsburg, Germany. (Photo by Joachim Sielski/Getty Images)

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Group B

The inside track: Two-time World Cup champions Germany are serial EURO winners and a tournament favorite on home continent soil. Once runners-up to the USWNT, China is seeking to reclaim its status as a threat on the world stage. PSG midfielder Wang Shuang should help that along a bit. Spain’s first World Cup saw a winless 20th place finish, so almost anything would be an improvement. South Africa has not won this year.

Game schedule

Saturday, June 8: Germany v. China

Saturday, June 8: Spain v. South Africa

Wednesday, June 12: Germany v. Spain

Thursday, June 13: South Africa v. China

Monday, June 17: South Africa v. Germany

Monday, June 17: China v. Spain
Three star players to watch

1) Alexandra Popp, Germany
2) Patricia Guijarro, Spain
3) Wang Shuang, China
Prediction

Germany cruises through the group stage, and the final day’s meeting between China and Spain sorts the second slot.

SheBelieves Cup - France v Germany

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 07: Alexandra Popp #11 of Germany heads the ball in front of Amandine Henry #6 of France during the SheBelieves Cup soccer match at Orlando City Stadium on March 7, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/ Getty Images)

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Group C

The inside track: Australia has a puncher’s chance in any game, especially given Sam Kerr’s potential to do something wonderful at any given moment. Brazil is on an almost-absurd nine-match losing run, all matches coming away from South America. The Italians have fared well in the run-up, without testing themselves much. Khadija “Bunny” Shaw will bring a prolific goal scoring record to France for the Reggae Girlz of Jamaica.

Game schedule

Sunday, June 9: Australia v. Italy

Sunday, June 9: Brazil v. Jamaica

Thursday, June 13: Australia v. Brazil

Friday, June 14: Jamaica v. Italy

Tuesday, June 18: Jamaica v. Australia

Tuesday, June 18: Italy v. Brazil
Three star players to watch

1) Sam Kerr, Australia
2) Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, Jamaica
3) Marta, Brazil
Prediction

All four teams remain alive on the final day, with Australia and Brazil earning places in the knockout rounds.

Scotland v Jamaica - Women's International Friendly

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 28: Jenny Beattie of Scotland vies with Khadija Shaw of Jamaica during the Women’s International Friendly match between Scotland and Jamaica at Hampden Park on May 28, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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