06.05.2015 10:28 h

Form guide ahead of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup

With a month to go before the FIFA Women's World Cup, AFP takes a look at seven of the top teams in the 24-nation tournament who will be hoping to challenge in Canada from June 6-July 5.

GERMANY (ranked 1)

Germany are among the favourites as the world number one side bid to follow their men's World Cup triumph in Brazil. Award-winning coach Silvia Neid boasts a mix of experienced veterans such as strikers Celia Sasic and Anja Mittag and emerging talent in Tabea Kemme and Sara Dabritz, with the reigning European champions also counting on FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Nadine Kessler and former winner Nadine Angerer. The 2003 and 2007 champions have shown form in recent weeks and despite some injuries beat Brazil 4-0 in a friendly after also whipping the South Americans 3-1 in March's Algarve Cup on their way to finishing third. They have one final warm-up against Switzerland on May 18 before opening their Group B campaign against the Ivory Coast on June 7 in a group that also includes Norway and Thailand.


Champions in 1991 and 1999, the United States are again among the favourites after winning the Gold Cup for a seventh time last year. The US have always reached at least the semi-finals, and were runners-up four years ago. Ranked second in the world they also won the World Cup warm-up Algarve Cup in March, beating France 2-0 in the final. Coach Jill Ellis has built her team around the 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning squad with captain Christie Rampone, capped 304 times, set for a fifth World Cup, in a star-studded side that includes fellow veterans Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Heather O'Reilly in midfield, forward Abby Wambach and goalkeeper Hope Solo. Newcomers hoping to break through include forward Sydney Leroux and Christen Press as Washington Spirit defender Ali Krieger fights to be fit after suffering concussion last month. After beating England 1-0 and New Zealand 4-0 in recent friendlies, warm-up matches against the Republic of Ireland, Mexico and South Korea await before opening in Group D against Australia in a group that includes Sweden and Nigeria.


France, ranked third, finished fourth in the 2011 World Cup, and have been building momentum since marching undefeated through qualifying followed by last October's first-ever 2-0 friendly victory over Germany in Offenbach. Despite finishing runners-up to the United States in the Algarve Cup they continued their preparations with a 1-0 friendly win over Canada last month. Marie-Laure Delie will spearhead the French attack in Group F having scored 57 goals in 80 international appearances, with other established international stars including defender Laura Georges, Elise Busaglia, Camille Abily, Eugenie Le Sommer, Sarah Bouhaddi and Gaetane Thiney. France open against England on June 9, with Mexico and Colombia also group rivals. Before heading to Canada, France entertain Russia on May 22 in Chateauroux and Scotland on May 28 in Nancy.


Holders Japan lifted the title for the first time in Germany four years ago when they beat the United States in a dramatic penalty shootout. The Japanese went on to take silver at the 2012 Olympics and won the Asian Cup for the first time in 2014. Coach Norio Sasaki insists that teamwork is the key to their success but his fourth-ranked side will nevertheless be boosted by the return of superstar Homare Sawa to the fold. The 36-year-old, whose goals fired Japan to glory in 2011, had been hampered by injuries over the past year. Japan will go into the tournament with 17 players having appeared in a World Cup, including skipper Aya Miyama, a two-time Asian player of the year. They play warm-up games at home against New Zealand and Italy later this month before flying out to North America. In Group C they open their title defence against Switzerland on June 8, with Ecuador and Cameroon also in their group.


Sweden, the 2003 runners-up, now coached by Pia Sundhage who lead the US women from 2008-2012, will be hoping to cause some upsets after coming back from a two-goal deficit at the Algarve Cup to beat Germany in a group match. They will be counting on influential midfielder Caroline Seger, striker Sofia Jakobsson, with Chelsea goalkeeper Lindahl Hedvig back in form after knee problems. Veteran defensive midfielder Nilla Fischer and striker Lotta Schelin, competing in her third World Cup, are also stalwarts. However they lost to Brazil and Germany, in a rematch, in the Algarve Cup, following by a 3-1 loss to Switzerland in a friendly, but a few days later drew 3-3 with Denmark in Stockholm. Sweden open Group D against Nigeria with the United States and Australia in their group.


Reigning six-time Copa America champions Brazil are always a force to be reckoned with. Despite the magic provided by five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta, the Brazilians have however been hampered by lack of funding in the past. But ahead of the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics at home the Brazilian federation has created an 18-month residency camp for players. Whether it pays off remains to be seen as coach Oswaldo Alvarez, better known as Vadao, looks to boost his side ahead of the Rio Games by taking their first world title after finishing runners-up in 2007. Marta, 29, the scorer of 79 goals in 91 appearances returns after missing the Cop America with key players including veteran striker Cristiane Rozeira, goalkeeper Andreia and prolific midfielder Formiga. Despite finishing seventh in the Algarve Cup, Brazil beat the USA and China in friendlies last December. They are in Group E with South Korea, Spain and Costa Rica.


Canada qualified automatically as hosts but John Herdman's side have proven they are a side to be reckoned with despite finishing bottom of their group in Germany four years ago after taking medals at the 2012 Olympics (bronze) and the 2011 Pan-American Games (gold). They placed fifth in the Cyprus Cup but are coming off a series of friendly wins against South Korea, Mexico and China, and a 1-1 draw with the USA. The highest ranking team in their Group A they open the tournament against China on June 6 with group rivals also including New Zealand and the Netherlands.