In 2011, it appeared to everyone that the stars had aligned to allow Germany to claim an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup victory. They were playing the tournament as the hosts and favourites, and as they walked out onto the field to take on a Japanese team who had impressed in the group stages, it’s fair to say there were few people inside the Volkswagen-Arena in Wolfsburg who predicted the upset that would follow.
Japan would go onto become the first Asian winners of the Women’s World Cup, not only downing the hosts but the USA too – the two teams that have occupied the positions as favourites for this year’s World Cup that has just got underway in Canada. But what are the chances for this year’s crop of dark horses? Is there a legitimate case for any of the outsiders to cause a second consecutive tournament upset for both Germany and the US? Below, we outline the teams with the best hopes of doing just that.
France – priced from 5/1 to 7/1
Dubbed by the Guardian as ‘arguably the most accomplished side in world football today’, there are many people who believe if anyone is going to topple the challenge of the big two, it’s the French. Despite their perceived inability to fulfil their potential on the big stage, this French team appears to be solid and, more importantly, confident in their own ability. Complete with Lyon captain Wendie Renard leading the team out, there is no question that they’ll be difficult to beat, making them perhaps the best bet for anyone looking to go against the grain this year.
Canada – priced from 7/1 to 12/1
It would be difficult to complete this blog without a significant mention for this year’s hosts. Of course, you can never count against home advantage when it comes to one-off games, but it would be a disservice to this group of players to say that will be the only thing carrying them through. With a great balance of experience and youthful exuberance, from talisman striker Christine Sinclair to her heir-apparent, 17 year old Justine Fleming, the odds on Canada to pip the Germans and their arch rivals to the trophy are certainly worth taking note of.
Brazil – priced from 8/1 to 12/1
Brazil’s women aren’t the powerhouse that they are perceived to be in the men’s game (World Cup 2014’s capitulation notwithstanding), but you’d be foolish to write them off getting into the last four (at least) this summer. From there, as we know, anything can happen – and with the creativity and drive of arguably the best player the women’s game has ever seen, Marta, still the engine of the team there is every chance that with a kind draw this Brazil team can go all the way.
Japan – priced from 8/1 to 12/1
It may seem odd that the reigning champions are considered such outsiders, but if anything it does much to highlight the sheer surprise of their victory four years ago. Nowadays, people are wise to their way of playing and their recent form has done nothing to suggest they can launch a successful defence this time round. However, nobody expected them to perform the way they did in Germany and with the return of the veteran Homare Sawa (playing in her 6th World Cup) there is a feeling of quiet confidence in the Japanese camp. With odds as long as 12/1 for the holders, it’s not hard to see why many have felt them to be worth a flutter this year.
England – priced from 21/1 to 25/1
We couldn’t finish off the roundabout without weighing up the chances of England’s women. It’s been a period of transition since the departure of long-term coach Hope Powell and the squad, it seems, are just starting to click again. The odds are long due to the fact we’ve been – predictably – drawn into a tricky group, with Columbia and Mexico keeping France company as our Group F opponents. However, with Man City star Jill Scott back in the heart of the midfield and no real pressure on the team as a whole, could this be England’s year?