Women's World Cup set for French take-off

The Matildas are expected to make a deep run in this month's Women's World Cup, which begins on Saturday (AEST) when hosts France meet South Korea.

SAMANTHA KERR of Australia controls the ball during a match at Pepper Stadium in Sydney, Australia.
SAMANTHA KERR of Australia controls the ball during a match at Pepper Stadium in Sydney, Australia. Picture: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images

Having taken incredible strides, but with still more to come, the Women's World Cup kicks off in Paris this weekend amid great anticipation.

France plays host to the 2019 tournament, beginning with a sold-out opening match against South Korea on Saturday (AEST).

Records will be broken.

Indefatigable Brazilian midfielder Formiga will become the first footballer - male or female - to play at seven World Cups.

Canadian veteran Christine Sinclair needs three goals to become the sport's greatest ever international goalscorer.

And a new champion will be crowned.

France could become the first nation to unite the men's and women's World Cups by winning on home soil, and Les Bleus are one of two favourites to do so.

They're also a popular host, with Matildas skipper Sam Kerr delighted to see the tournament return to a football-mad country.

"Last time in Canada, to me, just didn't have the same buzz around as Germany (in 2011) did," Kerr told AAP.

"I'm excited to see what France put on for this World Cup and I think it will be the best one I've been to yet."

The other favourites are reigning champions USA.

The Americans arrive in France as the world's top-ranked team, on a six-match winning run that includes a 5-3 shellacking of Australia in August.

"They will be up there," Kerr continued.

"I would love to see France go as far as us to the final but you can't go past the USA and also Germany."

Australia hope to make a splash at the tournament, both on and off the pitch.

Off the pitch, they're leading a push for improved prize money for female players, with just 7.5 per cent of the men's 2018 World Cup prize pool on offer.

Once again, disparities between treatment of male and female players are on display - none starker than the French federation's decision to boot their women's team from their national training base in favour of the men's team preparing for a friendly with Bolivia.

Kerr, who has grown to be one of the world's best strikers, will lead the team.

Under new coach Ante Milicic, the Matildas can be unplayable at their best, attacking with unpredictability and venom.

They can also be susceptible at the back, as recent losses to the Americans and Netherlands have shown.

Drawn in Group C alongside adversaries Brazil, returning power Italy and newcomers Jamaica, midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight said "the draw couldn't have gone any better for us".

"Brazil is super familiar to us. We've played them probably the most out of any country in the last few years," Kellond-Knight told AAP.

"Italy is going to be a hard game but Brazil probably the hardest.

"Then we can finish off against Jamaica and, cross fingers, we can taper off."

Kellond-Knight said Australia, as a top-seeded nation, deserved to be confident.

"With a nice draw we can share game load, be confident that we're going to get there," she said.

"This is the best depth I've seen in a Matildas team. It's super encouraging."


AAP