The Women's World Cup is now less than a month away. It runs from June 6 to July 5 and will be played in six Canadian cities. There has been some controversy leading up to the tournament - the men's tournament must be played on grass, so the women are upset that the whole tournament will be on artificial turf. Anger seems to have shifted to bitter acceptance at this point, though, so now we can focus on getting ready to make some money on the tournament. Let's start with the basics - what you need to know to get started:
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The tournament will be played in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton. The smallest site is Moncton with just 10,000 seats in the stands. All the teams will be playing for a chance to contest the championship game in Vancouver.
24 teams are entered in the tournament and are split into six groups of four teams. Each team will play the other three teams in their group. The top two teams in each group after the round robin automatically advance, and four third-place teams will make the second round as well. The playoffs are a standard single-elimination format just like the men played last summer.
The favorites (all odds from Bovada)
United States (9/4): They are the defending Olympic gold medal champions. They have a whole lot of talent - especially offensively - and even more experience. Their group is fairly manageable. They will have a good amount of crowd support since the games are close to the border. They are the team to beat and a very legitimate favorite.
Germany (7/2): The Germans won the World Cup in both 2003 and 2007, but then they suffered the humiliation of losing in the quarterfinals at home last time. They won the U-20 World Cup last year, though, so they have recaptured their international form. They have an easy group and can avoid the Americans until the finals if both teams win their groups as expected. This is the biggest threat to the Americans.
Brazil (6/1): The Brazilians could have a psychological edge over the Americans - they beat them last month in an invitational tournament in Brazil. Unlike on the men's side, though, this is not the most talented team in the world, and they won't have the crowd support they had in that win. They are almost certain to advance out of a top-heavy group in which Spain is the only other legitimate threat, but they are much more reliant on a favorable draw in the elimination round than the other teams. Not a lot of value here.
Japan (7/1): They are the defending World Cup champs, but that was something of a surprising win. That being said, they are in good shape here. They are the only team in their group that has ever been in the World Cup, so their advancement in all but certain. This is a team that has experience to rely on, and given their draw they could easily make at least the semifinals. Given that, this price is more than fair.
France (9/1): They were fourth both at the last World Cup and Olympics. That pretty much sums this team up - good enough to be a factor but not likely good enough to come out on top. They have some young talent in the pipeline, and they'll get support in the French parts of Canada. This does not seem like a team that is ready to do much more than advance, though. No value.
Canada (10/1): This team will have plenty of support at home, and Christine Sinclair is among the best players in the tournament. Their results leading up to the tournament have been inconsistent, though, and they have been given a tough draw at home. They are a boom-or-bust team - a trip to the semis or better wouldn't be a shock but neither would an early exit. At this price, though, they are likely worth at least a small gamble.
Sweden (10/1): Things aren't going to be easy from the outset for this squad - they drew into a group with the Americans. Like the U.S., though, this is a team with the potential to make a very deep run. They finished third in 2011 and will be looking to do better this time. The rivalry with the Americans should be intense - coach Pia Sundhage previously coached the Americans, winning two Olympic gold medals and finishing second in the 2011 World Cup. The two teams meet June 12 in Winnipeg in what should be the gem of the first round. At this price Sweden is highly attractive.
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