The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is creeping ever closer as reigning champions USA head over to France looking to earn their fourth title.
The tournament kicks off on Friday 7 June at 8pm as hosts France have the honour of opening proceedings with a clash against South Korea at the Parc des Princes.
A handful of teams will be heading into the tournament looking to claim victory, with the likes of former winners Japan, Germany and Norway all keen to add to their trophy cabinets.
Slightly closer to home however, Phil Neville’s England side will also be aiming to go one better than their last two tournaments, having managed to reach the semi-finals of both the 2015 World Cup in Canada and the European Championships in the Netherlands two years ago.
Of course, a wealth of talent will be on show throughout the tournament as England gun for glory, with some of the best players within the women’s game sure to take to the field. Brazilian forward Marta will be playing in her fifth World Cup, whilst the USA meanwhile can boast a star-studded frontline of Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. South Korea brings one of the star players of the WSL in the form of Chelsea midfielder and four-time PFA Team of the Year winner Ji So-yun.
The Lionesses cannot be forgotten and have a talented squad of their own. Skipper Steph Houghton is an inspirational figure at the back and is supported by talents such as Karen Carney and FWA Footballer of the Year Nikita Parris, amongst many others.
Ahead of the tournament, Neville’s troops have been placed in what looks to be a testing group. Finishing top of their qualification group having won seven out of their eight games, the Lionesses were drawn alongside Scotland, Argentina and Japan.
They open their campaign with a clash against rivals Scotland at the Stade de Nice on Sunday 9 June at 5pm, before travelling down to Le Havre and the Stade Oceane to face off with Argentina on Friday 14 June at 8pm. Their final group game is arguably their toughest as they entertain 2011 winners Japan on Wednesday 19 June at 8pm. The Lionesses were eliminated at the semi-final stage by the same opponents in 2015 so will be aiming for some form of vengeance this time around.
Manchester City forward Ellen White, who has been capped 81 times for her country, has told that her experience of reaching the semi-finals four years ago has given her even more drive to taste glory this summer.
Speaking to FA.com, she said: “I still have my bronze medal from 2015 hanging up on my bedroom door so I use that as motivation to improve, not just myself, but the country that I play for.
“This is going to be the biggest and the best World Cup that there has ever been so we need to take each game as it comes when we get there.
“The group is a tough one but we haven’t shied away from saying that we can go there, do well, and win it.
“I’d really like to replace that bronze medal too – that would be really nice."
Manager Phil Neville meanwhile has insisted that the group will be a challenge for his squad – one that they are relishing – but is looking forward to one game in particular.
Talking to FA.com following the confirmation of the group in December, he said: “It's a fine looking group we've got. We've got three teams that will compete against each other in a fabulous way.
“I think the Scotland game will get the most interest - and rightly so - because of the rivalry, which I think is something we all should enjoy and embrace. It shows how far the women's game has come."
The Lionesses’ form under the former Manchester United and Everton defender heading into the tournament suggests that the team could do just that and build this year’s success having won the 2019 SheBelieves Cup in the USA.
Since lifting the trophy, England have played three friendly matches against Canada, Spain and Denmark, with a further clash yet to come against New Zealand. They kicked off their run of friendlies with a slender 1-0 defeat to the Canadians before racking up 2-1 and 2-0 victories against Spain and Denmark respectively.
The tournament itself kicks off on 7 June, with the final scheduled for exactly one month later on 7 July.
The BBC will show coverage of the Women’s World Cup, which will be available on TV, radio, the Red Button and online. However, not every match will be shown on the flagship channels.
The opening game of the tournament, the clash between England and Scotland along with the final will be shown on BBC One.
For further information on the Lionesses, simply visit www.thefa.com/england/womens-seniors or follow their Twitter account, @Lionesses