10 games to watch in the group stage at the Women’s World Cup

You want to watch all the games at the World Cup, you really do. Unless you’ve taken a month-long sabbatical or plan on not sleeping, however, that’s not going to be possible and you’re going to need to prioritize. We’re here to help.

Here, in chronological order, are the 10 games you should watch in the group stage.

France-South Korea, June 7.

Winning the World Cup would be monumental enough for the French women, who have never gotten beyond the semifinals. But to win this year, after France won the men’s World Cup last summer, would be unprecedented. Expectations and hopes are high, and how France deals with that pressure will play a big role in how far it goes. The opener, which will be held in Paris less than two months after Notre Dame burned, is sure to be emotional, and a test of how France will handle this big stage.

England-Scotland, June 9.

When England played its first game back in 1972, its neighbor to the north was the opponent. Now Scotland is making its World Cup debut, and its first game opponent is, fittingly, England. Aren’t sibling rivalries great?

Also, England is considered a favorite after finishing third four years ago and winning the She Believes Cup, which also featured the United States, Japan and Brazil, earlier this year.

USA-Thailand, June 11.

Watch the first half for a preview of Jill Ellis’ tactics for the tournament and to see how much more aggressive the United States can be with its new 4-3-3 formation. Watch the second half if you’re into fantasy soccer or drinking games. Can Carli Lloyd get a hat trick? Can the United States reach double digits before the final whistle? Given the Americans won 9-0, with three goals from Lloyd, the only other time they played Thailand, it’s a distinct possibility.

Germany-Spain, June 12.

What to make of Spain? It has shown flashes of being ready to be a major international powerhouse, its senior team qualifying for France without dropping a single point and its youth teams reaching the Under-20 final and winning the U-17 title in 2018. But it crashed out of the 2017 European championship in the quarterfinals, and failed to make it out of the knockout rounds in 2015, its only other World Cup appearance. So which team will we see in France? This game against Germany, a traditional powerhouse that is again among the favorites, will be a good measuring stick. 

France-Norway, June 12.

With Group A likely coming down to these two teams, this game is pivotal. And not just for bragging rights in the group. The Group A winner could see the Americans in the quarterfinals, providing the defending champions win their group, while the team that finishes second would likely face either Australia, a team that has never gotten beyond the quarterfinals, or aging Brazil.

GET TO KNOW THE U.S. TEAM: Hello Kitty, surfing and Japanese game shows.

South Africa-China, June 13.

With Germany and Spain making up the rest of Group B, this could be South Africa’s best chance to win its first game at a major international tournament. Banyana Banyana is making its World Cup debut, and it exited both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics with a draw and two losses.

USA-Chile, June 16.

Like the opener against Thailand, this game isn’t likely to be very competitive. In their previous two meetings, over a five-day span last fall, the Americans outscored Chile 7-0. But Ellis has talked of the importance of seeing different styles in the group stage so the Americans are prepared for anything and everything later in the tournament.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis and her team is looking to repeat as World Cup champions. (Photo: Amy Kontras, USA TODAY Sports)

Nigeria-France and South Korea-Norway, June 17.

Pick your poison. The Group A winner is on a collision course with the United States for the quarterfinals. But the Group A runner-up could see England. Since they will already have played each other, France and Norway will know going into their final group games who has the inside track to which spot and what the goal differential looks like. Do you play to win? Or do you play for what you think is the more advantageous path? 

USA-Sweden, June 20.

There is so much to unpack here. There is, of course, the question of whether you’d rather win the group and likely face France in the quarterfinals, or finish as the runner-up and find yourself playing Germany in that round.

On top of that, it was Sweden that knocked the Americans out of the Rio Olympics in the quarterfinals, the earliest the United States has ever exited a major international tournament. Think the Americans don’t remember that? Of course they do.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

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