The United States and France enter this year’s Women’s World Cup as the favorites, with the Americans getting 7-4 odds and the hosts right behind at 7-2 (per SuperBook USA). But here’s the thing about that: FIFA has constructed the knockout bracket in a way that all but guarantees Team USA and France will meet in the quarterfinals, so the furthest one of those teams probably will advance is the round of eight.
And besides, who wants to bet on favorites all the time? So setting aside some of the other teams the odds say could be contenders (Germany at 11-2 and England at 7-1, for instance), here are a couple of long shots to consider as you go about placing your World Cup future bets before the tournament begins Friday.
All odds as of Monday via SuperBook USA.
The Dutch have come a long way since 2015, when they played in their first World Cup and won their first game before bowing out to Japan in the round of 16. Two years later, the Netherlands stormed to the European championship on home soil, going unbeaten and untied and outscoring its three knockout-round foes 9-2. Lieke Martens, Golden Ball winner as MVP of the 2017 Euros and the 2017 FIFA women’s player of the year, is back, while Vivianne Miedema led the Dutch with five goals during qualifying and scored 22 times for Arsenal this past season.
A concern, however, is the path the Netherlands must take: A Group E title would pair it with the Group D runner-up in the round of 16, and that’s likely to be either 2015 nemesis Japan (getting the exact same 16-1 odds to win it all) or England. The Dutch might be better off finishing second in the group, setting up a likely round-of-16 meeting with Sweden (25-1), the probable Group F runner-up.
The Matildas haven’t been able to get past the quarterfinal hump on the international stage, falling in the round of eight in each of the past three World Cups plus the 2016 Olympics, and they have a good chance of reaching that stage again. Assuming Australia wins Group C — an aging Brazil team that comes in on absolutely dismal form is its only likely challenger — it would face one of the four third-place qualifiers in the round of 16.
Any team featuring Sam Kerr is worth a look: The forward already is an international veteran at only 25 years old — she first played for the Matildas’ senior team at the age of 15 — and has won the Golden Boot as top scorer in not one but two professional leagues: Australia’s W-League and the NWSL in the United States.
The Blagult found themselves in the unenviable position of being drawn into the same group as the United States, but it’s not all bad. The two other teams in Group F — Chile and Thailand — are not expected to present much of a challenge, meaning Sweden probably has a fairly stress-free path to the knockout round and a spot on the opposite side of the bracket from either Team USA or France.
Twice a third-place finisher and once a runner-up, Sweden enters this year’s World Cup with a No. 9 world ranking and six players who have played at least 100 international matches, a number of them veterans of the Swedes’ park-the-bus stunner over the United States at the 2016 Olympics.
The key here for Spain is winning Group B over Germany because a second-place finish almost certainly means a matchup of doom against the United States in the round of 16. But can a team that only has been to one previous World Cup — a winless group-stage exit four years ago — knock off a squad that has reached at least the quarterfinals in every World Cup played to this point and won the most recent international tournament, the 2016 Olympics?
It’s not like the Germans are invincible: They made it to only the quarterfinals of the 2017 Euros and lost to Iceland, of all teams, in World Cup qualifying. Plus, Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg only assumed that role this year. Recent results against other world powers suggest Spain could be ready to make the jump: Since the start of 2018, La Roja have beaten the Netherlands and Brazil, drew with Canada and Japan and suffered one-goal defeats against the United States and England.