Previewing the 2023 Women's World Cup.
France, Jamaica, Brazil, Panama
The favorite: France are the group's top seed, but this could be a dead heat with Brazil, which has a generation of young talent coming into the squad to support all-time great Marta. Les Bleus have won more games in the buildup, but the Selecao have played the more difficult schedule, including a draw against England in the 2023 Finalissima (before losing on penalties) and a 2-1 friendly victory over Germany.
The best matchup: The good news for neutrals is that those two aforementioned sides will meet on Matchday 2 of group play in Brisbane, before either can have secured qualification to the round of 16. And both teams will probably feel pretty comfortable about their chances to dispatch Jamaica and Panama, meaning there will be incentive to play aggressively in search of the top group spot -- potentially avoiding a second-round meeting with Germany out of Group H.
History lesson: Jamaica appears in the Women's World Cup for the second time, and this is the first for Panama. Their meeting on Matchday 2 will be the first time ever two nations from CONCACAF have met in a men's or women's World Cup in group play. Typically, World Cup draws are organized to keep teams from different federations -- other than UEFA, which qualifies more teams than there are groups -- from meeting in the first round. But Panama qualified through intercontinental playoff victories over Papau New Guinea and Paraguay to reach the tournament after their playoff spot was drawn in Jamaica's group.
Players: At age 37, Marta looks to write a Lionel Messi-like final chapter of her career. The six-time FIFA Women's Player of the Year has won club titles in Sweden, Brazil and the U.S., and is a four-time Copa America champion with Brazil. But she still seeks her first global trophy after one second-place World Cup finish and two in the Olympics. With star striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto still out due to an ACL tear, France will lean heavily on her PSG teammate Kadidiatou Diani, who is coming off a career year with 17 league goals and four more in the UEFA Champions League.
Up next: The group draw might feel like an easy one for the two heavyweights, but the landscape could change very quickly after that. It's conceivable one of these teams would have to defeat World No. 2 Germany and defending European champions England just to reach the semifinal.
--Field Level Media