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Women's World Cup 2015: Schedule, Predictions for Tournament in Canada

Mark Buckingham@@MABuckinghamFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2015

Japan celebrate winning the 2011 Women's World Cup.
Japan celebrate winning the 2011 Women's World Cup.Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images

The 2015 Women's World Cup has the potential to be the best yet, with 24 teams bidding for glory in Canada.

The expanded nature of the tournament ensures that the best teams should all progress to the round-of-16 stage, and once the knockout format starts, the excitement will really begin to build.

Matches will also be played on artificial turf at some venues, per the Associated Press (via the Guardian), and that has been a controversial decision in the buildup to the tournament.

Now that the seventh Women's World Cup is on the horizon, though, the focus of all the teams and players will be on dethroning Japan as holders.

Here's all the schedule information you need for the tournament, which runs from June 6 to July 5, along with predictions for the competition:

2015 Women's World Cup Opening Fixtures
DateTime (BST/ET)VenueHomeAway
Saturday, June 611 p.m./6 p.m.EdmontonCanadaChina
Saturday, June 62 a.m. (Sunday, June 7)/9 p.m.EdmontonNew ZealandNetherlands
Sunday, June 76 p.m./1 p.m.OttawaNorwayThailand
Sunday, June 79 p.m./4 p.m.OttawaGermanyIvory Coast
Monday, June 89 p.m./4 p.m.WinnipegSwedenNigeria
Monday, June 812 a.m. (Tuesday, June 9)/7 p.m.VancouverCameroonEcuador
Monday, June 812:30 a.m. (Tuesday, June 9)/7:30 p.m.WinnipegUnited StatesAustralia
Monday, June 83 a.m. (Tuesday, June 9)/10 p.m.VancouverJapanSwitzerland
Tuesday, June 96 p.m./1 p.m.MonctonFranceEngland
Tuesday, June 99 p.m./4 p.m.MontrealSpainCosta Rica
Tuesday, June 99 p.m./4 p.m.MonctonColombiaMexico
Tuesday, June 912 a.m. (Wednesday, June 10)/7 p.m.MontrealBrazilSouth Korea
Fifa.com

For the full tournament schedule, go to FIFA's official website

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Predictions

Winners

Japan were shock winners of the tournament four years ago, but coach Norio Sasaki believes his team are now even better, per FIFA's official website.

Norio Sasaki says Japan are now stronger.
Norio Sasaki says Japan are now stronger.Koki Nagahama/Getty Images

Sasaki's side won't go into the tournament as favourites, but in a group that also contains Switzerland, Cameroon and Ecuador, they will be confident of finishing top.

Japan proved there was no fluke about their win in 2011 when taking the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, but it's hard to see them successfully defending their title.

Japan beat the United States, which have already won the World Cup twice, in a penalty shootout in the final in 2011.

Jill Ellis' team have landed in one of the more difficult groups, as Australia and Sweden are among their opponents in the first round. But given the strength in depth at Ellis' disposal, it would be a huge surprise if the United States failed to progress. Once in the knockout phase, their tournament pedigree makes them difficult to beat.

Nadine Angerer is due to retire from international football.
Nadine Angerer is due to retire from international football.Sergio Camacho/Getty Images

Germany are also two-time World Cup winners and will be aiming to provide retiring captain Nadine Angerer, per UEFA's official website, with a fitting send-off.

Norway will give Germany a test in the group, but Ivory Coast and Thailand should be seen off comfortably. Like the USA, Germany's history means they have to be respected the longer the tournament goes on although they will be without Fatmire Alushi, who is missing the tournament due to being pregnant, per the BBC.

The irrepressible Marta will spearhead Brazil's challenge, and they have the firepower to trouble any team, but they could lack the consistency to go all the way. Spain and South Korea will also be tricky customers in the group phase.

France and England are both in Group F and should both reach the next stage. On a good day, they have the ability to compete with the best, but again, it's a question of being able to do it for a monthlong tournament over seven matches.

Prediction: United States

Top Scorer

Brazil striker Marta is joint-leading goalscorer in Women's World Cup history.
Brazil striker Marta is joint-leading goalscorer in Women's World Cup history.Matthias Schrader/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

Whichever team goes the furthest won't necessarily decide the battle to be top scorer, but it does feel like it will be a two-player battle.

Marta and Abby Wambach are virtually incomparable in front of goal against their peers.

Marta is the joint-leading scorer in World Cup history alongside Birgit Prinz with 14 goals, per Jamie Doyle of Sportsnet. The Brazilian was top scorer in 2007 and second in 2011, when her team only reached the quarter-finals. Doyle is full of praise for Marta, writing:

Is Marta the best female player of all time? You could make a solid argument she is—and at 29 years old, she's got years left to make her case. Technically gifted almost beyond belief, she's about as lethal a striker as has ever played, with 119 goals in 137 club matches and 79 goals in 91 appearances for Brazil.

Wambach is the United States' all-time leading scorer, per Jeff Carlisle of espnW.com, and she has scored 13 goals in her three tournament appearances.

She famously scored a dramatic late equaliser in extra time against Brazil in the quarter-finals four years ago, as you can see in the video below. Her team-mate, Carli Lloyd, is another player who will have a chance of finishing top scorer.

Prediction: Marta

Stories to watch

Nadine Angerer

The 36-year-old has confirmed that she will be retiring from international football at the end of the World Cup, per UEFA's official website.

Angerer said, "It was important that I was the one who decided when my time was up, and not an injury or someone else making that decision for me."

The goalkeeper was part of Germany's World Cup-winning teams in 2003 and 2007, and she will captain the side on her final appearance at the tournament.

With five European Championship titles to her name as well, it would be apt if Angerer helps Germany to become the first team to win the Women's World Cup three times.

Selenia Iacchelli

The Canadian midfielder has conceded that it was a shock to be included in John Herdman's squad for the tournament. She said, per FIFA's official website:

It was a full-on surprise! I had no idea, nobody let anything slip. The staff had known I was going to make it and I went into the meeting room and John was like, 'Hey Sel, this meeting's going to be pretty quick'. He started thanking me for coming on and training with the team. He started talking about my character and how important I am to these girls and then he said, 'I don't know what clicked but I noticed you're playing your best soccer'.

Iacchelli has struggled with injuries throughout her career and saw a move to Doncaster Belles fall through in 2013, per Hayley Paterson of the Doncaster Free Press.

It was only in that year that Iacchelli made her senior debut at the age of 27, and she turns 29 the day before the opening game against China.

Iacchelli impressed in the Cyprus Cup earlier this year, and it will be some story if she can inspire the hosts to the latter stages of the tournament.

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