Champions USA will not find it easy in a talent-packed World Cup

The tournament has usually been a contest between the Americans and a few others. But the rest of the world has become much stronger in recent years

As the United States prepare for their opening game in the Women’s World Cup on Tuesday against Thailand, it is easy to view the Americans as prohibitive favorites. The US are No1 in the Fifa rankings, defending World Cup champions, and boast some of the best players on the planet, with Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath spearheading their attack.

But the Americans look at it differently. After all, a lot has happened in the four years since the Americans lifted the trophy in Canada. In 2016, they suffered their earliest exit in a major tournament ever, losing to Sweden in the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics. They have been conceding goals at a worrying clip against top-10 teams, and in the run-up to the World Cup they have failed to beat fellow contenders France, England and Japan.

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