Canada 2015: Record crowds, superpowers & last hurrahs

Women's World Cup on the BBC
Dates: 6 June - 5 July: Every match live on the BBC. All games online with selected matches on BBC Two, BBC Three and Red Button. Catch-up via BBC iPlayer. Every England game on BBC Radio 5 live. Live text commentary of every England game via BBC Sport website.

This month's World Cup is shaping up to be the biggest in the history of the women's game.

From the prospect of record crowds watching both in Canada and around the world to the chance of seeing the game's greatest players attempt to lift the trophy for the first time, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the competition, which begins on 6 June.

Here, we take a look at some of the key talking points...

The biggest World Cup yet?

This is the Women's World Cup of firsts.

It's the first time 24 teams will compete, eight more than in the last four tournaments; the first time Canada has hosted a competition played out across the country simultaneously; and the first time a finals has been played over such a long period - 30 days.

With more teams and more players involved than ever before, organisers says they are "confident" they can also attract record crowds.

During the tournament's 52 matches, they expect 1.5 million people to pass through the turnstiles at stadiums across six cities. A further half a billion people (up from 407 million in 2011) are expected to watch on TV around the globe.

Graphic showing where England will play their matches at the 2015 World Cup (two games in Moncton, one in Montreal)

Clash of the superpowers: USA v Germany

Could fans see these two footballing powerhouses clash in a Women's World Cup final for the first time this summer?

They have long dominated the women's game, featuring in all six previous tournaments and each winning twice.

Although the US, ranked number one in the world for the past six years, lead the Women's World Cup all-time leaderboard, there have been suggestions that they could be at the beginning of the end of their dominance following a handful of poor performances.

All-time Women's World Cup rankings
RankTeamPlayedPointsAverage points
1USA27862.39
2Germany23722.25

Head coach Jill Ellis was hired in May to settle the ship and has fared well with an impressive, if routine, World Cup qualifying campaign.

In the last tournament in 2011, they were edged out by Japan, who beat them on penalties in the final. And having not won the trophy for 16 years, the 2012 Olympic champions will certainly be spurred on by that heartache from three years ago.

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Highlights - Japan 2-2 USA (3-1 pens)

Germany have enjoyed similar levels of dominance, winning the 2003 and 2007 World Cups - the latter without conceding a single goal - and secured their sixth straight European Championship last summer.

Despite that history and the chance to win a third consecutive Women's World Cup in 2011 in front of a home crowd, they were largely unimpressive and exited at the quarter-final stage, equalling their worst performance at the tournament.

A final between these two teams would be quite an occasion.

England's chances

Three times England have qualified for this tournament and three times they have reached the quarter-finals.

Considering they are ranked seventh in the world, that level of performance would seem to be about right.

England players look dejected after losing to France at the 2011 World Cup
England were beaten on penalties by France at the 2011 World Cup

But can manager Mark Sampson, appointed in December 2013 following Hope Powell's sacking, get the Lionesses punching above their weight?

England have a mix of experience, in Alex Scott and record caps holder Fara Williams, and youthful vigour, supplied by the likes of Jordan Nobbs - a lethal combination if utilised correctly, as Sweden found out in August.

England won all 10 of their World Cup qualifiers, conceding just one goal, and won the Cyprus Cup tournament in March.

But they have been outplayed by Germany in front of a record home crowd at Wembley, been beaten by the United States and lost a warm-up game to hosts Canada on Saturday., meaning question marks remain.

The hosts

Football is the highest participation sport in Canada and its popularity saw them awarded the under-20 Women's World Cup in 2002 and the under-20 World Cup in 2007.

This will be their first outing as hosts of a senior global football tournament and the country is certainly getting behind it, with more than 150,000 tickets sold in the first 48 hours.

On the pitch, Canada's World Cup record is far from impressive, only venturing beyond the group stage once - finishing fourth in 2003. But they have picked up silverware on the world stage, winning a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.

World Cup facts
Vanessa Arauz Leon, head coach of Ecuador, will be the youngest manager of the tournament at 26 years oldWomen's World Cup debutants in 2015: Cameroon, Thailand, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland
The record attendance for a Women's World Cup is 90,185, set in 1999 as the USA beat China at the Rose Bowl in Los AngelesGermany scored the most goals in qualifying - 62
Reigning world champions Japan were the first nation to win the Women's World Cup outside of Europe and North AmericaThere have only ever been four world champions: Germany (two), USA (two), Norway and Japan

In his four year-reign, English manager John Herdman has certainly revitalised a team that lost all three of its group games in the previous World Cup.

And he is enjoying the pressure of managing the host nation, placed eighth in the world: "You've got one chance. Let's go and win it," he said recently. Captain Christine Sinclair will be a key player for the Canucks. The striker is their record scorer and has the third-highest number of goals in the history of the women's game, with 147.

Icons yet to win a World Cup

Despite their illustrious careers, neither Marta nor Wambach have won a World Cup. An ambassador for the women's game across the globe, Brazilian Marta Vieira da Silva, 29, is the all-time joint leading goalscorer in Women's World Cups with 14 goals.

She has won the Fifa Player of the Year award five times and is nominated again this year. No-one has ever done that before - male or female. Off the pitch she is a passionate advocate for women's right to play football and uses her celebrity status to raise awareness of social issues in her home country.

No-one, man nor woman, has scored more international goals than Wambach. She has struck 182 times for the USA in 241 appearances. Known for her aerial prowess, the two-time Olympic champion has been a pillar of the USA team for 13 years.

Away from football Wambach, who married her partner Sarah Huffman last year, is an ambassador for an organisation that battles homophobia and transphobia in sport. She has just turned 35, so could this be her final chance to lift that World Cup trophy?

Young player to watch

Nigerian striker Asisat Oshoala has made her mark this year at just 20 years of age. She shone in the under-20 Women's World Cup, taking home the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards for highest goalscorer and player of the tournament.

Asisat Oshoala collects the Golden Ball trophy at the U20 Women's World Cup
Asisat Oshoala collects the Golden Ball trophy at the U20 Women's World Cup

Oshoala showed she could thrive at senior level when she helped Nigeria to qualify for Canada 2015 by winning their ninth African Women's Championship in 11 competitions. She picked up the Golden Ball award there too.

And she was recently named the first BBC Women's Footballer of the Year.

Such is her talent, her nickname is 'Seedorf' after the legendary Dutch men's international Clarence. Oshoala has admitted she dropped out of school to follow her dream of playing football, much to the dismay of her parents, and come next summer she will be living that dream on the highest stage.

A version of this story was first published on 6 December 2014.

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