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French ready for World Cup



PARIS — With just six months before the tournament’s opening game in Paris, anticipation is growing ahead of the 2019 women’s World Cup as the French capital prepares to host the draw for the finals on Saturday.

The spotlight on the women’s game continues to grow, and next year’s competition in France — which runs from 7 June to 7 July — will be the most lucrative yet.

There remains a chasm, though, compared to the men’s World Cup that will take some years yet to close, in financial terms and in terms of the media spotlight.

However, there are some advantages to that — 12 months ago, President Vladimir Putin took the stage in the Kremlin at a politicized draw for the World Cup in Russia, but this time at least football can be the sole focus.

The hosts will be among the top seeds for the 24-team tournament, in which the United States will defend their crown while Olympic champion Germany will be a strong contender, too.

Competition is likely to be intense, however — 2011 winners Japan will fancy their chances, as will Phil Neville’s England, semi-finalists at the last World Cup and at Euro 2017.

“We’ve got the experience now but we want to make sure we go all the way,” England star Fran Kirby told The Guardian recently.