Germany, Japan, France and the United States. They're the teams that are the favourites to win the Women's World Cup. The FIFA rankings don't lie.
As a coaching staff we divided the contending teams into a number of categories, coincidentally enough in a 4-2-4 formation. So in podium level threat 1 category, you've got the four teams listed above.
After that quartet, then you've got Brazil and Sweden, and after that it's England, Norway, Canada and Australia. Those last four teams can have a good run at the tournament, and on any given day can upset one of the top teams.
What makes Germany, the European champions, a real threat? National conditions, mainly. With arguably the world's most successful international men's program, it has the financial muscle to fund its teams as well as the ability to build its own national league. When the country's soccer-talent-development system underwent a complete overhaul in 2002, it was implemented for both the men's and women's teams. So Germany benefits from an unbelievable structure, easily the best in the world.
I think with the United States, it's certainly starting with a little bit of form with its win in the 12-team Algarve Cup back in March. There's a whole raft of things around the U.S. team. Some of the players are getting a little older and there's a smattering of young players – and whether they've got the chemistry, I'm not sure.
What I can say is that the United States knows how to win. Regardless of whether there's team solidarity or to win it for 35-year-old Abby Wambach, the 2012 FIFA women's player of the year, from what I've seen from that team, the fear of failure or an absolute desire to win typically pushes it right through to the end of the tournament.
I've watched Japan's progression over the past three to four years and I don't think the defending world champions are going to repeat. I don't see it as being a favourite. I think the circumstances around the World Cup in Germany four years ago were pretty unique for Japan, having played it with New Zealand in the first game. The players had a situation with the 2011 tsunami in which they had a greater goal. They had a complete purpose there and I think that's what pushed them right through in that final with the United States to get the result.
I think that set of circumstances made a big difference. I'm not sure the team has the same motivation and I'm not sure this is going to be Japan's year. I would certainly be looking more at teams such as France, Germany and the United States as the real favourites for this event.
The French have athleticism that's matched by technique. When we played them recently in a 1-0 loss, our players were really surprised at their athleticism. We were outmatched in many positions on the pitch and that's a rare occurrence for Canada. Usually, only the United States can achieve that against us. Player for player, athletically, we weren't as strong in some key positions and the French all have the highest standard of technical ability because of their foundation of full-time player development at Clairefontaine (the home of French soccer development).
Put those things together and for me France is a complete team. They have a 6-foot-2 centre back in Wendie Renard, who is a phenom, and then up front there's Eugénie Le Sommer, who's a clever little Sergio Aguero-type centre forward, alongside Gaëtane Thiney, who's a Dennis Bergkamp-type forward. Then you add in winger Élodie Thomis, who could run internationally for France in the 100 metres, so she's your sort of Arjen Robben player. As a team, France has just got everything, and when they all come together, they're great to watch.
Outside of those four teams, I think there's some exciting individual talent. Marta for Brazil always comes to mind. It's clichéd, but she's the Lionel Messi of the women's game. From what I've seen, no one can do what that woman does. She has real ability to turn a game.
There are a couple of players around the world who are also starting to show that kind of ability. Ramona Bachmann for Switzerland has that sort of flair and quality instincts, while Manon Melis for the Netherlands is another flair player to watch.
Forward-wise, the player that I often hold up to my players as being one of the leaders of the women's game is Sweden's Lotta Schelin. I think she's one of the best centre forwards that I've seen, in how she leads the line and the way she manipulates zonal defences. She's another one who's a real pleasure to watch.
Over all, I think the tournament is more wide open than it's ever been. There are 10 teams that can win this World Cup, and there are favourites, but we know that some of them will fall early. The reality is there's always one surprise team, and out of that last group of Canada, Norway, England and Australia, there may be one surprise team that pushes through.
Why not Canada? After all, we've got the home advantage and we intend to use it.
John Herdman is head coach of the Canadian women's national soccer team. This is the last of a five-part series on Canada's preparations as host country of the Women's World Cup.