By Christian Radnedge
LONDON (Reuters) – United States will get a flavour of what awaits them in their quest to retain their title at this year’s World Cup as they take part in one of four tournaments kicking off this week featuring teams bound for France in June.
Jill Ellis’ side host the fourth edition of the round-robin SheBelieves Cup which begins on Wednesday, marking 100 days until the start of the global showpiece on June 7.
The SheBelieves Cup also features Brazil, England and Japan, who finished runners-up to the U.S. at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Japan and the U.S., who also contested the 2011 World Cup final which was won by the Asian nation on penalties, face each other in Chester, Pennsylvania on the first day of the competition.
That match comes after England, managed by former Manchester United midfielder Phil Neville, open against Brazil as they aim to build on their impressive qualification campaign for the World Cup by winning the world title for the first time.
England’s match against Japan next Tuesday will be a rehearsal of their World Cup Group D meeting in June.
One of the oldest competitions in women’s football, the Algarve Cup, also begins on Wednesday in Portugal.
Canada, Scotland, Spain, Netherlands, China, Norway and Sweden are the World Cup teams featuring in the four-group tournament, which began in 1994, along with Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Portugal and Poland.
Norway’s hopes of a fifth Algarve Cup title are hampered by the continued absence of Olympique Lyonnais striker and inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, who is not playing for the national team due to a dispute with the association.
The 23-year-old will not even feature for the 1995 World Cup winners in France, as Norway manager Martin Sjogren said that talks to try to persuade her to return had failed.
“We tried to solve it, we had meetings, but she decided not to play,” he told the BBC.
Elsewhere, World Cup debutants South Africa will test their mettle against Thailand, Nigeria and Italy in the 12th edition of the Cyprus Cup.
The quartet are the only teams out of 12 arriving in Cyprus who will be playing in France from June 7 to July 7.
The final tournament to mark the 100-day countdown to the World Cup will be the inaugural Cup of Nations, hosted by Australia and pitting them against South Korea, New Zealand and Argentina.
France, Germany, Jamaica, Chile and Cameroon will not be taking part in any of the tournaments this week.
The World Cup will include 24 teams in total playing across nine cities in France. The opening match will take place at Paris’ Parc des Princes between the hosts and South Korea.
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Toby Davis)