• Hope Powell participated in the FIFA Women's World Cup both as a player and a coach
  • Former England manager looks ahead to France 2019
  • Powell: “The gap between the very best and the rest has narrowed”

While the footballing world has recently focused its attention on qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and the many teams still in with a chance of reaching the finals, another major tournament is also looming: the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™ in France.

"France are a footballing nation," former England international and head coach Hope Powell told FIFA.com. "Their men’s and women’s teams are among the best in the world. They’ve been to most major World Cups and understand how tournament football works. They know what kind of competition they need to host and I think it will be fantastic.

"The fact that the tournament is in Europe makes it accessible to many people," the 50-year-old continued. "I think there will be large crowds and France will host a very good event. I'm sure they've learned lessons from all the other Women’s World Cups that have taken place in recent years. I also hope that France stay in the competition for a long time and provide some momentum, as we saw with the Netherlands at the EURO. It’s always great for the host nation to come as far as possible because it keeps the interest alive in that country."

Did you know?

•       Powell won 66 international caps for England and played at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 1995™
•       She coached the Lionesses between 1998 and 2013 and guided them to the 2007 and 2011 World Cups
•       Powell was appointed manager of Brighton & Hove Albion Women in July 2017

After Canada 2015, 24 teams will battle it out for the second time in France to succeed USA as world champions. Fans can look forward to captivating, close-fought matches thanks to the tremendous development of women’s football in recent years. "I think it's incredible," Powell said. "The gap between the very best teams like Germany and France and the rest has narrowed. You can put England in that category now and you can certainly add the Netherlands too," she said.

"Gone are the days when you could say Germany are going to play Denmark and guarantee that Germany would win," the former midfielder continued. "The quality of the game has levelled out. It has become an entertaining product and one that sponsors and businesses are interested in. That is a credit to the professionalism of the players and clubs. The game has shifted immensely in the last five years and that’s brilliant."

Powell, who became the first woman to gain her UEFA Pro Licence in 2003, was fortunate enough to take part in several Women’s World Cups as both a player and coach, reaching the quarter-finals each time. Powell knows what it takes and what French players in particular should be focusing on.

"They have to try and enjoy the experience and not let anxiety overshadow their enjoyment of the whole thing – especially when it’s held in your own country," she explained. "If anxiety takes over, that could have an impact on their performance. They have to try and enjoy the experience because it might never happen again. If they’re picked in that squad, it might be the last time that they play in a major tournament hosted in their own country. From a coach’s point of view I would say the same thing. The experience of managing at a World Cup is one of the best there is, and allowing yourself to enjoy it is really important."