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The Women’s World Cup, which opens this week, is the biggest in its 32-year history, but it may also be the most open field the tournament has seen.

While plenty of the 32 teams descending on Australia and New Zealand probably have modest ambitions for the next month, it is not a stretch to say that almost half of the field might regard themselves as serious title contenders. (Some more accurately than others.) These 10 countries are the most likely to stick around all the way until the end.

ImageThe U.S. player Trinity Rodman runs while controlling a ball with her right foot and looks to her left.
Forward Trinity Rodman is one of 14 U.S. players headed to their first World Cup.Credit…Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Two things can be true at once. By common consensus, Vlatko Andonovski’s team arrived in New Zealand as the favorite to win the tournament. It has the aura of experience, the dazzling jolt of youth and the deep bedrock of talent to lift a third straight World Cup. It has a psychological edge, too: It has been the game’s superpower for so long that respect can manifest as awe.

At the same time, the undisputed primacy the United States has enjoyed for more than a decade has never been more fragile. There is a risk that this squad will fail the Goldilocks test: Some players are too old, some are too young, and so perhaps none are just right. Europe’s major nations have closed the gap. In the space of a month last year, the Americans lost to England, Spain and Germany. The United States has the squad to emerge as champion. But for the first time in some time, it is not alone in that.


Rachel Daly started at left back in the Euros last summer. Now she is England’s most potent striker.Credit…David Rogers/Getty Images

Expectation hangs heavy on Sarina Wiegman’s England. The Lionesses won the European Championship on home soil last summer, the team’s first major honor, and followed that with a victory in the Finalissima — a game between the European and South American champions — earlier this year. Winning the World Cup would be the natural conclusion to a trajectory that has been on a steep upward curve for 10 years.

Fate, though, has intervened. Wiegman has lost her captain, Leah Williamson; her most creative player, Fran Kirby; and her most potent attacking threat, Beth Mead, to injury. Millie Bright made the squad but is still, strictly speaking, recovering from knee surgery. Wiegman is an astute enough coach — and she has enough talent at her disposal — to disguise those losses. But she will be doing so on the fly.


Sam Kerr will shoulder the hopes of one of the host nations.Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It is difficult not to see the co-host less as “Australia” and more as “Sam Kerr and Guests.” At 30, Kerr, the Chelsea striker, may well be the finest player in the world. She is a totem for her country. She is the face of the tournament, the person expected to deliver what she has referred to as a “Cathy Freeman moment.” She is the star on which Australia’s hopes hang.

That assessment is not quite true. Tony Gustavsson’s squad is drawn largely from the major leagues of Europe and the N.W.S.L. In Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso and Alanna Kennedy, the supporting cast is a strong one. Its momentum, too, is considerable: Australia has won eight of its last nine games, including a milestone victory against England. Kerr will have to deliver, of course, but she is far from alone.


The Netherlands lost to the United States in the World Cup final in 2019. Its path runs through the Americans again.Credit…Rob Engelaar/EPA, via Shutterstock

In 2019, the Dutch emerged as the standard-bearer for Europe’s coming force, an advertisement for the game’s shifting power base. They fell agonizingly short, losing to the United States in the final. Progress since then has been patchy, as they have lost Wiegman, who left to coach England, before falling in the quarterfinals of the European Championship last summer.

The core of the team that made the final four years ago — Danielle van de Donk, Jackie Groenen, Jill Roord, Lieke Martens — remains, and the Dutch have the talent to make a deep run once more. Two things stand in their way: the absence of striker Vivianne Miedema through injury and an unfortunate draw for the group stage. The Dutch face the Americans early; defeat in that game will most likely mean a tougher route for the remainder of their stay.


Christine Sinclair has played 323 games for Canada.Credit…LM Otero/Associated Press

The Canadians have made precious little impact on the latter rounds of the World Cup in the last two decades, extending their stay beyond the first knockout round only once. Yet even that, on home soil in 2015, lasted only until the quarterfinals.

In many ways, it is hard to see that changing this time around. Christine Sinclair is 40; Janine Beckie is out, another victim of women’s soccer’s A.C.L. epidemic; Canada has won only one of its last five games and has been drawn in the same group as Australia. But there is a resilience to this team that should not be underappreciated: It is only two years, after all, since Canada — completely overlooked then as now — won gold at the Tokyo Olympics.


Marta is headed to her sixth World Cup with Brazil.Credit…Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

On some level, Brazil’s stay in this World Cup will be seen as Marta’s valedictory tour: a sixth and (presumably) final tournament turned into a lap of honor for a 37-year-old player regarded by some as the best of all time.

It is hard, certainly, to believe that it will end with Marta’s repeating Lionel Messi’s trick and finally winning the honor that would mean more to her than any other. Brazil’s squad is not as strong as previous editions, and none of them were strong enough to overcome the superpowers of North America and Europe, either. Still, in Pia Sundhage, Brazil has a canny, adroit coach, and the likes of Debinha, Kerolin and Geyse mean Marta may not have to bear the load alone.


Alexia Putellas of Spain is the reigning world player of the year.Credit…Steve Luciano/Associated Press

More than anyone — even England — Spain should be the biggest threat to the United States’ crown this summer. Its national team is, after all, based largely on the Barcelona team that has become the dominant force in European club soccer. Alexia Putellas, while most likely not fully recovered from the knee injury that kept her out of the Euros last year, is the reigning world player of the year. Spain has lost just once in a year.

The problem is that Spain has been engulfed by civil war between the players and the country’s soccer federation since last summer. Though an uneasy truce has been called — allowing some of the 15 players who had demanded the dismissal of the coach, Jorge Vilda, to return — the effects are still being felt. A dozen players are still missing, and Vilda must find a way to instill a team spirit in a squad consisting of both rebels and their replacements.


Wendie Renard, center, and Kadidiatou Diani had threatened not to play for France under its former coach.Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Spanish might have had the least ideal preparation for a major tournament, but kudos to the French for giving them a run for their money. Corinne Diacre, the longstanding coach who had lost the faith of a considerable number of her players, was finally ousted in March. She was replaced by Hervé Renard, a globe-trotting coach of some renown but absolutely no experience in the women’s game.

He has, at least, restored some familiar faces to the squad: Wendie Renard and Kadidiatou Diani, both of whom had refused to play under Diacre, are back. Amandine Henry, the vastly experienced midfielder, had been recalled, too, only to suffer a calf injury that will keep her out of the tournament. France’s hopes, now, rest on the new coach’s being able to get the best out of a team he has only just encountered.


Lena Oberdorf and Germany will enter the World Cup off a run of puzzling results.Credit…Christof Stache/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

If anything at all is certain about this tournament, it is that the Germans will reach the quarterfinals. In eight attempts, they have never failed to do so, and given a kindly group draw — Morocco, Colombia and South Korea — there is little reason to believe they will not make the last eight again.

Whether Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg can steer her team any further, though, is open to question. Germany has a well-balanced squad — two outstanding goalkeepers, the emerging star power of Lena Oberdorf, the creativity of Lina Magull, the goals of Svenja Huth and Alexandra Popp — and finished as runner-up in last summer’s European Championship. But its form is sputtering: It has lost to Brazil and Zambia in the last couple of months and just squeezed past Vietnam in a warm-up match last month.


Kosovare Asllani and Sweden finished third at the 2019 World Cup and second at the Tokyo Olympics.Credit…Kimmo Brandt/EPA, via Shutterstock

Nobody ever thinks about Sweden. Sweden might have one silver and three bronze medals to show for its eight previous World Cups, and it might be a reliable force in the European Championship, but the operating assumption is always that Sweden is not a genuine contender.

It is worth pointing out, then, that Sweden not only has the likes of Fridolina Rolfo, Stina Blackstenius and Hanna Bennison to call on, but that it made the semifinals of the Euros last year, and it swatted aside the United States on the way to the Olympic final two years ago. Sweden is a threat. But nobody ever thinks about Sweden.

Rory Smith is The Times’s chief soccer correspondent, based in Britain. He covers all aspects of European soccer and has reported from three World Cups, the Olympics, and numerous European tournaments. More about Rory Smith

A version of this article appears in print on  , Section D, Page 8 of the New York edition with the headline: A Bigger Field Means a Bigger Pool of Contenders . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


By: Rory Smith
Title: The Contenders
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Published Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2023 07:00:26 +0000

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Unseen pictures from Anant-Radhikas mehendi ceremony surface online


ambaniweddingmehendi21721650815 1 Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s wedding festivities might be over, but the beautiful moments from the festivities keep surfacing online. A new picture from their mehendi ceremony surfaced online, featuring best friends Ananya Panday and Shanaya Kapoor. The two are seen posing with renowned mehendi artist Veena Nagda, showing off their elegant henna designs.

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A post shared by Veena Bollywood Mehendi (@veenanagda)

Ananya looked gorgeous in a royal purple lehenga paired with statement jewellery. Her fingertips were adorned with mehendi, and she had a delicate circle design in the center of her palm. Shanaya dazzled in a peach traditional outfit, paired with glittering jewels. She opted for a mandala design on the back of her hand with layered tips.

In another highlight, Nita Ambani chose a unique mehendi design that included the names of her family members: Anant, Radhika, Isha and husband Anand Piramal, son Akash and his wife Shloka Mehta, along with her husband Mukesh Ambani.


By: Filmfare
Title: Unseen pictures from Anant-Radhikas mehendi ceremony surface online
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Published Date: 2024-07-22 18:35:49

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Halle Berry Doesn’t Regret Accepting Her Worst Actress ‘Catwoman’ Razzie

Catwomans Halle Berry looks back on epic Razzies speech for Worst Actress 01 2024

Catwoman's Halle Berry looks back on epic Razzies speech for Worst Actress
Halle Berry Denise Truscello/Getty Images

Halle Berry still stands by her iconic speech at the Razzies, 20 years later.

Since 1981, the Golden Raspberry Awards have functioned as an anti-awards show, handing out honors for the biggest failures, flops and missteps in the movie industry. In 2004, Berry, 57, made the rare decision to accept her award for Worst Actress in person, after starring in the box office bomb Catwoman.

“I’d written [my speech] within an inch of my life. I put a lot of thought into how I could do it in a fun way and let everyone know that I didn’t take it that seriously,” she told Entertainment Weekly as part of the 20th anniversary oral history of Catwoman. “You can never take away my Oscar, no matter how bad you bash me! If you say I earned this, all right, I’ll take this, too. You accept the wonderful things people say, and accept when they don’t say wonderful things.”

Berry appeared at the ceremony carrying her Best Actress Oscar for 2001’s Monster’s Ball and roasted Warner Bros. for tanking her post-Oscar cachet.

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“No, I don’t have to give this back. It’s got my name on it,” Berry said of her Oscar, before targeting the movie studio. “You don’t win a Razzie without a lot of help from a lot of people, so please indulge me … I want to thank Warner Bros. Thank you for putting me in a piece of s—, God-awful movie. It was just what my career needed, you know? I was at the top, and Catwoman just plummeted me to the bottom. Love it!”

In her interview with EW, she said that Warner Bros. knew of her intention to give a speech at the Razzies.

“The studio knew what I was going to do. I told them I wanted to take the piss out of it and laugh at it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a God-awful film, but I was at the Razzies, so I had to do what they do; I s— on it because they s— on it! I tried to be one of them.

With 20 years of hindsight, Berry thinks the movie’s reputation is unearned. She said she holds no hard feelings for the team behind the movie and still enjoys the finished product.

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“I knew how much hard work went into it, not only on my part but on everybody’s part. You never set out to make something critics decide to pan,” Berry said. “I marveled at the fact that we did it. I got to see my version of Catwoman. I didn’t have any negative feelings.”

Berry also shared that no amount of negative reviews could knock her career off-course.

“It didn’t derail me, because I’ve fought as a Black woman my whole life. A little bad publicity about a movie? I didn’t love it, but it wasn’t going to stop my world or derail me from doing what I love to do,” she said.


By: Alex Galbraith
Title: Halle Berry Doesn’t Regret Accepting Her Worst Actress ‘Catwoman’ Razzie
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Published Date: Sun, 21 Jul 2024 22:04:58 +0000

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In the ’90s, Melissa Tkautz’s face – and voice – was everywhere

In the early ’90s, Melissa Tkautz was absolutely everywhere.

She got her start as a model in the ’80s, appearing in numerous ads for major brands including Qantas, and landed some small TV acting roles.

In fact, by age 17 she had more than 160 TV and print ads to her name.

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Melissa Tkautz pictured in 1997

However, the teenager was well and truly catapulted to fame in 1990 when she was cast in soap E Street, playing bad girl Nikki Spencer, at age 16.

She became a fan favourite, and the role earned her a Logie nomination.

Her co-stars on the show included Toni Pearen, who also had success as a singer and TV host, and now-Hollywood star Simon Baker, who Tkautz dated for a time.

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Nikki Spencer E Street

Tkautz quickly managed to leverage her newfound profile into a music career, performing under the name Melissa.

Much like Delta Goodrem, Tkautz’s pop prowess began with a song recorded for her on-screen character.

Suddenly, she was racing up the charts with tracks like Read My Lips, Sexy (Is The Word) and Skin to Skin.

Tkautz’s burgeoning music career caused her to quit E Street in 1991, and she released her debut album in 1992.

Melissa Tkautz in the music video for Read My Lips.

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At the 1992 Aria Awards, she won Highest Selling Single and was a nominee for Best New Talent.

That same year, Tkautz returned to her role in E Street, but the show was ultimately axed in 1993.

The end of E Street was just the start for Tkautz’s TV career.

She went on to star in some of the biggest Aussie shows of the ’90s, including Paradise Beach, Echo Point, Pacific Drive, Medivac and All Saints.

Her profile off-screen was also significant.

Ingo Rademacher and Melissa Tkautz in Paradise Beach

Tkautz regularly appeared on magazine covers and featured in advertising campaigns, and modelled in high-profile events including Australian Fashion Week.

She’s also performed on stage in The Vagina Monologues and Sleeping Beauty.

Through the years she’s continued her work with TV appearances, presenting and singing.

Tkautz released a second album in 2005, followed by a Greatest Hits album in 2012.

In 2017, she starred in the first season of The Real Housewives of Sydney.

Career aside, Tkautz is married with two children, son Cuba and daughter Ayla.

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Title: In the ’90s, Melissa Tkautz’s face – and voice – was everywhere
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Published Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2024 04:07:00 GMT

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