Ottawa (AFP) - Top ranked Germany open their campaign for a third Women's World Cup crown on Sunday against the Ivory Coast -- the lowest ranked team in the tournament -- as Asian minnows Thailand take on former winners Norway.
The Group B double header in Ottawa features two of the eight teams making their debut in the 24-team global event -- Ivory Coast and Thailand -- against two of the most experienced who have qualified for all seven editions of the tournament.
Germany's powerful squad includes five players who won the the trophy in 2007, including goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2014. Germany also won the title in 2004.
By contrast the 67th-ranked Ivorians, known as 'Les Elephantes', do not have any star in their ranks, with Svesda Perm forward Josee Nahi, whose four goals helped her Russian club to the Champions League second round, their only foreign-based player.
The Ivorians can count on their experienced coach Clementine Toure who led them to third place at the African Women's Championship, having previously coached Equatorial Guinea to the continental title in 2008.
"We had been waiting for this moment for such a long time," Toure told FIFA.com.
"It is a historic achievement -- the first time Ivory Coast has reached the World Cup."
Silvia Neid's Germany are targeting a third world crown in 12 years, to complete an unprecedented double after their men won in Brazil last year.
They suffered a shock early exit at the 2011 World Cup when as hosts they were knocked-out in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Japan, who beat the USA on penalties in the final.
- Thai 'underdogs' -
With the World Cup to be played on artificial turf in Canada for the first time, Neid believes it could throw up a few surprises.
"Artificial turf is new territory for us, but it takes some getting used to, the ball bounces differently," said Neid.
"Anything is possible at this World Cup. So much will depend on form on the day, particularly against the nations who are closer together.
"We also have the shortest preparation that we had ever before a tournament because of injury problems. So it's been the biggest challenge so far."
Norway, like Germany, are experienced on the world stage, winning the world title in 1995, and were runners-up in 1991. They failed to get past the group stage for the first time in 2011.
Coach Even Pellerud is trying to return Norway to the top of world football as the 2000 Olympic champions have lost ground in recent years to Germany and the United States.
Ranked 11th by FIFA, they should have few problems against 29th-ranked Thailand, who booked their ticket thanks to a fifth-place finish at the Asian Cup.
"We know we're underdogs in this group, so we have nothing to lose," said Thai forward Taneekarn Dangda.
"As we are representing Thailand, our target is to qualify for the next round, but if we cannot be first or second in the group, we will do our best to progress as one of the best third-placed teams."