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Women’s World Cup 2023: How will events unfold Down Under?

BY Ryan Murray

5th Jul 2023 Sport

Women’s World Cup 2023: How will events unfold Down Under?

With the Women's World Cup 2023 fast approaching, which team looks set to win? From favourites to dark horses, here are the countries who could claim it

For the first time in 16 years, and only the third time since the inception of the Women’s World Cup, international football’s showpiece competition won’t be contested on either European or North American soil. This summer, Australia and New Zealand assume the role of co-hosts. The tournament sees 36 national sides—the greatest number of teams ever to participate at a Women’s World Cup—lock horns over an approximate four-week period, commencing mid-July.

"Last year felt like a watershed moment for the women’s game"

Last year felt like a watershed moment for the women’s game, as surging attendance figures, substantial grassroots improvements, and vastly increased broadcasting revenues propelled the sport to a new level. While these developments have not been as keenly felt in Australasia as they perhaps have elsewhere, tournament organizers are hopeful that the staging of the World Cup will pre-empt a positive shift in the discourse of their domestic game, and significantly increase participation levels amongst Australian and New Zealander women. The hosts are ready and raring to go.

The action will take place across ten venues—six situated in Australia, four in New Zealand—and culminates in Sydney, where the two finalists will go toe-to-toe at the impressive 82,500-capacity Stadium Australia. But who will make it that far? We take a whirlwind tour around a handful of nations desperate to emerge on top, down under…

The favourites

United States 

The pre-eminent force in women’s football since the sport’s professionalization, the USWNST has never finished lower than third at a World Cup. They are the competition’s current reigning champions, having triumphed in Canada in 2015, before repeating the feat in France four years ago.

Megan Rapinoe - 2023 Women's World Cup preview

Vlatko Andonovski’s side are in great spirits heading into the tournament; in February, they claimed a fourth successive SheBelieves crown, and are yet to be defeated this calendar year. Led by the charismatic Megan Rapinoe, the US boasts an embarrassment of riches within its playing roster, and are therefore unsurprisingly billed as overwhelming favourites. Can they add a fifth World Cup to their already bustling trophy cabinet?  

England

Last summer’s heroics, which saw the Lionesses deliver a landmark first major tournament win, has not only served to inspire an entire generation of young English players, but also provided a real platform on which to build future success. Sarina Weigman—who incidentally led the Netherlands to a second-placed finish at the 2019 World Cup—has a squad littered with quality at her disposal.

"Last summer’s heroics saw the Lionesses deliver a landmark first major tournament win"

Although the prolific Beth Mead cruelly misses out by virtue of an anterior cruciate ligament injury, England can still rely on the likes of highly-gifted Barcelona duo Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh, last season’s WSL top scorer Rachel Daly, and Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly, who netted the all-important winner in that historic victory over Germany in July.   

Germany

Undoubtedly the strongest European nation of the last few decades, Germany secured six consecutive European Championships and two World Cup titles throughout a glittering eighteen-year period, before clinching gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. After a disappointing quarter-final exit last time out, "Die Nationalelf" will be desperate to perform well in Australasia.  

The dark horses

Spain 

To put it rather euphemistically, Spain’s preparations for the 2023 World Cup have not exactly been ideal. In the aftermath of last year’s underwhelming European Championship campaign, several senior players expressed concern over the methods of manager Jorge Vilda, citing his apparent tactical ineptitude and overly-authoritarian approach. A remarkable 15 players sent a formal complaint to the RFEF (Spanish football’s national governing body), and declared themselves unavailable for selection.

"Spain’s preparations for the 2023 World Cup have not exactly been ideal"

Barcelona midfielder Alexia Putellas, widely regarded as the planet’s best player, was also said to have felt extremely aggrieved, but didn’t officially step away from the international fold. Just three of the original 15 mutineers—Mariona Caldentey, Aitana Bonmatí, and Ona Batlle—have returned, leaving Spain far weaker as a result.

Despite this, with a plethora of stars from Europe’s elite domestic leagues, the 2017 Algarve Cup winners are still heavily fancied to do well. Could they conclude this remarkable saga as World champions? 

The hosts—in with a chance? 

Australia 

The Matilda’s have quietly developed into an extremely capable side. With a partisan crowd in their corner, many expect Australia to eventually navigate past the quarter-final stage, after appearing in the last eight on four previous occasions.

Sam Kerr - 2023 Women's World Cup preview

There’s certainly no shortage of talent in the Aussie ranks; Chelsea forward Sam Kerr—who has netted over a half-century of goals for the West Londoners—leads the line, while full-back Ellie Carpenter, a two-time UEFA Champions League winner with current club Lyon, provides plenty of energy from the right flank. WSL trio Caitlin Foord, Stephanie-Elise Catley (both Arsenal), and Mary Fowler (Manchester City) each play a critical role for Tony Gustavsson’s side.     

New Zealand 

Although unlikely to feature in the latter stages of the tournament, the Football Ferns won’t just be there to make up the numbers. Despite a challenging sequence of form, which has seen New Zealand fail to register a single victory since last September, the co-hosts will be confident of progressing beyond the World Cup group stage for the very first time.

Experienced striker Hannah Wilkinson, who previously had spells in Sweden, Portugal, and Germany before joining A-League outfit Melbourne City, and defender Meikayla Moore, fresh from a SWPL title-winning campaign with Glasgow City, will need to be on top form if the Kiwis are to take flight this summer…

Whichever outfit secures football’s greatest prize, one thing’s for sure: the ninth edition of the Women’s World Cup promises to be the biggest and best yet. Remind me, how many hours are we behind

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