FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Preview
Over the last couple of years, football fans have been spoiled by the sheer number of major international tournaments taking place. In the summer of 2021, we saw Italy claim the delayed European Championships by defeating England on penalties at Wembley. We then saw Lionel Messi climb his final peak, as he led his beloved Argentina to FIFA World Cup glory in Qatar last December, sealing his legacy as the greatest male football player who’s ever lived in the process.
However, it isn’t just the men that have been thrust into the spotlight in recent years. Women’s football has never been more popular, and the statistics speak for themselves. Last summer, the Women’s European Championships took place in England, and the Lionesses ended their country’s 56 years of hurt, as they defeated Germany at the home of football to secure the trophy.
Women’s Football Is Here to Stay
Outside of the international arena, the women’s game has also been thriving. Last year, Barcelona beat their own world record attendance for a women’s football match twice in one month. Firstly, 91,553 spectators watched on as the Blaugrana defeated archrivals, Real Madrid, in March, then the following month, 91,648 fans packed out the Camp Nou to watch the Catalonians thrash Wolfsburg by five goals to one.
Women’s football is indeed here to stay, and the great news is that this summer, the spectacle of all spectacles is right around the corner. This July and August, Australia and New Zealand will host the 2023 installment of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the upcoming tournament may well be the most highly anticipated of all time. The action gets underway on July 20th when both sets of co-hosts face off against the Republic of Ireland and Norway respectively.
With the massive tournament about to kick off, here’s your full preview of everything you can expect to see between now and the final on August 20th.
The upcoming Women’s World Cup is perhaps the most wide-open it’s ever been and there are plenty of contenders vying for the crown. However, no matter how many teams think they are in with a shot at glory when it comes to the female side of the beautiful game, there is always one front-runner – the United States.
No team has had more success in the Women’s World Cup arena than the USWNT. They have lifted the coveted trophy on four separate occasions, more than any other nation. When they haven’t won, they still managed to impress. In 2011, they lost out in the final to Japan via a heartbreaking penalty shootout, and they have also managed to secure three bronze medals throughout the history of the tournament, in 1995, 2003, and 2007.
This year, the Stars and Stripes are aiming to become the first team in World Cup history to complete an unprecedented three-peat. They are the reigning back-to-back world champions after lifting the trophy in both 2019 and 2015, and it would take a brave punter to back against them going all the way once again this year.
In France four years ago, Megan Rapinoe was the star of the show. She was named the Player of the Tournament after a number of thrilling displays saw her finish as the joint-top scorer with six goals. This year, the women’s football icon is 38 years of age and is expected to be more of a squad player, but with the likes of Alyssa Thompson and Alex Morgan leading the line, the Americans are expected to go far.
European Champions England are also expected to go far. The Lionesses have been in scintillating form since Swedish head coach Sarina Wiegman was handed the reins back in 2021. She successfully managed to break the English major trophy hoodoo at Wembley last summer with European Championship glory, could a maiden Women’s World Cup also be on the horizon?
The team that England beat to claim the Euros last summer was Germany, and they too are expected to be there or thereabouts. The Germans have twice tasted Women’s World Cup glory, lifting the trophy in back-to-back tournaments in 2003 and 2007, and they will be hoping to put last summer’s heartbreaking Wembley defeat firmly in the rearview mirror.
After reaching the quarterfinals of the European Championships in a row, Spain may also be contenders however, they will have some way to go if they are to get passed the USA, England, or Germany.
There are always shocks at major international tournaments, both male and female. As recently as December, Morocco stunned everyone as they defeated European giants in the form of Portugal, Spain, and Belgium en route to becoming the first African team to ever reach a World Cup semifinal. Back in 2016, rank outsiders Iceland shocked the rest of Europe as they defeated England en route to reaching the UEFA Euro 2016 semifinals.
The women’s game is also a place where one can expect the unexpected. Prior to the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Japan had made it out of the group stages just once. However, that wouldn’t stop them from going all the way in Germany that year as well as reaching the final four years later, with them and the United States trading victories in those consecutive finals.
This year, there could be shocks from absolutely anywhere. There are no fewer than eight tournament debutants, with the Philippines, Vietnam, Morocco, Zambia, Haiti, Panama, Portugal, and the Republic of Ireland all making their Women’s World Cup bow. It’s impossible to predict how they may fair however, there are a number of teams who may well go all the way from higher up the list of betting odds.
France are currently the fifth favorites, the best of the rest outside of the previous contenders we highlighted. They picked up a memorable 2-1 victory over Brazil on home turf in Le Havre four years ago, with goals from Valérie Gauvin and Amandine Henry securing their spot in the last eight. They also reached the semifinals of the European Championships last summer, and they could be a team that threaten.
Finally, it’s hard to mention the Women’s World Cup without highlighting Sweden. Despite never winning the competition like their rivals Norway, they have reached the final some 20 years ago, where they would suffer defeat at the hands of Germany. They also won the bronze medal in the inaugural tournament hosted way back in 2001.
What of the Matildas?
Australia qualified for this year’s tournament due to them cohosting alongside neighbors New Zealand. However, unlike Qatar over in the male game, the Matildas have plenty of pedigree on the grandest stage. They reached the quarterfinals of the competition in three consecutive tournaments between 2007 and 2015, as well as reaching the last eight in 2019.
The Qataris meanwhile were somewhat of an embarrassment as they qualified for the recent men’s World Cup for the first time due to the fact that they were hosting the tournament. They lost all three of their group games against Ecuador, the Netherlands, and Senegal and finished bottom of their group.
There shouldn’t be any fear of the Aussies doing the same thing. They have been handed a favorable draw alongside the Republic of Ireland, Nigeria, and Canada, and they are expected to top the group. In the overall standings, they are currently earmarked as the sixth favorites, and they too have an outside chance of lifting the famous trophy on August 20th.
Hosting tournaments has been known to give teams an extra lease of life. In the 2002 men’s World Cup, South Korea surprised everyone as they reached the semifinals. In 2018, rank outsiders Russia came within a penalty shootout of reaching the final four.
The same can be seen in the women’s world. As we have mentioned, England were propelled to glory by their own raucous supporters in last summer’s European Championships. France were also heavy underdogs in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but that didn’t stop them from beating Brazil and taking the United States to extra time in their quarterfinal showdown.
The Matildas will begin their campaign on July 20th as they face off against the Irish in Sydney just hours after New Zealand and Norway raise the curtain. They then head to Brisbane a week later to battle it out with Nigeria before finishing their group stage obligations against Canada in Melbourne on July 31st.
Should they manage to top their group as expected, then they will likely face off against Denmark or China in a last-16 tussle in Sydney on August 7th. Should they finish as runners-up, however, they will battle it out against their heavyweight rivals England in Brisbane on the same day.
One thing that is certain is that the world is in for a treat over the next few weeks. And with a bit of luck, Australians may well have another thing to cheer on August 20th.