With only one month to go before the most-anticipated competition in women’s international football, The Glasgow Guardian previews eight of the teams competing in the Women’s World Cup.
In July 2023, 32 teams will travel to Australia and New Zealand to compete in the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. As gaps between the traditional leaders in women’s football and other teams close, this summer is shaping up to be a great tournament. The Glasgow Guardian previews eight of the teams competing, looking at their FIFA world rankings, key players, and what they are likely to bring to the tournament.
Breaking back into the top ten FIFA rankings for the first time since 2020, the Matildas will be looking to make history on home soil. Ranked at number 10 in the world, Australia is a team full of top-tier talent, with Chelsea’s star striker Sam Kerr leading the line and wearing the captain’s armband. The Matildas have great pace in their team that is extremely dangerous on the counterattack. Australia has world-class full-backs and a front line that has played together for years. Their most recent outing, when they ended England’s 30-game unbeaten run, demonstrated the team’s offensive and defensive capacity. This was particularly impressive given they were missing multiple starters. If the Matildas are able to harness the energy from their home support and stay focused and organised, their energetic style will likely take them far in the tournament.
Republic of Ireland
Ranked 22 in the world, the Republic of Ireland beat the likes of Finland and Scotland to qualify for their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Girls in Green will play their first match against host nation Australia in Group B in the tournament’s largest stadium. Group B is the tournament’s Group of Death with the Republic of Ireland also facing Canada and Nigeria. There is no doubt that they will be the underdogs. Yet, the Girls in Green have the chance to pull off an upset and progress through to the next stage of the competition. The team has been strengthened by the addition of new squad members available after switching their national allegiances. Their captain, Arsenal’s Katie McCabe, will be key to their success due to her tenacious play and her ability to operate in defence and attack. The Republic of Ireland’s ability to frustrate teams with a low block may draw games out and allow the team to grind out wins.
Ranked seventh in the world, Spain is a team that has a history of underperforming at major tournaments. In the lead-up to the World Cup, Spain has experienced significant disagreements between players and manager Jorge Vilda, with fifteen national team players (Las 15) having expressed their concerns with conditions and asking not to be called up. Vilda remains in charge after refusing to step down as the manager and none of Las 15 has played for Spain since September 2022. With the media often referring to the current team as “Spain B”, success at the World Cup hangs in the balance as we wait to see if any of Las 15, such as star players Aitana Bonmatí and Ona Battle, return to the team.
The USA are the favourites and currently hold the top spot in the world rankings. The USA, who have won four World Cups, will be looking to get their hands on their third consecutive trophy. A true powerhouse of women’s football, the USA has never finished lower than third place at the World Cup. This team boasts a strong attacking line, with players like Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Alex Morgan, and Lynn Williams all in good goal-scoring form. The USA has not reached peak form in the last year, but their recent six-game unbeaten run, when they have beaten teams such as Germany and Brazil, shows that even when they are below their best, the USA is still able to get results. Their relentless winning culture and mentality is one of their key strengths – expect them to go far into the tournament, if not win it.
Ranked fourth in the world, the Lionesses will be hoping to recreate their success at last year’s European Championship at the World Cup. Their impressive 30-game unbeaten run ended against Australia in April, exposing weaknesses in the setup and revealing that teams have started to work out how to stop England from scoring. Under manager Sarina Wiegman, England’s football has been characterised by consistent high-quality performances. At EURO 2022, the same starting XI was named for each game. A number of these starters will be unavailable at this summer’s World Cup, with playmaker Fran Kirby, EURO golden boot winner Beth Mead, and captain Leah Williamson all ruled out with knee injuries. As such, Wiegman’s lack of rotation means that a relatively young and inexperienced squad is heading to the World Cup, with a quarter of the team having less than ten international caps each. Despite this, England still enter the tournament as one of the favourites. The Lionesses are an attacking team that can be deadly down the wings and in the box. However, their attacking wing play can leave them open to counterattacks with teams able to exploit the space behind the full-backs.
Prolific in front of goal, two-time tournament winners Germany are ranked second in the World. Germany is an aggressive high-pressing team that uses a player-to-player marking scheme. Young star Lena Oberdorf, named EURO Young Player of the Tournament, is one of the best-holding midfielders in the world. Oberdorf dictates play and uses her passing range to start attacking moves which is vital for Germany’s style of play. With one win, one draw, and one loss in 2023, it is hard to gauge their current form, but they are likely to go far into the tournament.
Brazil is the most successful women’s footballing nation in South America and is ranked ninth in the world. This team has a star-studded front line that can capitalise on defensive errors and weaknesses. A draw against England and a win against Germany in the most recent international window shows that Brazil can compete with the top countries in the world. If they are able to carry this momentum into the tournament, beat France, and win Group F, they may progress far into the competition. However, their lack of depth in midfield and defence may be an issue in the latter stages.
Winners of the 1995 Women’s World Cup, Norway are currently ranked 12 in the world. After a shock exit in the group stages of last years’ European Championship, Norway will be looking to reassert itself as one of the best teams in the world. This is a team that will cause problems for others’ defences, with players like Ada Hegerberg, Guro Reiten, and Frida Leonardsen Maanum all attacking threats. As seen in their 8-0 defeat to England last year, high-pressing and fast-playing teams can expose Norway’s defence. However, they should be able to win Group A and give themselves the best chance for progressing through to the knock-out rounds.