One year ago, I wrote my first article for Opus and thinking of a topic to start off with was hard. But with the time of writing lining up with the years countdown to the Women’s World Cup, it was perfect. And now, it’s here, today.
We are now at the cusp of the start of the biggest women’s football tournament ever with, for the first time, 32 teams that will battle for the chance to be the world champions. With the increased participation, there are many storylines that have been told and will be told as the weeks progress. So, who are the competitors?
Looking into how this World Cup is being seen, there are currently four clear-cut favourites to take out this world cup; The United States, Germany, England, and Spain.
Germany and the United States are the two most successful teams in women’s football with both having six of the eight women’s world cup titles (the United States has 4, and Germany has 2), and at least one of them has appeared in every single world cup final with the United States being the current holders after winning the 2015 and the 2019 world cups respectfully.
England has emerged as a major threat in recent years with the Lionesses claiming the 2022 Women’s European Championships and having their domestic game explode in recent years. And finally Spain, led by the back-to-back female Ballon d’Or (best player in the world) award winner Alexia Putellas.
With the current strengths, these teams are currently tipped to be the most likely to take the trophy home. But when it comes to new chapters to the storylines for this world cup, we must look towards the debutants.
The increase of the World Cup teams from 24 to 32, has opened opportunities for a lot of women’s teams to qualify for their first-ever world cup. This has led to eight teams making their world cup debut (one quarter of the entire tournament teams).
Vietnam and the Philippines are the two new teams from the Asian Confederation. Vietnam have been a very dominant team in Southeast Asia, winning multiple gold medals in the SEA Games and the AFF Women’s Championships. The Philippines team is currently coached by former Matildas coach, Alen Stajcic, who has revolutionised the team and led them to win the 2022 AFF Women’s Championships.
Morocco and Zambia are new teams from the African Confederation. Morocco qualified by making the final of the 2022 Women’s African Cup of Nations as the hosts but lost to South Africa in the final. Zambia would make the top four of the tournaments but would go on to win the Southern Africa Women’s Championship beating South Africa in the final.
Haiti and Panama from Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football). Both teams had to go through the inter-confederation playoffs to secure the final spots in the tournament. Panama would beat Paraguay and Haiti would beat Chile to qualify for the tournament.
And finally, from the European Confederation, Portugal, and Ireland. Portugal beat Cameroon in New Zealand to qualify, whilst Ireland would beat Scotland to take their spot in the World Cup, their celebrations becoming controversial as the Irish players would sing “Ooh Ah Up The Ra”, a song that is in support of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) which became controversial in England.
Of course, we had to get to the two co-hosts of this World Cup; New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand has seen a rise in the popularity of the women’s team especially with the automatic qualification that the hosts get for hosting. However, in recent games into the leadup for this World Cup, New Zealand haven’t looked good.
From the seven games they have played in the leadup to this tournament, New Zealand have lost six, drew once, and have been outscored 21-1 in combined scores in all games.
For Australia, the main motivator is to go as far as possible in this tournament after their underwhelming run in the 2019 tournament. Alongside having the uncrowned best player in the world, Sam Kerr, the Matilda’s recent form has been alongside their 2017 run of form. Winning the Cup of Nations against Czechia, Spain, and Jamaica, and getting a 2-0 win against England.
If it was ever the opportunity for Australia to become the world champions, this might be it.
Now we come to the part where I try to make an educated guess on who will win this world cup. And this is a LOT harder than in previous years.
When discussing 2015 and 2019, the United States was by far the best team in the world and dominated all their matches, a clear team for them to be predicted for those years. But this year is different. We have seen many teams emerge as definite combatants to take the trophy away from the United States with Germany, Spain, and England showing their rise in talent and play. Canada and Sweden had major showings in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and even nations like Brazil, France, and Australia are popular dark horse selections.
But for me, in 2023, women’s football is coming home. I predict that England will win their first world cup title and will be defeating the United States in the final.
The upcoming football tournament in Australia and New Zealand holds immense significance for the growth of the sport in both countries. Regardless of the outcome, it has the potential to generate momentum and pave the way for further developments and funding in the domestic game. Who knows, it may even lead to hosting the men’s world cup in the future.
Brace yourselves, as this tournament promises to be a remarkable event.