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The 2023 Women's World Cup Is Shaping Up To Be The Best One Ever

By Lord Castleton | TV | July 20, 2023 |

By Lord Castleton | TV | July 20, 2023 |


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The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is underway and judging by the first few matches, it’s going to be an amazing tournament.

The sport has never been in better shape, the stakes have never been higher, and for the first time in many years, it might just be anyone’s game.

KEY STORYLINES

Retirements in store: Brazil’s legend Marta and the USA’s legend Megan Rapinoe have both announced that they’ll be hanging up their cleats after the tournament, giving that much more fuel to their teams to win it all.

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Injuries injuries injuries: So many elite, top-level athletes are hurt and will miss the World Cup.

— The United States has been decimated, in particular. Captain Becky Sauerbrunn is out. I could cry about that. Up and coming generational sensation Catarina Macario is out. Both Christen Press and Samantha Mewis have experienced setbacks and might have played their last match for the United States. I could be legitimately despondent about that. Mallory (Pugh) Swanson was setting the world on fire and playing the most dominant soccer of her career when she tore her ACL and she’s out as well.

— England doesn’t have it much better. Captain (and beloved soccer goddess) Leah Williamson is out. Ditto superstars Beth Mead and Fran Kirby.

— The Netherlands will be without all-world striker Vivienne Miedema.

— France won’t have superstar Amandine Henry, winger Delphine Cascarino or gifted striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto.

— Zambia lost their starting goalkeeper, Hazel Nali.

— Olympic champs Canada have lost American-born goal scorer Janine Beckie.

— New Zealand lost veteran Katie Rood.

— Just a day before the kickoff of the opener, Australia lost their captain and all-time leading scorer, Sam Kerr for an estimated two games due to a new calf injury.

All in all, it’s a thunderclap of disappointment considering the skill and excitement these tremendous players collectively bring to the sport.

Parity: You can’t spend too much time predicting the results of World Cup matches because so much changes in-tournament. But Zambia beat mighty Germany just over a week ago in a “Friendly” match, something that’s never happened before. Teams like Haiti have given even the mighty USA a hard time. You can’t count any team out until they’re actually out.

Spanish Fallout: The last Women’s World Cup the big question was whether or not the USA could get past France, when in fact the team that gave the USA it’s most difficult challenge was Spain. This time around, Spain is deeper, smarter, and more lethal. They have the best player in the world playing for them in back-to-back Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas. The problem is that they’re divided and some of their best players flat out refused to play for Spain — most notably ace defender Mapi Leon. As an outsider looking in, you have to support the women and question what appears to be utter foolishness from RFEF president Luis Rubiales and the supporters of coach Jorge Vilda and his staff.

Names You Should Know: For the US they’ll tell you to watch Alex Morgan, and how could you not - she’s an icon. How many people in the world get this type of treatment?

But in addition to Alex, you should also keep an eye on Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman, each of whom might contend for the Golden Boot and are more dangerous than people realize. (Trinity Rodman, for those not in the know, is the daughter of former NBA player, Dennis Rodman).

The USWNT has been in a state of mild uncertainty/decline during the tenure of coach Vlatko Andonovski, notably around his inability to find a true 6 (defensive, play-making midfielder). Much of that worry vanishes with veteran Julie Ertz back from pregnancy and into the starting lineup.

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For Germany, they’ll tell you to watch Alexandra Popp (and you will because she’s a force) but also keep an eye on 21-year-old wunderkind Lena Oberdorff, who’s the future of Die Nationalelf.

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For Zambia, watch captain Barbra Banda, who seems to be playing chess while everyone else plays checkers.

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Denmark will go only as far as Pernille Harder can take them, but she’s good enough to take them a ways.

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For Brazil, all eyes will be on Marta, but Debinha is a powerhouse. She’s a supremely gifted player with the skills to be the best in the world and this might just be her moment.

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For Norway, focus will be on Ada Hegerberg as she returns to the World Cup after sitting out the last one to protest the treatment of women in Norway’s program. She’s amazing, but keep an eye on midfielder Frida Maanum and how she controls play.

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People love to look past Switzerland but Lia Walti will open some eyes this World Cup.

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For England, they’ll harp on the losses of players to injury and the retirement of all-time goal scoring legend Ellen White but you should watch the new-look front line. Rachel Daly, in particular, is in the front after spending the bulk of her England career on defense. She’s a game changer. People would be wise not to sleep on rising star Alessia Russo who just inked a massive deal to be the new face of Arsenal.

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Also, Keira Walsh. Watch Keira Walsh. Cheer for Keira Walsh. Admire Keira Walsh.

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For Spain everything will be about the health of Alexia Putellas, but Aitana Bonmati has been in MVP form all year for Barca and might be ready to step out of Putellas’ shadow.

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In a winnable group, Nigeria comes in to the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after their stock as Africa’s traditional “best team” has taken a hit of late. Keep your eye on Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala.

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Italy is looking to make a resplendent return to the World Cup after several years in the European doghouse, but they’ll only go as far as Manuela Giugliano can take them — and that may not even be out of the group stage.

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Ireland makes it’s World Cup debut and all eyes will be on captain and Arsenal star Katie McCabe to see just how far she can will the team into the tournament.

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France is loaded, as usual, and there are so many amazing players to root for, but I’ll be focused on Grace Geyoro holding serve and Kadidiatou Diani finishing.

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A look at the field

Each group consists of four teams, two of whom will advance to the round of 16. The group stage has the most games, which each team playing the other three teams in their group. In this phase, you can conceivably lose a game and still advance, depending on how other teams play, but it’s far better to just win all your matches outright.

The favorites to advance are circled. I don’t like to do predictions because you can’t truly tell how a team has gelled until you see them actually play. That said, let’s take a look at the groups.

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Group A: Will likely see the favorites move on. My daughter met New Zealand captain Ali Riley and she’s as kind and sweet as she appears, so I’ll always have a soft spot for the Football Ferns. It would be a thrill to see them rise up at home. (Update: rise up they did! NZ won a World Cup match for the first time in history!)

Group B: I’m a huge fan of Canadian coach Bev Priestman. That said, I think Canada might have their hands full in this group.

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Group E: Without Viv Miedema, Netherlands is more vulnerable than we’re used to. Dutch spitfire Daniëlle van de Donk’s best playing days are likely behind her, but what’s going on with Jill Roord? It was like a peal of thunder when she left Arsenal for Wolfsburg, but now it feels like she’s limping back to England with a deal to play for Man City. Which Jill Roord will we get this tournament? Will the real Jill Roord please stand up!

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Group F: Brazil and France will likely steamroll this poor group.

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Group C: I have no idea what to think of a youth-movement Japanese squad that Mana Iwabuchi couldn’t make. Are they for real? I have no idea, but I think Zambia is licking their chops to find out. Spain will be on cruise control to the round of 16.

Group D: Are rumors of the Lionesses “in freefall” without captain Leah Williamson true or will they regain their 2022 Euros confidence? (Sounds like complete nonsense to me. Coach Sarina Wiegman is the best in the business and England is shockingly deep). The real question might be: can Denmark fend off an underrated Haiti side and a well-coached China?

Group G: Sweden gets a cakewalk. Pundits think Italy will move on but that’s not a given. Will Argentina or South Africa rise to the occasion to stop them?

Group H: Germany coasts. Korea is expected to step up but Colombia played Ireland so rough in a friendly last week they stopped the game 29 minutes in. Will Colombia bring that passion once the games count?

The games are already underway! You can see a full schedule here.

I’ll be doing daily updates here if you’re interested in more detailed, day-by-day results. (Including the results of today’s matches!)

I can’t wait to hear all your thoughts on what should be a remarkable and awe-inspiring World Cup!