The 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar ended in the most dramatic way possible. Argentina lifted their first trophy since 1986 after beating France on penalties, with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in what will almost certainly become the all-time favorite Good head-to-head in the World Cup final. But while we take some time to reflect on the good and bad of 2022, we can also turn our attention to the next big thing: the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Everything is gearing up for the tournament, which kicks off on July 20, 2023 in Australia and New Zealand, the most exciting event yet, with European champions England threatening the US Women’s National Team to defend the world they won in 2019. France won.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup kicks off with Norway co-hosts New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland, before co-hosts Australia face the Republic of Ireland in Sydney on the same day. What are the key points to pay attention to in the decoration? What will the game be about?
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We can’t talk about the tournament without acknowledging that there are still three open spots, each of which will be determined through the international playoffs in February.
The playoffs will be held in New Zealand as a World Cup test event and will feature 10 teams divided into three groups: two groups of three teams each and one group of four teams, drawn according to their seeding in the qualifying rounds. Each group has its own mini-tournament, with the winner of each group qualifying for the big tournament in July.
The semi-finals of Group A will be played between Cameroon and Thailand, with the winner playing Portugal in the final. Group B hosts Senegal and Haiti, who will face Chile in the final. Finally, Group C will feature two semi-finals – Chinese Taipei vs. Paraguay and Papua New Guinea vs. Panama – with the winners of each match competing for a place in the final.
Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar discuss the USWNT’s clash with England in October.
More teams than ever
The Women’s World Cup will feature 32 teams for the first time. The previous tournament featured 24 teams, with the third-best finishers in their group advancing to the round of 16. In 2023, only the top two teams in each group will advance.
The expanded field means we will see multiple countries making their World Cup debuts, with Morocco, the Philippines, the Republic of Ireland, Vietnam and Zambia all participating for the first time, with many more potential debutants still looking to qualify. Additionally, the event will mark the Philippines’ first participation in a FIFA tournament – men’s or women’s.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup was watched by more than 1 billion people worldwide, with the final between the USWNT and the Netherlands averaging 82.2 million viewers, a 56% increase from the 2015 final. And, following the success of Euro 2022, watched by a record audience of 36.5 billion, we can expect the women’s game to continue pushing boundaries in 2023. But with the game taking place in Australia and New Zealand, jet lag (anywhere from 8 to 11 hours ahead of GMT) can affect ratings, making the event a major test for women’s football fans.
The expansion to 32 teams is a necessary step in the development of the women’s game and will undoubtedly stimulate further development of the small national team in the years to come. However, we can expect a slight decline in team parity compared to the 2019 World Cup. Despite some big wins, such as the US’s 13-0 victory over Thailand in their opening group game, the gap between countries narrowed significantly in the 2019 tournament. That gap could widen again with new teams coming in, but it won’t be for long.
USWNT trifecta? Will it go home, or will it be stolen from the collection?
Despite the underwhelming results in 2022, it’s hard to argue that heading into the World Cup, the U.S. is still not the favourite. The four-time champions are looking to claim their third title in a row, and while their dominance on the world stage is daunting, the 2023 tournament should see their biggest challengers go down.
First, the English Lionesses have dominated the global competition over the past year. From their historic victory at the European Championships, lifting the trophy in front of a record crowd, to a thrilling victory over the US at Wembley Stadium in October, since Selina Wigman took over as manager, The team has not lost in 26 games. With every intention of bringing the World Cup back to England.
Referring to their unbeaten run, Wegman told reporters last week: “You can’t beat it – you can only be equal at this point. We want to win every game, but we talk about how to improve. The next race…Of course, we want to break all the records, but breaking records doesn’t say what you have to do,” Wiegman added.
In an interview with ESPN in November, England and Barcelona defender Lucy Bronz, when asked about the significance of the USWNT format, said women’s football had moved beyond “just one team”, adding that the US still had “wealth and experience” to “know how to win.”
“[The USWNT] Now it’s going through some changes, they also have a lot of players injured, they didn’t play against England or Spain,” she said. “But the problem with America is that you can never rule them out. They have that mentality that they have cultivated over the years that countries like England and Germany have probably not had for a long time.
Bronze also pointed out that while the Lionesses and USWNT are widely talked about, there are other nations that will challenge for the trophy in 2023. “Canada [winning] Olympic Games, Australia has the same home support as England and the Netherlands in the last two European Championships.So, there are a lot of teams running, but [England] Will just focus on what we are going to do, what we can achieve.
“We won the Euros and we still have a lot to improve on. If we can do that, we have a good chance of going to the World Cup.”
LGBTQ+ rights may be highlighted
The 2022 Men’s World Cup has highlighted major problems in Qatar, from human rights abuses and migrant worker deaths to the suppression of LGBTQ+ rights. Ahead of England’s opening match against Iran, FIFA has intensified the controversy by banning countries from wearing the OneLove armband – which eight European nations have agreed to wear in protest of all forms of discrimination.
Women’s football is known to be a more open and inclusive environment, with many openly gay players and a culture of activism within the sport. Euro 2022 captains wear rainbow armbands during matches in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Australia and New Zealand have pledged to provide a friendlier environment, although it remains to be seen what steps FIFA will take for the Women’s World Cup.
The ACL Epidemic: Who’s Missing Out?
With just over six months until the first game, we have to talk about those who might miss out too. Women’s soccer has seen a spate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, raising the question of why female players are more prone to it than male players.
Some athletes are ready to return in time for the World Cup. Two-time Golden Globe winner Alexia Putras is one of them. The Spain and Barcelona star midfielder suffered a devastating blow when he tore his ACL in training ahead of the Euros last summer. The good news for Spanish fans is that Putellas should be fit in time for the World Cup, although that will be close given the recovery time required. However, due to an ongoing dispute with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Putras is one of 15 Spain internationals who have asked not to be selected until they commit to a “professional project”. That could mean that even if she does make a full recovery, we may not see her at the World Cup without a deal.
Another star who could be part of the big show is Lionesses star and European Golden Boot winner Beth Mead, who tore her ACL while playing for Arsenal in late November. The striker later underwent surgery and said she still had her sights set on the World Cup when she accepted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award last week. “I will try my best to go to the World Cup,” she said at the awards ceremony. “It’s an injury and you can have good days and bad days but I’m going to work hard behind the scenes at Arsenal.”
Mead was joined on the sidelines by her Arsenal team-mate and partner, Dutch star striker Vivianne Miedema, who tore her ACL in December and is awaiting surgery of her own. The injury suffered during the Gunners’ Champions League loss to Lyon naturally made her an outside pitcher at the World Cup and hurt the Netherlands’ chances of replicating their 2019 World Cup success when they finish runners-up in 2023.
Other ACL injuries that could affect World Cup star power include Australia striker Kyah Simon and Republic of Ireland midfielder Jessica Ziu. While there is hope that they will return in time, there are no guarantees and it will be difficult for their team to overcome the loss.
Every major tournament brings a new set of stars that will continue to sweep the women’s game. In 2019, USWNT’s Rose Lavelle wowed crowds with her skills, Australia’s Mary Fowler proved age is just a number, France’s Grace Geyoro put herself at the top of the star charts and Canada’s Jessie Fleming was way ahead of her age Playing with aplomb; two years later, she will help her country win Olympic gold in Tokyo.
It’s fair to say the 2023 edition will follow suit. Germany midfielder Lena Oberdorf may have already made a splash at the European Championships, but her proclamation on the global stage as one of the world’s best will be a performance no one wants to miss.
Another to watch is Maya Le Tissier, who was called up to the England national team during the November international break. The 20-year-old Manchester United defender has proven to be one of the best defenders in the Women’s Super League and her call-up is proof of that. If selected for the Lioness team, look forward to her breakthrough in the World Cup.
Swedish midfielder Hanna Bennison has been named one of UEFA’s top 10 promising young players for 2020 and has backed it up with a stellar performance at the Euros two years later. With yet another year of experience, she looks ready to play a bigger role for her country at the World Cup.
US striker Alyssa Thompson, who was just 18 when the tournament started, had the added benefit of playing alongside other young stars such as Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith at national team level. However, the star power around her is not as good as this young talent. After making her debut against the Lionesses in October, Thompson has gone from strength to strength, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her jump to another level in July.