Previewing the runners and riders for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 

After months of build-up and anticipation, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is finally here. Taking place this year in Australia and New Zealand, the ninth Women’s World Cup is set to be the biggest women’s football tournament to date. With an exciting line up of 32 nations, some of which will be entering the tournament as first time qualifiers, audiences from across the globe are in for a summer of thrills.

In the lead up to an enthralling couple of weeks, we asked fourteen of our employees to give their thoughts on how they believe their nation will fare in the tournament, which players to look out for and how they plan to support their respective countries this summer.

Damon Ho, China

It might be hard to imagine that China was one of the pioneers of women’s football.  

The country was actually the host of the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, and throughout the 90s, they were one of the powerhouses in the sport. Who could forget Sun Wen’s star performance in the 1999 World Cup where she led the team to the final, only to be denied the by USA in the penalty shootout.  The team seems to have hit a slump since then, outpowered by neighbour countries such as Korea and Japan. The lowest point came in 2011 when they did not qualify for the World Cup while Japan won it.  

But they are back now! Team China were the winners of the Women’s Asian Cup last year, re-establishing themselves and feeling ready to challenge the world’s elite. It will be a tough group stage for China as they will be up against England, Denmark and Haiti but we fully expect the “Steel Roses”, led by captain Wang Shanshan, to get to the knockout rounds and regain some of our pride! 

Brittnee Hensley, USA

A fifth star? A three-peat?  Whichever accolade you look at, the USWNT is poised to lift the World Cup trophy once again. A handful of familiar faces will be greatly missed due to injuries this World Cup, but with only nine World Cup veterans on the roster, new faces that have taken the team by storm the past two years will play key roles. 

Coach Vlatko Andonovski has been known to rotate through rosters in major tournaments and some may argue that played a role in the Olympics loss. It will be interesting to see if there’s consistency in the lineup considering players have largely been with their respective club teams since the spring. 

For the USWNT to win this World Cup, I think it will show resilience in their ability to perform on the field amidst the off-the-field noise and start a new chapter with the young talent solidifying their place on this team for years to come. 

Fanny Margoux, France

After several disappointing seasons, and a missed opportunity at the previous 2019 FIFA World Cup at home in France, French women’s football is relying on the 2023 World Cup to find a new momentum. The reality is that women’s football in France needs reviving. Both its domestic championship and its federation has been criticised, by players and new coach Hervé Renard.

But it won’t be easy. Group F is one of the most unpredictable at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, as it features two potential title contenders, France and Brazil, and two less prominent CONCACAF teams, Panama and Jamaica. France and Brazil, in theory, should come out of this group, but they cannot afford to take Jamaica and Panama lightly. The declared objective of the French team is to reach the semi-finals and with Hervé Renard as new head coach, he can be the one to bring the team to victory.

This World Cup seems truly to be a turning point, as a good result for the team could have big consequences, in particular on the attractiveness of the French championship.

Pedro Amorim, Portugal

Women’s football isn’t nearly as developed as the men’s game in Portugal. So, it was quite an achievement when our national team managed to qualify for a FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time ever earlier this year, after a thrilling playoff victory against Cameroon. 

It is now up to the Navigators, as the group have since been affectionately nicknamed, to show the rest of the country that it’s not just the men’s team that have the capacity to do the nation proud. And to show the world that Portuguese football has a lot more to offer beyond the talent of its male superstars. 

We’re not expecting the cup to come back but, without the pressure of being favourites, my expectation is that we can perhaps return with a few good results and performances that will be used as a basis to continue evolving and improving the team beyond the World Cup. 

Cam Scott, England

England head into the FIFA Women’s World Cup brimming with confidence after recording a historic victory at the Women’s European Championships last year. Sarina Weigman’s side will be hoping to replicate that feat in Australia-New Zealand this summer.  

Semi-finalists in 2019, the Lionesses enter the 2023 tournament as one of the firm favourites despite being without some key players. The most notable absence is skipper Leah Williamson, while Beth Mead and Frank Kirby are also missing. However, in Keira Walsh, Rachel Daly and Alessio Russo – England still have firepower in their ranks and plenty of talent capable of mounting a challenge for the trophy.  

There is huge excitement for the competition in England, in spite of an unfavourable time difference. Fans were swept up with Lionesses fever in 2022 and it’s expected that will continue this summer. Will they roar again? It remains to be seen. What is certain, though, is that Serena’s side will inspire a generation of girls to get involved with the beautiful game.   

Nicole Clark, South Africa

This will only be South Africa’s second World Cup and they join an extremely challenging group that features the reigning champions, USA, as well as Sweden. South Africa, or Banyana Banyana as they are better known as, qualified through winning the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. This brought a positive boost to the team and the nation so I hope they can take this mindset with them into the World Cup.  

Recent boycotts from the players demanding better support across a variety of points including pay and condition of pitches was resolved just before the World Cup, allowing the team to focus on the game at hand.  

No doubt these women will bring infectious joy and smiles to the tournament and win or lose they will continue to inspire the younger generation of girls in South Africa looking to pursue a career in sport! 

Derek Song, Japan

As one of the few countries representing Asia and coming back with a bang, we have the Nadeshiko Japan! Coming into this year’s tournament as arguably the most successful women’s national team in Asia, there will be high hopes for the Japanese squad as they look to reclaim top spot after claiming a maiden title at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011 and finishing runners-up in Canada four years later.  

The Nadeshiko’s current quest to return to the top of world football begins with Group C fixtures against Zambia, Costa Rica and Spain. With a squad consisting of players with experience playing in countries like England and Germany, and not forgetting those playing in the domestic WE League, Japan’s aim for this tournament will definitely be to become world champions again. It won’t be easy, but I for one will be backing them to take the trophy back to Asia!

Did you know? The first fully professional women’s league in Japan, the WE League, was launched in 2021-22 and has now completed its second season! 

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Roza Bacelas, Australia

As co-hosts, the Matildas will be hoping to waltz through their pool games, playing the home ground advantage. Their recent warm up match against the world’s fifth-ranked team, France, ended in a win boding well for their pool game against seventh-ranked Canada.

Captain Sam Kerr, widely considered one of the best forwards of all time, features in her fourth World Cup. Since making her debut for Australia at just 15 years of age, and scoring five goals at the last World Cup, Kerr is the first Australian (man or woman) ever to score a hat-trick at a World Cup.

Despite now playing for Chelsea, she still calls Australia home, and she will be leading the team who will hope to go better than their 2019 effort, after getting knocked out in the round of 16. Let’s hope they can ride the locomotion all the way to the final, and be more T.N.T. than on a highway to hell.

Matthew Hoare, Philippines

Having narrowly missed out on qualifying in 2019, the Filipinas have finally made the breakthrough this year and secured the country’s first ever FIFA World Cup appearance! 

Led by captain Tahnai Annis, the team has been on an impressive run of form, winning the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship and reaching the semi-finals of the 2022 Asia Cup. The recruitment of players born outside of the Philippines has played a crucial role in their recent success, as well as the introduction of experienced coach Alen Stacjic who has brought the team from 68th to 46th in the world since he took over two years ago.  

This is unchartered territory for a nation that has traditionally focused on other sports like boxing and basketball. With that being said, I’m confident they can cause a few upsets against the top teams and potentially emerge as one of the dark horses of the tournament! 

Matthew Mullan, Ireland

Making their world cup debut this year, having never qualified for a major tournament, it is no surprise the bookies have the “Girls in Green” as an outside bet at 250/1 to lift the trophy. 

Vera Pauw’s side have been front and centre of the Irish press in the run up to the tournament. However, with coverage focusing on shared tracksuits and a match abandoned due to “overly physical” challenges against Columbia, Ireland will be looking forward to letting the football do the talking. 

Players to watch are captain Katie McCabe, the Dubliner, who was named Arsenal’s player of the year, Denise O’Sullivan and Sinead Farelly who has just returned after eight years out of competitive football. 

Employing five at the back and two defensive midfielders, you can expect a unique brand of football from the Irish who will be hopeful that their set pieces will deliver scoring chances. COYGIG! 

Lorena Nickel, Germany

‘Frauen-Power in Germany’

After our German Men’s team unfortunately came up short at the World Cup in Qatar, our hopes now rely on the performance of our Women’s team, but the omens are good.

Off the back of a great performance at the European Championships 2022 in England, where Germany finished runners-up, women’s football has gained a lot of attention back home. Stadiums for the women’s international matches have been full. I, myself, was in Duisburg at the end of the year and witnessed the incredible atmosphere in person.

A few weeks back, we didn’t know whether we would be able to watch the World Cup at all. Thankfully, the broadcast rights have been negotiated and we can now look forward to watching the games live, perhaps even via viewings in the office.

Dan Sharples, New Zealand

The 2023 FIFA Women’s world cup has the potential to leave a lasting impact on women’s football in New Zealand and change the landscape for women’s sport in a traditionally male dominated, rugby-mad country. Led by their captain, Ali Riley, the Ferns never-say-die attitude will be put to the test against the likes of Norway, the Philippines and Switzerland in the group stage. Defensively, Abby Erceg’s presence is reassuring, and up front the clinical finishing skills of Hannah Wilkinson make her a threat to any defence.

The World Cup’s influence can foster a culture that values and nurtures women’s football, providing pathways for aspiring players and coaches. Ultimately, the tournament’s impact on New Zealand women’s football extends beyond the competition itself, shaping the future landscape of the sport and paving the way for continued growth and success.

Jason Wong, Korea

Nicknamed the Taegeuk Ladies, The South Korean Women’s National Football team will be looking to put up a strong fight in the group stages, kicking off against a determined Colombia side. 2023 has not been Korea’s year, winning only two of five matches. Nonetheless, the team will be on a mission to show their toughness and qualify for the knockout stage for just the second time. 

Guided by experienced coach Colin Bell, and with the presence of the veteran Cho So-hyun in midfield, the team will rely on the experience of both to guide them through to the knockouts. 

How will they fare? I think the most we can hope for is that the South Korean team will pull off a major upset and qualify for the knockout stages! 

Raheem Sunmonu, Nigeria

Nigeria’s Super Falcons are aiming to progress beyond the group stage for the third time in the Women’s World Cup. With a remarkable track record in African women’s football, including winning 11 of the 14 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, the team is eager to make a significant impact on the global stage.

Keep an eye on Asisat Oshoala, Barcelona’s star forward, who leads the Nigerian attack. Despite injuries, Oshoala’s goal-scoring prowess remains unparalleled.

Despite recent challenges and administrative issues behind-the-scenes, coach Randy Waldrum has a talented squad at his disposal. The team’s attacking depth and determination are assets they hope will shine through. As women’s football gains traction in Nigeria, the Super Falcons can inspire a nation. Although facing a tough group with Australia and Canada, the team’s spirit remains unwavering.

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