When asked who will win the 2023 Women’s World Cup, it”s almost instinctive to respond that defending champions, the USA, will inevitably lift the trophy once again. Indeed, the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) has always been the dominant force in international football and remains the world number 1 side. However, since their Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo 2020, there have been questions as to whether their long reign at the top is coming to an end. They hope to become the only team in men’s or women’s footballing history to win 3 consecutive world cups, but the USWNT squad has suffered injuries and a series of poor results or performances, enough to make us wonder whether they will be able to achieve this historic feat.
Since the last World Cup, the USA’s dominance in women’s football has been waning. They are facing increasing competition at the top as the standard of the women’s game increases across Europe and Asia. Local leagues across Europe such as the Women’s Super League in the UK or the Frauen Bundesliga in Germany are reaching much higher standards and increasingly producing world-class players.
The USWNT lost to England, Spain and Germany at the end of 2022 and, this year, although undefeated, claimed narrow victories over much lower ranking teams such as the 25th-placed Republic of Ireland in their most recent friendly. This performance, and the World Cup ending injury of their lead goal scorer in 2023, Mallory Swanson, has raised some eyebrows about the USWNT’s world cup chances. They face further personnel issues with Christen Press and Tobin Heath looking very unlikely to be fit in time for the World Cup.
USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski had to make significant changes to the team’s squad following criticism that the side he took to the 2020 Olympics lacked youthful flair and energy, with an average age of 30.8 years across the squad. Since then, Andonovski has made changes to the selection, excluding senior players like Megan Rapinoe, in favour of younger talents up front, notably Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith, bringing the average age of the team down to about 26 years. With this injection of youth, the team is faced with more inexperience and is yet to gel in order to regain its former unbeatable form.
So, if the dominant footballing nation doesn’t take home the World Cup Title in 2023, who will? We must turn to the countries whose local leagues are flourishing, producing players who make their national teams forces to be reckoned with. As pay disputes and injuries keep Canada’s World Cup hopes uncertain and Spain’s unresolved player mutiny continues, I believe there are currently 4 main contenders for the trophy..
The Guardian has the reigning European champions, England, down as World Cup favourites. However, a world cup ending ACL injury to the team’s Captain, Leah Williamson, raises doubts about whether the side can replace such a pivotal player. Further injuries to key players plague the England team, with questions hanging over Millie Bright and Fran Kirby, and with star striker Beth Mead already ruled out with an ACL. Recently, England’s 30-game win streak under coach Serena Wiegman came to an end when World Cup co-hosts, Australia, defeated them 2-0 in a friendly a couple of weeks ago. In order to make the World Cup Semi-Final, they would likely have to defeat Australia in the round of 16 and Germany in the quarter final – not an easy run!
Australia’s unexpected victory over England, which came just a week after they lost to Scotland, showed that they too will be serious contenders to win their home World Cup. Tony Gustavsson, Australia’s coach and a former assistant coach to the USA, has shown how his structured 4-4-2 can exert pressure on the best teams while retaining attacking prowess with Chelsea’s Sam Kerr up-front. Despite lacking depth and versatility on the bench, the Tokyo 2020 4th place finishers and 10th-ranked team absolutely shouldn’t be ruled out as serious contenders. Undoubtedly they will seek to impress in front of home crowds.
The World number 2 team has been in good form, making it to the Euros final last summer and narrowly losing to England in extra time. Armed with star-striker, Alexandra Popp, who unfortunately missed out on the Euros final they eventually lost, as well as their powerhouse midfield which includes Euros young player of the tournament, Lena Oberdorf, Germany is a force to be reckoned with and could face the USA in the World Cup Final.
With a recent victory over Canada and a new head coach, Hervé Renard, the French team seem back on track. Since the departure of former coach Corinne Diacre, players, including team captain Wendie Renard, have returned to the national side. They are ready to focus on football and put coaching disputes aside. The French team has a formidable lineup of players across the pitch. They are capable of air-tight defence and reliable finishing in the final third. The world number 4 side is undoubtedly worth watching out for.
This summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is the most contentious tournament in the last 10 years. With ticket sales projected by FIFA to reach the goal of 1.5 Million, will we see Australia lift the trophy in front of a home crowd? Will 2019 hosts, France, take the title? Will the English back up their victory at the Euros? Or will Germany vindicate their Euros loss with a World Cup victory?