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  • Writer's pictureChris

Women's World Cup Previews




The FIFA Women's World Cup starts on Thursday. I've had a look at how the Spanish and Arabic speaking teams could get on.






Spain


Previous appearances: Two (2015, 2019)


Best finish: Round of 16 (2019)


Group C opposition: Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan


After a disappointing exit at EURO 2022, Spain went through considerable turmoil, with 15 players withdrawing from selection due to concerns about playing style, management and conditions in the team. Although the initial hostilities seem to have calmed, even if the issues raised haven’t been addressed, just three of Las 15 have been selected for Australia & New Zealand.


Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas, Spain’s most capped player (102), missed out on EURO 2022 with an ACL injury, but is set to feature heavily for her country in Australia & New Zealand. Regarded by many as the best player in the world, she returned to action with her club in April 2023 and will surely play a key role in Spain’s campaign.


Prediction: I expect Spain to qualify for the knockouts, but both Costa Rica (4th) and Zambia (3rd) had good continental campaigns in 2022, and Japan could easily pip them to 1st place in Group C.


Costa Rica


Previous appearances: One (2015)


Best finish: Group stage


Group C opposition: Spain, Japan, Zambia


Not in the best of form, having won just a couple of games since last summer, Las Ticas will be looking to make a mark on their return to the WWC. If they are to go further than the group stage this time, goals from Portland Thorns’ Raquel Rodríguez will surely be key.


Although not necessarily a rising star, having already established herself as a fairly regular presence at just 21 years old, Priscila Chinchilla will certainly be one to watch. The Glasgow City FC midfielder notched up 25 goal involvements for her club in 22/23 and could well play a pivotal role for her country in Australia & New Zealand.


Prediction: I fear the strength of Japan and Spain will prove too much for Costa Rica to qualify from the group. Their first ever WWC win is certainly not off the cards though, and their match against Zambia could give them a moment to remember.


Panama


Previous appearances: None - 2023 will be their first WWC


Group F opposition: Brazil, Jamaica, France


Las Canaleras played four friendlies in June, winning one, drawing one and losing two. Finishing with a 7-0 defeat to Spain won’t have been the most encouraging sign for the WWC first-timers, but they’ll be looking to recreate the highs they felt after defeating Paraguay in the intercontinental play-offs to book their tickets to Australia & New Zealand.


Riley Tanner, who was drafted by the NWSL’s Washington Spirit this year, could have a real breakout moment at Australia & New Zealand, while captain Natalia Mills will be called upon to guide a relatively inexperienced squad through their first World Cup.


Prediction: Experience goes a long way in tournament football, and it feels like their debut Women’s World Cup may be a bit of a struggle. I have them finishing last in the group, but a point or more is surely up for grabs to make their nation even prouder.


Argentina


Previous appearances: Three (2003, 2007, 2019)


Best finish: Group stage


Group G opposition: Italy, South Africa, Sweden


2023 marks 30 years since La Albiceleste played their first official international match, and they have more WWC experience than any other Spanish-speaking team heading to Australia & New Zealand. However they have never managed to make it past the group stage. In fact, they’ve never won a match at a World Cup, a streak they’ll certainly be looking to break this summer.


They earned their spot at this year’s tournament thanks to a third place finish at the 2022 Copa América Femenina, where Yamila Rodríguez picked up the top scorer award after notching six goals. If she can find that kind of form again, don’t be surprised to see Argentina qualify for the knockout stages.


Meanwhile, keep an eye out for Paulina Gramaglia. Having made her move to NWSL side Houston Dash permanent at the end of 2022, the young forward will be hoping for a chance to really announce herself on the world stage.


Prediction: Sweden don’t appear to be as strong as they once were and South Africa have just about settled a pay dispute, so I think Argentina have a real chance to pick up their first ever WWC win. They’ll also be spurred on by the fact they’ve yet to lose a match in 2023, barring one penalty shootout disappointment. I have them finishing second in Group G, only to be knocked out in the following round by USA.


Colombia


Previous appearances: Two (2011, 2015)


Best finish: Round of 16 (2015)


Group H opposition: South Korea, Germany, Morocco


Eventual winners and persistent favourites USA proved too strong for Las Chicas Superpoderosas in the round of 16 in 2015. This time around, they face the might of EURO runners-up Germany in the group stage as they try to emulate their previous best result in the WWC.


Having gone undefeated in the group stage and beaten Argentina in the semi-finals, they were pipped to last year’s Copa América Femenina title thanks to a Brazil penalty converted by Debinha. They haven’t failed to score in a match since that final, so here’s hoping for some exciting encounters in Group H!


One to watch for Colombia is undoubtedly Linda Caicedo. The 18-year-old forward was awarded the Golden Ball at last year’s Copa América Femenina and signed for Real Madrid earlier this year. With a goalscoring rate of one in every two appearances across her career, she will surely play a pivotal role in her nation’s fortunes in Australia & New Zealand.


Prediction: Group H feels particularly tough, but I think Colombia will manage to get second place in the group, only to be knocked out by France in the round of 16.


Morocco


Previous appearances: None - 2023 will be their first WWC


Group H opposition: Germany, South Korea, Colombia


After a historic second place on home soil at last year’s Women’s AFCON, the Atlas Lionesses will be participating in their first ever Women’s World Cup, becoming the first country from the Arab world to do so. Placed in a tough group, they’ll be looking to make yet another leap for Moroccan football in what has been an incredible 12 months for the sport there.


Captain Ghizlane Chebbak was named player of the tournament at the 2022 Women’s AFCON, where she also topped the goalscoring charts, and has won over 20 trophies with her club, AS FAR, including last year’s CAF Women’s Champions League. Her combination of experience and attacking prowess will be key to any Moroccan success in Australia & New Zealand.


Prediction: In what looks like a very tough group, I don’t expect Morocco to qualify for the knockout rounds. A historic first WWC match win is certainly on the cards, especially if they can continue their recent streak of clean sheets.


Overall

This World Cup feels especially open. Thanks to a mixture of injuries, turmoil and squad evolution, USA, Spain and England fans may have more doubts than they would have expected going into the tournament. Meanwhile, home advantage could really spur Australia and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand on.


Here's my bracket for the knockout rounds (sorry, Lionesses fans!):


Enjoy the tournament!


Chris

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