2023-07-18 · 5 min read · FIFA Women's World Cup/Soccer
Kadeisha Buchanan, Canada and Lena Oberdorf, Germany

Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images | Martin Bernetti/AFP

We are days away from the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, as 32 teams will be vying to be crowned world champions in Australia and New Zealand.
This is the first time this women’s competition is being co-hosted, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines to watch when the tournament opens on Thursday with New Zealand playing host to Norway.
The Canadian women, led by the most prolific goalscorer in men’s and women’s football, Christine Sinclair, come into this tournament as Olympic champions and will face a formidable opening round, going up against Nigeria, Australia and Ireland in what is being called by many the group of death.
They will open their campaign on July 20 against the 11-time Women’s Africa Cup of Nations champions in Melbourne.
Here is a look at my contenders, darkhorses and winner pick.
The top-seeded Americans have a chance to do what no nation has ever done before in the men’s and women’s version of this event, win three successive titles, having won this event more than any other women’s side (four).
Even with the exclusion of Mallory Swanson through injury, Vlatko Andonovski has a plethora of attacking talent and experience to choose from, including Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Alex Morgan and the colourful Megan Rapinoe.
The Stars and Stripes have made it the semi-finals or further in every World Cup since its inception in 1991, and while they will have to play some tough opponents in the opening phase, including the side they defeated in the 2019 final, the Netherlands, this is a group that knows what it takes to win, has just as much overall quality as any team out there and have tons of continuity with all but one player currently featuring at club level in the United States.
Entering this tournament, the US are on a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions, outscoring their opponents 19-1 over that stretch, knocking off some formidable opponents, such as Germany, Canada and Japan.
The Lionesses finally broke through at the previous women’s Euros, defeating Germany in the final to claim its first major title in women’s soccer.
Sarina Wiegman has been able to take this team to the next level, but their depth will be tested with captain Leah Williamson and Beth Mead, the player of the Tournament at the 2022 Euro, both ruled out through injuries.
That being said, there are still plenty of top-notch players available, including Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood is a solid left-back who can be a difference-maker on set pieces, Ella Toone is a dangerous attacking midfielder, and Lauren Hemp will be hard to catch up front.
Besides the US, Germany is the only other nation to capture multiple World Cup titles (2003 and 2007) and no one would be surprised if the former eight-time Euro champions were to lift the crown once again.
Led up front by two-time German Footballer of the Year Alexandra Popp, the #2 ranked Germans shouldn’t have any difficulty getting through a group that features Morocco, Colombia and South Korea.
Lena Oberdorf and Kathrin Hendrich are coming off a magical run to the Women’s Champions League, helping Wolfsburg make it into the final, and they should provide plenty of stability in the midfield and backline, respectively, while manager Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has an impressive resume and knows what it’s like to compete in big games.
Every time the World Cup and Olympics roll around, the Swedes seem to be in the mix as title contenders, but they still haven’t been able to get over the finish line.
At the Summer Games in Tokyo, they let a 1-0 lead over Canada slip away, losing in a heartbreaking penalty shootout, and Peter Gerhardsson’s side, ranked third in the world behind Germany and the USA, are hungry to lift a trophy which narrowly eluded them in 2003.
The Swedes are a big, physical team, good in the air and on set pieces, with a wealth of experience, led by Caroline Seger, who has 233 international appearances, while Kosovare Asllani and Stina Blackstenius are the main attacking threats with 44 and 28 goals respectively in what is an intimidating side.
Playing on home soil and fresh off consecutive shutout victories over Euro champions England and a formidable French team should have Tony Gustavsson feeling pretty good about Australia’s chances at this tournament.
Hosting comes with its share of expectations that not everyone can fulfil; look at the Qatar men’s team last year.
However, these Australian women have plenty of character and big game players who feature worldwide, from the US to England and France among other places.
Gustavsson has a lot of talented individuals, led by Sam Kerr, widely considered the best female player on the planet, not to mention Man City’s Mary Fowler, veteran defender Clare Polkinghorne and the robust Ellie Carpenter as the Matildas have a solid mix of youth and experience at this year’s competition.
For all the talent this team has had since its fourth-place finish at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, the French have been unable to break through and claim the title.
There should be a lot more harmony within the group after Corinne Diacre was unceremoniously forced out when most of the squad threatened to quit if she wasn’t removed.
New manager Herve Renard will be a breath of fresh air for them, and he’s been successful on the world stage, orchestrating perhaps the biggest upset at the 2022 men’s World Cup when Saudi Arabia came back to defeat future champions Lionel Messi and Argentina.
Not having Delphina Cascarino will hurt, but with Wendie Renard back in the fold and the team’s all-time leading scorer Eugenie Le Sommer available, there is reason for optimism within a squad which is all about creativity and free-flowing attacking play.
Brazil at any level of men’s or women’s soccer are expected to win regardless of who they got and Pia Sundhage, who guided the Americans to an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and the World Cup final, the year before, knows what it takes to compete on this stage.
The Brazilians have dominated women’s soccer in South America, winning eight Copa America Femenina titles and with the likes of Marta, Debinha and Rafaelle, this may be one of the more well-balanced teams they’ve ever had heading into the finals.
The Dutch took a gigantic step forward at the 2019 World Cup, going all the way to the final but were dealt a massive blow when all-time leading goalscorer Vivianne Miedema injured her ACL last year.
Still, this team managed to play the Americans to a 2-2 at the last Olympics and have a dynamic one-two scoring punch of Jill Roors and Lieke Martens, who are dependable and versatile.
La Roja may not have the same experience of making deep runs in major competitions, but they have a clear identity and plenty of top-notch players who can make a difference.
The question is can they put their differences with Jorge Vilda aside, with many recently in talks with the Spanish federation about issues with their head coach.
Their high tempo-controlled possession style will make them a tough team to dispossess, while Alexia Putellas is a commanding midfield presence who recently led Barcelona to the Women’s Champions League title.
The reigning Olympic champions come into this tournament as underdogs, which seems to suit Bev Priestman and this squad just fine.
There’s a good mix of talent on this squad even without Janine Beckie, who injured her ACL, with Christine Sinclair playing in what may be her last World Cup, but unlike in past years, she’ll have a solid supporting cast, including Jessie Fleming, Julia Grosso, Jordyn Huitema, Sophie Schmidt and Kadeisha Buchanan.
They may not be the most creative or inventive team competing, but this hard-working group does not give up a lot and is pretty sharp in transition.
Winner Pick- Germany
Almost every team competing has been hampered with at least one significant injury, but I think the overall depth of Germany, the fact they’ve won many major trophies before and its overall balance will be enough for them to claim the title.
The Americans look tough, as do the Matildas, but I think Germany can sneak in and win it all because although they’re a strong squad, they will not have the same kinds of pressure as the US and Australia.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Joel Lefevre


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