The 2023 Women’s World Cup is a showcase of the top female footballers from around the globe. As the tournament reaches its halfway mark, we reflect on some of the narratives from before the tournament have borne out and assess how the next few weeks could progress.
The Impact of Format Change
The recent format change to include 32 teams in the Women’s World Cup has brought new dynamics to the tournament. While it aims to promote football globally and provide opportunities for lesser-known nations, it also poses challenges in ensuring balanced and competitive matches.
The results from the group stage thus far reflect the diverse competitive landscape that the expanded format has created. However, these sort of “teething problems” are inevitable, as inexperienced nations face seasoned opposition for the first time.
The hope is that in future tournaments, this change will allow the World Cup to include and reach a broader audience, truly making it a global event.
England – Good Results, Unconvincing Performances
At the midway point of the tournament, the Lionesses have displayed strong form, securing two victories in their opening matches. Boasting a talented squad led by experienced players like Lucy Bronze and emerging stars like Lauren Hemp, the Lionesses are determined to build on their recent Euros success and secure true footballing greatness – lifting the world cup.
However, questions still remain about their ability to face down higher-quality opposition, especially given the injuries to the talismanic Beth Mead and captain Leah Williamson. Time will tell whether this much-changed squad can overcome their recent goalscoring troubles and defensive frailties to capture the nation’s heart once again.
USA – A Threepeat?
The USA Women’s national team, back-to-back world champions and a formidable force in women’s football, have performed well in their opening games, securing a win and a draw.
However, this new-look USA doesn’t feel as imperious as previous squads. While the old guard of Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe remain in their star-studded squad, the USA will have to rely on younger blood if they are to go all the way for the third consecutive time.
Given the overwhelmingly confident publicity the team pushed pre-tournament, there are many who feel anything less than another win would be a failure. While they remain strong favourites, the USA are not as far ahead of the pack as they have been in the past. Don’t be surprised if an upset occurs.
France – Drama On and Off the Pitch
While the French team are known for their flair on the pitch, they have been more infamous for the activities off it. The Federation has been dealing with off-field drama due to a squad revolt against former coach Corinne Diacre. This prompted the appointment of Herve Renard, who has since gone on to be the only coach to win matches at both the Men’s and Women’s World Cup.
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Despite the distractions, Les Bleues are showing their quality with a win and a draw in their first two matches. However, their defensive vulnerabilities may prove to be a challenge as the competition intensifies.
Spain – Turmoil and Talent
At the halfway point, Spain are through to the knockout stages, despite slumping to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Japan this morning. Much like Les Bleues, Spain have also faced recent managerial troubles. but is also facing internal turmoil with reported discontent among players and the coach. In September, 15 players wrote a letter to the Spanish Federation saying they didn’t want to play under manager Jorge Vilda.
However, unlike France, the Spanish stuck to their guns. This led to a standoff where Spain played without those 15 players for over a year. Now that many have been reintegrated back, many are hoping that Spain’s immense talent, including the likes of Alexia Putellas and Jenni Hermoso, can finally do themselves justice in a major tournament. It will be interesting to see if the relationships can withstand the pressure which comes in the later stages of a World Cup.
Australia – Home Advantage Down Under
As the host nation, Australia is benefiting from the advantage of playing on home soil, but their results have been mixed so far with one win and one loss. Led by the prolific Sam Kerr, the Matildas possess the potential to make a significant impact in the tournament.
However, the opening two games have highlighted their reliance on their star player. While that sort of talent will likely win them games, many are suggesting that a lack of depth in the squad is what will prevent Australia from leaving a lasting mark on their home World Cup.
As the 2023 Women’s World Cup reaches its midpoint, football fans worldwide have been treated to drama and storylines both on and off the pitch. The expansion to 32 teams has undoubtedly altered the complexion of the tournament, but as we head into the knock-out stages, the magic of sudden death will be something that is familiar to everyone. While the United States and England remain the two favourites to meet in the final, don’t be surprised if there are some huge upsets along the way.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Official match ball at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.