The Women’s World Cup, which kicks off this week, is both the biggest in its 32-year history and potentially the most open field in the tournament.
Many of the 32 teams competing in Australia and New Zealand probably have modest ambitions for next month, but it’s fair to say that nearly half of the field consider themselves serious title contenders. do not have. (Some are more accurate than others.) These 10 countries are the most likely to survive to the end.
Two things can be true at the same time. By mutual agreement, Vlatko Andonovski’s team arrived in New Zealand as favorites to win the tournament. With an aura of experience, a dazzling burst of youth and a deep talent base to achieve three consecutive World Cup titles. This also has psychological benefits. Respect can sometimes be seen as awe, as it has been a superpower in the game for so long.
At the same time, the undisputed superiority America has enjoyed for more than a decade is more fragile than ever. This team risks failing the Goldilocks test. Some players are too old, some are too young, and probably no one is suitable. Major European countries are closing the gap. Last year, the United States lost to England, Spain and Germany in the space of a month. The United States has a team that can be champions. But for the first time in a long time, it’s not alone.
Expectations are high for England under Salina Wiegman. The Lioness won the European Championship on home soil last summer, the team’s first major honour, followed by another victory at the Finalissima earlier this year. Winning the World Cup would be a natural consequence of a decade-long upward trajectory.
But fate intervened. Wiegman lost his captain, Leah Williamson. Her most creative player, Fran Kirby. And she wounded her most powerful offensive threat, Beth Meade. Millie Bright has joined the team but is technically still recovering from her knee surgery. Wiegman is a shrewd enough coach and she has enough talent at her disposal that she can cover up those losses. But she would do so on the spot.
One can’t help but think of the co-hosts as ‘Sam Kerr and Guests’ rather than ‘Australia’. The 30-year-old Chelsea striker Kerr is arguably the best player in the world. She is the totem of her homeland. She is the face of the tournament, someone who is expected to deliver what she calls “achievements.”kathy freeman moment‘ She’s a star on which Australia’s hopes rest.
That assessment is not entirely true. Tony Gustafsson’s squad is primarily drawn from European major leagues and the NWSL, with supporting characters such as Caitlin Ford, Haley Raso and Alana Kennedy strong. The momentum has been impressive, with Australia winning eight of their last nine games, including a milestone victory over England. Of course, Kerr has to make it, but she’s never alone.
In 2019, the Dutch emerged as the standard-bearers for emerging European powers, touting the changing power base of the game. They fell short, losing to the USA in the final. Progress has been patchy since then, losing Wiegmann, the retired England manager, before being eliminated in the quarter-finals at last summer’s European Championship.
With Daniel van de Donk, Jacky Groenen, Gilles Roerd and Riike Martens remaining the core of the team that reached the final four years ago, the Dutchman has the talent to break through again. Two things stand in their way: the absence of striker Viviane Miedema through injury and an unfortunate draw in the group stage. The Dutch will face the Americans early on. A loss in that match would likely mean a tougher road for the rest of his stay.
The Canadian has had little impact on the second half of the World Cup over the past 20 years, only once extending beyond the first round of the knockout stages. But at home in 2015, it only lasted until the quarter-finals.
In many ways, it’s hard to see that changing this time around. Christine Sinclair is 40 years old. Janine Becky is out, another victim of the ACL epidemic in women’s football. Canada have won just one of their last five games and are drawn in the same group as Australia. But this team has a resilience that shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, it’s only been two years since the completely neglected Canada, then and now, won gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
In a way, Brazil’s relegation to the World Cup could be seen as Malta’s valedictorian expedition. It was a lap of honor for the 37-year-old, who is considered by some to be the greatest of all time.
Indeed, it’s hard to believe that this ending ends with Marta repeating a Lionel Messi trick and finally winning an honor that meant more to her than anyone else. The Brazilian team was not as strong as in previous competitions, nor was it strong enough to overcome the North American and European superpowers. Still, with Pia Sundage having a visionary and skilled coach in Brazil, with players like Devinha, Carolina and Geise, Marta may not have to carry that burden alone.
More than anyone, even England, Spain will be the biggest threat to the American crown this summer. After all, its national team is largely based on the Barcelona team, which has become a dominant force in European club football. Alexia Puteras is unlikely to have fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of last year’s Euros, but he remains this year’s World Player of the Year. Spain has only lost once a year.
The problem is that Spain has been embroiled in a civil war between its players and the country’s football federation since last summer. An uneasy truce has been called, including the return of some of the 15 players who had called for manager Jorge Vilda to be sacked, but the effects are still being felt. With a dozen players still missing, Vilda must find a way to instill team spirit in a team made up of both the Rebels and their alternates.
The Spaniard may not have been the most ideally prepared for a major tournament, but kudos to the Frenchman for putting in a good run for his money. After years of coaching and losing the trust of quite a few players, Corinne Dyaker was finally sacked in March. She was replaced by Hervé Renard, a well-known coach who travels the world but has no experience in the women’s game.
He at least brought back some familiar faces to the team. Wendy Leonard and Kadidiatu Diani, both of whom had refused to play under Diacre, are back. Amandine HenryA very experienced midfielder, she had also been recalled, but a calf injury kept her out of the tournament. France’s hopes now depend on whether the new manager can get the most out of the side he has just met.
If there’s one thing that’s certain about this tournament, it’s that the German will reach the quarterfinals. They have never failed in eight attempts, and given the kind groupings of Morocco, Colombia and South Korea, there’s little reason to believe they won’t make it to the Top 8 again.
But it is doubtful whether Martina Voss-Tecklenburg can lead the team any further. Germany are runners-up at last summer’s European Championship with a well-balanced squad of two outstanding goalkeepers, the emerging star of Lena Oberdorf, the creativity of Lina Muggle and the goals of Svenja Huth and Alexandra Popp. ended up. But their form has been sluggish, with losses to Brazil and Zambia in recent months and a narrow victory over Vietnam in a warm-up game last month.
No one ever thought of Sweden. Sweden have won one silver and three bronze medals at the last eight World Cups and while they may be a reliable force at the European Championships, the assumption is always that Sweden is not a true favorite to win. ing.
So Sweden not only has players like Fridolina Rolfo, Stina Blackstenius and Hannah Bennison called up, but also points out that they reached the semi-finals of last year’s Euros, beating the United States halfway through. worth it. To the Olympic final two years ago. Sweden is a threat. But no one thinks of Sweden.