Soccer

Women’s World Cup Preview: Can the US Defend Its Title?

August 22, 2023

It’s almost time for the latest edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will take place in New Zealand and Australia this year.

There are eight groups of four teams. Each team plays the others within their group, with the top two of each group advancing to the knockout rounds. Standings are sorted by points, with a win being worth three points and a tie worth one. If two teams have the same number of points, goal differential serves as the tie breaker.

We’ll look at each group and make a prediction as to who will advance, while also highlighting some of the most serious contenders to win the World Cup.

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Group A

Norway (12th in world rankings), Switzerland (20), New Zealand (25), The Philippines (49)

Norway has a rich history of success in the tournament, though their most recent deep run came in 2007, when they finished fourth. Though most of their best results are well in the past, they’re a strong bet to make it out of this group.

The Philippines are in the World Cup for either gender for the first time, though they’re heavy underdogs to truly challenge any of the other teams in the group.

That leaves Switzerland and host New Zealand to compete for the final spot to get out of the group. Switzerland should be viewed as the favorite, though the Football Ferns will have their home fans behind them.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: Norway and New Zealand

Group B

Canada (6), Australia (10), Ireland (22), Nigeria (42)

This is widely considered to be the Group of Death as all four teams have a legitimate chance to advance.

Ireland is a newcomer to the tournament, so despite their solid world ranking, expectations should be held in check.

Nigeria will have to pull off some upsets, but this marks their ninth World Cup appearance and they have reached the quarterfinal before (1999). Asisat Oshoala is the star of the team and became the first player from Africa to be nominated for the women’s Ballon d’Or in 2022. The team will have to overcome some inner turmoil, as the team and coaches have accused the national soccer federation of not paying wages and mistreating its team in the leadup to the opening game.

Canada hasn’t had as much success in the World Cup as their current world ranking may suggest, though they won gold at the 2020 (played in 2021) Olympic Games— so they do have a recent history of success in big tournaments. They too are in a dispute with their soccer federation.

As hosts, expectations are high for this Australia team, which should advance out of the group stage.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: Canada and Australia

Title Contenders: Australia (Tipico odds: +1100), Canada (+3000)

Group C

Spain (7), Japan (11), Costa Rica (36), Zambia (77)

On paper, this group looks straight forward. However, the Spanish team is yet another squad in turmoil after a player revolt prior to 2022 Euro Cup. Some key players still haven’t returned, while others are working their way back into the mix with the team.

That could open the door for Costa Rica to sneak into the knockout stages. Many members of their team play for competitive clubs, and they also face a high level of competition in the CONCACAF – regularly squaring off against the likes of the United States and Canada. These two teams are likely to square off for the second spot out of group.

Japan has a rich history of success on the world stage, winning the 2011 World Cup and finishing second at the next edition in 2015. Things didn’t go as well in 2019, but they look to be ready for a rebound with a few star players on the roster.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: Japan and Spain

Title Contenders: Spain (+520), Japan (+2500)

Group D

England (4), China (13), Denmark (15), Haiti (53)

England is among the favorites to win the entire tournament — they have the second-shortest odds at Tipico (+360). They won the Euro Cup in 2022 and had plenty of success in in the 2019 World Cup, ultimately losing in the third-place match. We can worry about how they matchup against other elite teams in the world, but they should make it out of this group with relative ease.

China is another team whose world ranking is relatively deceptive. They face a low level of competition in Asia, but often struggle when forced to face teams from Europe or the Americas. The proof is in the results, as they last made a big splash in the World Cup in 1999.

That leaves Denmark as the other favorite to make it out of the group — it’s a side that blends players with all levels of experience and club experience. If those pieces can come together in time, China may be sent home early once again.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: England and Denmark

Title Contenders: England (+360)

Group E

United States of America (1), Netherlands (8), Portugal (21), Vietnam (33)

In contrast to other groups, this one is far more straightforward than it appears on paper. Both Portugal and Vietnam have qualified for the World Cup for the first time. Meanwhile, the United States isn’t likely to face a significant challenge until the semi-finals and could advance out of this group with their B team.

Netherlands reached the 2019 final, where they ultimately lost to the USA. The absence of Vivianne Medina (knee) could cost the team in the latter stages of the tournament, but not in the group stage.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: USA and Netherlands

Title Contenders: USA (+230), Netherlands (+2000)

Group F

France (5), Brazil (9), Jamaica (43), Panama (52)

France is a true title contender and the favorite to win the group. There is some added intrigue to their matchup against Brazil, as it marks a rematch of the first round of the 2019 knockout stages that saw France advance. Jamaica has plenty of talent and is led by Khadija Shaw. They’ll likely need to upset Brazil to make it out of the group, which is possible but unlikely.

Panama is making its World Cup debut, though they at least have the benefit of CONCACAF competition, so the moment isn’t likely to be too big for them.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: France and Brazil

Title Contenders: France (+900), Brazil (+2500)

Group G

Sweden (3), Italy (16), Argentina (28), South Africa (54)

It seems that the competition was stacked toward the front of the alphabet as this is another weak group. Sweden (+1700) is in the third tier of contenders and have finished third in this tournament in both 2011 and 2019. Without taking another step forward, they aren’t likely to challenge the likes of the United States, France or England, but they’ll get out of the group without issue.

Italy will join them, as Argentina has an abysmal record at this tournament. Overall, they’re 0-2-7 with five goals scored and a whopping 37 conceded. Meanwhile, South Africa is another first-time side, and they shouldn’t prove to be too much of a challenge for the top teams in the group.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: Sweden and Italy
Title Contenders: Sweden (+1700)

Group H

Germany (2), South Korea (17), Colombia (26), Morocco (73)

We’ll end on a strong note with Group H. Germany should get through without issue, as they’re among the top favorites to win the entire tournament. They lost to England in the Euro final in 2022 and lack some of the hype as a result, thought that adds value to their ticket as the outright winner.

The last spot will come down to South Korea and Colombia. If Colombia plays to its potential, they should sneak through. There’s been volatility in their history however, as they reached the quarterfinal in 2015 before failing to qualify for the tournament at all in 2019. They’re led by 18-year-old Linda Caicedo, who has already been on the international stage for four years. South Korea has been steadier, qualifying for their fourth consecutive World Cup. Of the first three, they got out of the group just once.

Morocco has made history as the first Arab country to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, but their stay is likely to be short.

Picks to reach the knockout stage: Germany and Colombia

Title Contenders: Germany (+650)

Photo credit: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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