The Matildas will like their chances of winning the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time this year, and go into the tournament full of confidence after dispatching France in their warm up last week.
The Cup kicks off on Thursday with joint hosts New Zealand and Australia facing off against Norway and Ireland respectively in Auckland and Sydney, in the ninth instalment of the women’s competition, which will see 32 teams compete for the trophy and $110 million in prize money.
The Matildas first Cup appearance was in 1995 (they have since qualified for every tournament), but they didn’t reach the playoffs until 2007, losing to Brazil 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
In 2011, they were also knocked out in the quarters by Sweden. However, in 2015, the Matildas defeated Brazil to reach the second round of the finals, where they faced a formidable Japanese outfit, with Japanese legend Mana Iwabuchi coming off the bench to score the decisive goal, which sent Australia out of the competition.
Most recently, in 2019, Australia was sent home in the round of 16 after they recorded a heartbreaking penalty shootout loss to Norway.
This World Cup, though, may see Australia move past the quarter-finals for the first time.
Here’s why Australians should be excited about their team?
— CommBank Matildas (@TheMatildas) July 17, 2023
Matildas Coach Tony Gustavven said: “Selecting this World Cup squad has been the toughest challenge so far.
“These 23 players not only exemplify what it means to be a part of the tradition of the CommBank Matildas but also what it means to represent the 25 million Australians we know are fully behind us. They have the heart, desire and passion for the crest, and I can’t wait to see the next part of their story.”
Led by captain Sam Kerr, the Matildas can go deep into the tournament. She has become an international name in football as she helped steer Chelsea to the Women’s Super League and FA Cup titles earlier this year.
Kerr was also the highest goal scorer for the Blues in the 2022/2023 season. Alongside her, the Australian side features a mixture of youth and experience as players such as Emily Van Egmond, Caitlin Foord and Lydia Williams return for their fourth World Cup appearance. Seven players, such as Manchester City’s Mary Fowler and Courtney Nevin, will appear in their first-ever World Cup. The 23-woman Matildas squad is made-up of:
Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah, Lydia Williams
Defenders: Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Charlotte Grant, Clare Hunt, Alanna Kennedy, Aivi Luik, Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne
Midfielders: Alex Chidiac, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Katrina Gorry, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, Tameka Yallop
Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso, Kyah Simon, Cortnee Vine
The recent Matildas form is encouraging, as they have lost only one match in their last 10 appearances, including their 1-0 win over France three days ago. Moreover, the Matildas won the Cup of Nations, defeating countries such as Jamaica, Spain and the Czech Republic. However, most significantly, the team proved that they are a competition heavyweight as they defeated Euro champions England in London 2-0 after a Kerr masterclass.
Following the victory in England, the Lionesses coach Sarina Wiegman said: “[The Matildas] are aggressive, they’re tight, and today in the 18-yard box, they were good with the headers … I think there are many teams that could win the World Cup. I think Australia’s one of them.”
— CommBank Matildas (@TheMatildas) July 16, 2023
The Matildas are in Group B of the World Cup, with the Republic of Ireland, Nigeria and Canada.
Republic of Ireland
The Matildas first game in the World Cup will be against Ireland on July 20 at 8pm in Sydney. Ireland will be a difficult team for the Matildas, especially in the first game, as all eyes will be on whether Australia can match their recent form. Ireland itself is an adamant team to play. With the Irish ranked 24th in the world, they had an impressive qualification process for the World Cup, coming second behind number 3 seed Sweden and defeating Scotland in the playoffs. The last time Ireland and Australia met, two years ago, the Irish came out on top 3-2.
The Matildas need to keep an eye out for Katie McCabe. The Arsenal midfielder has scored 20 goals for Ireland over her career and was the highest scorer for Ireland in their qualification for their first world cup. As McCabe has had more than 150 appearances with Arsenal, she will be one of the more experienced players, and it will be interesting to see how the captain can lead her team against Australia.
The Matildas second group match will be against Nigeria on July 27 at 8pm in Brisbane. Nigeria came fourth in the most recent Women’s African Cup of Nations after narrowly losing to Zambia. However, the Super Falcons won their last three friendly matches leading up to the tournament and smashed New Zealand 3-0. The last time these two teams went head to head was in the 2015 World Cup, where Australia defeated Nigeria 2-0.
A Nigerian player the Matildas will have to look out for is Asisat Oshoala. The Nigerian forward played fewer minutes leading into the World Cup as she missed the Champions League final. Still, the Barcelona striker was the third-highest scorer in the Spanish first league scoring 21 goals and assisting with three. Oshoala will play in her third World Cup with the Super Falcons, bringing experience to a relatively young Nigerian outfit.
Olympic Gold medallists Canada will face the Matildas on July 31 at 8pm in Melbourne. Canada is the top seed in the group, and are ranked seventh in the world. Canada’s golden Olympic run saw them defeat Brazil, the USA and Sweden to win the competition. However, the Canadians did tie last in the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year and have only won one game in 2023. Australia should know this Canadian side, as Canada defeated the Matildas twice last year.
If Australia wants to progress, they must look out for Christine Sinclair. The 40-year-old Canadian football legend will feature in her sixth World Cup this year. The striker will be looking to add to the 190 goals she has scored with Canada. However, with so much controversy around the Canadian football team and their conditions, it will be interesting to see if Sinclair can lead her girls to the round of 16.
IT'S FINALLY WOMEN'S WORLD CUP MONTH ⚽️🏆 pic.twitter.com/1EkCPESH99
— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) July 1, 2023
Round of 16
Depending on whether the Matildas progress in either first or second place in the group, they will have to face either first or second place in Group D, which features England, Denmark, China and Haiti. However, in this World Cup, they will be placed on the same side of the bracket as their group member who also progresses, meaning that a semi-final rematch between Australia and, most likely, Canada could occur. But first, if Australia comes second in the group, they will most likely have to face the Lionesses.
The fourth-ranked team in the world, England has a star-studded squad and is one of the competition heavyweights in the FIFA World Cup this year. Not only did the Lionesses win the Euros last year, but the team also topped their group in qualifying for the World Cup by eight points. Earlier this year, England won the Arnold Clark Cup and the Finalissma against Brazil in April. Although Australia may have defeated the Lionesses in April, the Matildas must still be wary of their English rivals.
Australia will need to be aware of Lucy Bronze. Although England lacks some of their star players, such as Leah Williamson and Beth Mead, Bronze may help bridge the defensive gap left by Williamson’s injury. Lucy Bronze has won four Champions League titles in the last six seasons, meaning she is experienced in major games and with her being the breakout star in the 2015 World Cup, who is to say she can’t do it again in 2023?
If Australia places first in the group, the Matildas will most likely face Denmark or China in the round of 16. Denmark had a disappointing Euro campaign after they came third in their group. However, the Danish will be going into the World Cup with momentum after they defeated world number three, Sweden, in Malmo and world number 11, Japan, this year. The last time the Matildas faced Denmark, they won 3-1, but they will have to rise to the challenge again to progress to the quarter-finals.
You must look out for Pernille Harder if you’re a Danish fan. Harder was the 2017-2018 UEFA Player of the Year. Although that may have been five years ago, the 30-year-old midfielder has continued to dominate the women’s game scoring eight goals for Chelsea this year and three assists for Denmark in their qualification for the World Cup.
The two-time champions, China, are another team that the Australians could face in the World Cup round of 16, and this is because the Chinese are fierce this year. China’s most recent trophy came in 2022 when they defeated Japan and South Korea to clinch the Asian Cup title. However, the Chinese have never beaten the Australians. In their most recent outing in 2020, both teams drew 1-1.
The Matildas will need to be aware of Zhang Linyan. The 22-year-old midfielder is appearing in her first World Cup for China this year and scored eight goals for her Swiss Club, Grasshopper, this season.
When the Matildas play their first match of the Women's World Cup in Sydney – it will be historic.
For the first time in history, they'll be flying at Women's World Cup stadiums.
Right alongside our national flag.
— Chris Minns (@ChrisMinnsMP) July 16, 2023
Quarter and semi-finals
For the quarter-finals and semi-finals, the Matildas may face Brazil, France or Germany, depending on where they finish in the group stage.
The Brazilians are competition favourites that Australia must watch out for if they progress past the group stage and round 16. The Brazilians are ranked eighth in the world and were undefeated in the Copa America Women in 2022. The Brazilians and the Matildas have played four games against each other in World Cup history, and the Matildas have defeated them twice.
If Australia wants to progress, they must look out for Andressa Alves. Although all eyes will be on Marta and her appearance in her sixth and final world cup, Andressa may be an exciting watch as the AS Roma striker scored a critical equalising goal in Brazil’s Finalissima against England earlier this year. Moreover, the 30-year-old scored 15 goals in all domestic competitions last season, making her a critical forward for the Brazilians.
The 2019 hosts and number fifth-ranked team in the world, France, could also feature in the Matildas road to glory. The French have had much success over the past couple of years as, most recently, they won the Tournoi de France, defeating teams such as Denmark and drawing to Norway to take the trophy. France also reached the semi-finals of the Euro, where Germany knocked them out. However, in 2023, Les Blues still need to win a match and Australia looked the far better side in their win over them on Friday.
If you’re rooting for France, you must look out for Diani Kadidiatou. The 28-year-old forward scored 17 goals for her PSG team this year, leading her to win the Golden Boot in the French League One. Despite this, she missed out on PSG’s final six games at the very end of the season.
The number two ranked team in the world, and Euro 2022 finalists Germany are a side that the Matildas may well host if they are to pass through the group stages and finals. The Germans topped their group in European qualifications for the World Cup. Germany also defeated France and the USA last year, meaning the Matildas will have to beat a team who can defeat competition favourites.
The Matildas need to watch for Germany’s captain, Alexandra Popp. Popp has recorded over 60 goals in 100 caps for Germany and was the highest scorer in the Bundesliga this season. Popp will add a mixture of experience and power to an already solid German line-up as this will be her fourth World Cup.
19 Chelsea players going to 2023 Women’s World Cup:
🇳🇱 Nouwen#FIFAWWC | #CFCW pic.twitter.com/azdJ9z6pj3
— Olufoye Ayomide (@Ayomind27) July 4, 2023
Australia could face anyone from Group A, C, E or G if they are to progress to the final. From these groups, four teams rank inside the top 10.
The number one ranked team in the world, the USA, are competition favourites this year as they have not lost a game since November, defeating teams such as Canada, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand and Ireland this year. The US also won the CONCACAF Championship last year and has only lost six games since January 2014; that’s in over 120 matches. The USA will be looking to go back-to-back-to-back this World Cup after they defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in Lyon in 2019 to win the World Cup. The Matildas have only beaten the USA once, and that was in 2017. The USA and the Matildas drew 1-1 in their most recent outing.
An American player the Australians, will have to look out for is Alex Morgan. As one of the household names in women’s football, the 34-year-old will look to improve her golden boot performance with the US in her last World Cup. This year will mark Morgan’s fourth World Cup appearance for the Stars and Stripes.
If the US cannot progress to a final, Sweden may be the team that can stop them. The Swedes came third last World Cup after defeating England 2-1, and they will be looking to go one game better this World Cup. Sweden is ranked number three globally but won only one match this year against China in February. If the Australians face Sweden, they will have recent form in their favour, as the Matildas smashed Sweden 4-0 last year in Melbourne.
If you are going for Sweden, a player you will need to look out for is Magda Eriksson. This year, the long-time Chelsea captain proved crucial for the Blues as she helped steer Chelsea to an FA Cup and Women’s Super League trophy. Alongside this, the defender has 92 caps with the Swedish National team.
The Spanish are an outside chance of making the final of this World Cup. However, the number sixth-ranked team in the world has proven that they are a solid side. The Spaniards have only lost four matches since 2020 and reached the round of 16 in the last World Cup, where the USA defeated them 2-1. However, the Australians beat Spain 3-2 in the Cup of Nations earlier this year.
The Matildas must be wary of two-time Ballon D’or winner Alexis Putellas. The 29-year-old midfielder may have missed last year’s Euros due to an ACL injury, but she will be appearing in her third world cup, where she will aim to score her first World Cup goal for Spain. Putellas may have missed many games for Barcelona this season. However, in the 2021/2022 season, she scored 18 goals in 26 matches, showing that Spain could go far if she has that same attacking intensity.
The Dutch are another outside chance of making the World Cup final this year. The 2019, World Cup Finalists will have revenge on their minds as they want to go one position better after their heartbreaking 2-0 loss to the USA. Nevertheless, the ninth-ranked team in the world has gained momentum going into the World Cup after thrashing Belgium and Poland in friendlies earlier this year. The Netherlands last played Australia in 2021, defeating the Matildas 5-0.
A Dutch player the Matildas will have to look out for is Leike Martens. Although the names of Shandice van de Sanden won’t appear in this edition of the World Cup, Martens makes up for her loss, as the 30-year-old will feature in her third World Cup. Additionally, Martens has already recorded four goals and three assists in 2023 and was instrumental in the Netherlands’ most recent friendly, scoring and assisting with two goals.
All smiles in LA for World Cup Media Day😊 pic.twitter.com/TeejkGsbH9
— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) June 27, 2023
Fans can watch the World Cup on Optus Sport and Channel 7, starting on July 20 at 5pm (AEST) when New Zealand takes on Norway, and at 8pm when Australia faces Ireland.
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