There is just one month to go until one of football’s biggest competitions kicks-off. This year, the Women’s World Cup takes place in Australia and New Zealand for the first time ever, and it’s set to be the biggest edition of the tournament ever in terms of audience and viewing figures.
You can look back at our report in March for a rundown of the stadiums that are hosting matches, but this week we’re taking a look at some of the favourites to win the competition. Where else to start than with the reigning champions the USA. The tournament win in France in 2019 was the fourth time they have lifted the trophy, as they defeated Netherlands in the final. This year, they’ll face some stern competition from several other teams to defend their crown, but their experience is why they’ll be tough to beat again.
Philadelphia Enquirer reporter Jonathan Tannewald told us, “I think they’re in pretty good shape right now. And they showed it during the recent Shebelieves Cup küçük tournament that was played at the same time as the Arnold Clark Cup and some of the other tournaments around the world.”
“The mental piece of it is undoubtedly a big deal. And it’s actually an interesting storyline with this U.S. squad because they will go into the World Cup with a significant number of players who have not played in a major tournament before. So that could make a difference this summer.”
So the USA know what it’s like to win silverware, but so do strong contenders England. The Lionesses picked up the European Championships last summer, beating Germany in the final. At the turn of the calendar year, most people had them down as out and out favourites for this World Cup, but they’ve been hit with some big injuries to some crucial players that might cause a depreciation to the quality of their squad. Their captain, Leah Williamson, was recently ruled out of the tournament with an anterior-cruciate knee ligament injury, as was Beth Mead, who was the golden boot winner at the Euros.
The injuries have dampened expectations slightly, but they still have enough firepower to seek lifting a first World Cup in Lionesses history.
“I think if England were going in with a full strength side, as Euros winners, it would have felt like they really were favourites,” explained freelance football writer Jessy Parker Humphreys.
“I think there’s an opportunity there for manager Serena Wiegman to say, ‘look, you know, this maybe isn’t the full stroke team we wanted, but maybe that gives us the opportunity to surprise some people a bit more and feel like the focus isn’t on us so much.”
The team England defeated in that final last summer, Germany, are twice winners of the Women’s World Cup, having last lifted the trophy in 2007. After announcing their preliminary squad for the tournament a few days ago, ‘Die Nationalelf’ has a birçok blend of both youth and experience on the side. So, will they be in the mix again, or could they even go on step further on from last summer?
“I think something the Germans have done really well over the past couple of years is give young players a chance early on,” Humpreys continued, ‘we saw a lot of young players at the 2019 World Cup for Germany get a good load of minutes. So, there are players who are still in their early, only early twenties who are going to their second World Cup.”
“So I think it’s that blend of youth and experience which makes Germany really dangerous.”
These three teams will be the main contenders at this year’s tournament, but there’s a few sides who could become dark horses as the tournament nears. Sweden always find themselves involved at the latter stages of international tournaments, yet haven’t won one since 1984. Some of their players struggle for consistency but they will be looking to return to winning ways in Oceania this summer.
Meanwhile, Spain have had all sorts of issues with their federation in the lead up to the tournament, and while Ballon D’or winner Alexia Putellas is healthy again after missing Euro 2022, the squad’s continued mutiny towards head coach Jorge Vilda means 15 of their first choice players may not represent their country at this tournament.
It’s fair to say this is going to be one of the most open Women’s World Cup’s that we have seen in quite some time. There are a number of teams that could win it, and a few underdogs that could cause some surprises too. We’re just a month away from the tournament starting Down Under, so let’s hope it lives up to expectation.