FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview…

By Danielle Ward

It’s another big summer of women’s football as the FIFA Women’s World Cup, held across Australia and New Zealand begins on July 20.

Since England won the Euro 2022 trophy at Wembley Stadium last summer, the profile of the game in both the UK and across the world has climbed rapidly to new heights. Attendance records have been broken in national and league games in many countries and the spotlight is on players like never before. 

England will unsurprisingly go into the tournament as one of the favourites, with the USA, four-time winners who have maintained their #1 ranking since then ever present, with Spain and Germany looking like strong contenders. 

England (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Australia and New Zealand will be hoping the same boost England got from a home tournament will give them added strength to impress. 

Sarina Wiegman’s team had an unbeaten run of 30 games in all competition until a 2-0 loss to Australia in a friendly in April – with the torrential rain matching the miserable outcome of the game.

England Head Coach Sarina Wiegman (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Wiegman had perhaps a more difficult task of choosing her squad for the tournament – being without several key players who shone last summer. Jill Scott and Ellen White retired shortly after the final, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson are out with long-term ACL injuries and Fran Kirby’s continued injury struggle has ruled her out of the squad. 

But there is still a strong set of players for Sarina to choose from, it was just a case of how she now put that puzzle together. The squad was announced on May 31st and brought together a mix of youth and tested tournament experience.

Although we are yet to know what Sarina’s starting 11 may be.

With Leah Williamson out with a long injury, Captain’s duty for this tournament will lie with Millie Bright who has herself been recovering from a knee injury sustained earlier in the year. With Rachel Daly now playing upfront after a dominant WSL season which saw her win the golden boot, the England backline will be the most changed. Esme Morgan, Jess Carter and Alex Greenwood now feature in the selection and defender Lucy Bronze, making her 3rd World Cup appearance whose experience will be an important part of the new look squad.

(Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy will hope to make an appearance in defence in the transition. Although she was an unused substitution in the Euros, the 24yr old was integral in the Lionesses’ open letter to the Prime Minister that led to a government pledge announced earlier this year that every girl in England to be given equal access to football and school sport. 

A midfield of Ella Toone, Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh will be the most familiar to newer fans of women’s football. Since the Euros both Stanway and Walsh made high-profile moves to European clubs – Georgia Stanway moved to Bayern Munich in Germany who went on to win the Bundesliga for the fifth time in their history. Keira Walsh’s move to Barcelona for a rumoured world record transfer fee of £350,000 and they were crowned Champions League winners in June.

Lauren James will be making her 1st appearance at a major tournament and Sarina will be hoping she makes an impression in the front line. The 21yr old had a fantastic season at Chelsea and is one of the most exciting young talents in the country.

Alessia Russo, a breakout star from Euro 2022 will also be key to England’s attack after the retirement of Ellen White. Russo, who has just made a massive transfer signing from Manchester United to Arsenal is dangerous in the air and her ability to hold up play could well be the key for England in their campaign.

Chloe Kelly, who became a household name after the Euros with her winning goal and iconic celebration, will take her place up front and will hope to repeat the joys of last summer.

Speaking to BBC Sport she said “Last year I was in a completely different place to where I am this year. I was coming into the Euros having not had a lot of football, my confidence was probably high because I was just buzzing to be there. This year, I’ve had a whole season of football and was able to grow as it went on. That was really important to me.”

Previously mentioned Rachel Daly and faster winger Lauren Hemp are likely to complete Wiegman’s new-look front line, in the absence of Beth Mead.

Other notable call-ups for the tournament include Jordan Nobbs, who has missed three major tournaments through injury. Nobbs left Arsenal in January, where she had played for 12 years, for Aston Villa, in search of more regular minutes on the pitch in the hopes of a call-up for the World Cup. The risk paid off and although it is unlikely she will make the starting 11, her dynamic and intelligent play could make her the perfect impact substitution. Her overall experience in the game could prove invaluable in this younger side.

Bethany England, who has not made the England squad since being an unused substitution in the Euros, made a similar big move in the hopes of winning back her place in the squad. After 7 years at Chelsea, she moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a reported £250,000 fee and her goals were integral to Tottenham Hotspur staying out of relegation danger in what was a woeful end of their season. She will be hoping she will have a chance to shine in their Antipodean adventure as the squad looks to mould its new members into another tournament-winning performance.

Goalkeeper Hannah Hampton also returned to the fold, having just transferred from Aston Villa to Chelsea and had not been selected since her place as a substitute in the Euros. A successful season between the sticks won the approval of Sarina Wiegman and the 22-year-old will gain valuable experience being part of another tournament squad as she looks to build on her reputation as one of the brightest young goalkeepers in the country.

Ahead of the tournament, writing for, England right-back Lucy Bronze acknowledged the change to the title-winning team – saying “We will buzz off the excitement together. We know we’re not the same team as 2022. We have evolved, we’ve changed, with new players and a new focus. We can’t wait to have our shot at World Cup glory.”

(Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

A send-off game against Portugal at Stadium MK on 1st July was a frustrating and flat 0-0 draw and a behind-closed-doors match against Canada in Queensland on 14th July proved fruitless for both teams ending on 0-0. The teams played two 45-minute halves with unlimited substitutes.

Saturday 22 July sees The Lionesses take on Haiti in their first group match being held in Brisbane. It will be Haiti’s first appearance at World Cup, so despite a tough group that includes China and Denmark in addition to England, the squad will know they have nothing to lose in their debut appearance in the competition.

Speaking to ESPN after they qualified for the tournament, Haiti midfielder Danielle Etienne said: “There’s a lot of unhappiness in the country and football is the joy…we want that for the country as a whole, to have a breath of fresh air and kind of step aside from anything going on.”

They secured their first-ever win over a European side earlier this year – beating Moldova 3-1 in a friendly.

Their highest ever FIFA world ranking is 53, with China ranked 14th, Denmark ranked 13th and England ranked 4th.

England’s best-ever result in a World Cup was in 2015, where they placed third after losing to Japan 1-0 in the semi-final and then beating Germany 1-0 in the third-place play-off to land a Bronze medal.

They reached the quarter-finals three times and they also reached the semi-final in 2019, losing 2-1 to the USA, but were denied a third-place finish in the play-off after a 2-1 defeat to Sweden.

After their Euros success last summer, hopes will be high of an easy trip through the group stages, but with the chance of a tougher route through the knockout stages, the challenge will be on for Sarina Wiegman’s team.

Speaking to The Telegraph, she said:

“I have huge belief in this squad and we’re very fortunate to be selecting a fantastic group of players to travel to Australia. We know we will face tough challenges from strong teams, and we will have to be competitive from the first match on 22 July.”

Where to watch:

All games of the Women’s World Cup will be shown on ITV and BBC. The contract to air the tournament was up in the air for a long time due to disagreements on the value of the rights and an agreement was only reached as late as June 15. The agreement is believed to be worth around £7 million and split between the two networks for 64 matches.

Where to watch the opening games of the tournament on 20th July 

New Zealand Women v Norway Women – BBC One, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport Website – 8am 

Australia Women v Republic of Ireland Women – ITV1, STV, ITVX, STV Player – 11am

Where to watch England vs Haiti – ITV – 22 July 10:30am

Women’s World Cup 2023 groups

Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland

Group B: Australia, Republic of Ireland, Nigeria, Canada

Australia line up in Group B alongside Republic of Ireland, Nigeria and Canada (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Group C: Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan

Group D: England, Haiti, Denmark, China

Group E: USA, Vietnam, Netherlands, Portugal

Group F: France, Jamaica, Brazil, Panama

Brazil are in Group F alongside France, Jamaica and Panama (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Group G: Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina

Group H: Germany, Morocco, Columbia, South Korea

Brian Jeeves