tokThe 2023 Women’s World Cup kicks off in one week.
The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) lifted the trophy last time after beating Netherlands 2-0 in the final. Unsurprisingly, they are also favourites to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup but aren’t as clear as they have been in the past.
So what else might you need to know about this summer’s tournament?
Most exciting women’s World Cup ever?
For the first time, the Women’s World Cup will include 32 teams, increasing from the 24 in the past two tournaments. The teams are divided into eight groups who play each other once over two weeks, with the top two sides from each group advancing to the knockout stages.
The change mirrors how interest in women’s football has grown. We saw this at Euro 2022 last summer, which was viewed by a record-breaking 365 million people. The 2019 World Cup reached 1.12 billion viewers, according to Fifa. Or, to put that another way, one in every seven people on planet Earth. Overall viewership was up 30% on the 2019 World Cup and, with all the increased investment, exposure and quality, Statista forecast the upcoming tournament will hit 2bn.
However research from the Women’s Sport Trust and Pixel shows that “while media coverage of women’s football has increased substantially compared to most male sports, it accounts for 2% of print and 6% of television football news mentions in the UK […] compared to 98% and 94% achieved by the men’s game respectively.”
Which Women’s World Cup team should I support if I only care about winning?
USWNT are arguably the most dominant footballing force in international football history across both the men’s and women’s games. While Brazil’s men have won more World Cups, the USWNT have won half the Women’s World Cups there have ever been (four from eight). After winning in 2015 and 2019, USWNT will be looking to become the first ever national team (men’s or women’s) to win three consecutive World Cups.
What if I like rooting for an underdog?
They were responsible for ending England’s 30-game winning run in April and reached 2021 Olympics semi-finals, missing out on a bronze medal via a 4-3 thriller against USWNT. Plus they have Sam Kerr, a Chelsea forward who recently won the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year award for the second time in a row.
Speaking of the Olympics, no one really seems to be giving 2021 Gold medal winners Canada much of a chance of winning at the World Cup (30/1). But Bev Priestman has been quietly going about her work to build an impressive team with a good mixture of youth and experience, from Christine Sinclair to Jordyn Huitema.
Who are the most entertaining team to watch?
Norway have a lot of stars in attack: Ada Hegerberg, Caroline Graham Hansen, Guro Reiten and Frida Leonhardsen Maanum. On paper, it’s a recipe for success but they were knocked out of the 2022 Euros at the group stage and lost 8-0 to England.
Netherlands have endured a rough period since finishing runners-up at the 2019 World Cup. Their identity struggles at Euro 2022 led to a quarter-final exit and midfielder Jill Roord called their coach at the time boring, albeit later playing down the comments as sarcasm. Much focus is on goal machine Vivianne Miedema’s injury enforced absence. However, the Netherlands have scored 13 goals in their last four friendlies and still have a core unit of players who won the 2017 Women’s Euros, including the FIFA Best Women’s Player award winner that year, Lieke Martens.
Who are the most exciting players heading to Women’s World Cup 2023?
Squawka recently attended the launch of Pixel FC, a collective of dedicated women’s football creators helping to close the visibility gap within women’s football. We spoke to 2022 winner Demi Stokes, who picked out the players she’s most excited to see play at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
First up was Keira Walsh, Player of the Match from the 2022 Euros final and the world’s most expensive women’s footballer.
“I keep saying I’m so excited to watch Keira play,” Stokes said of the £400,000 central midfielder who helped Barcelona Femení win the 2022/23 Champions League.
“She just thrives off playing in tournaments. I think last year she was brilliant in the Euros but brought probably a different side to her game going to Barcelona, so I think that’s exciting.”
Stokes also mentioned Georgia Stanway. Another English player competing abroad, the attacking midfielder won the Frauen-Bundesliga with Bayern Munich this season.
“I’m excited [Georgia Stanway] has gone to Bayern. That’s again another, different style of play. And I think she had a brilliant [Euros] tournament last year as well. I’m excited to watch them all because I feel like, obviously I’ve lived with them, they’re my old teammates, you know.
“I love watching Chloe Kelly play, Lauren Hemp down the wing so I’m excited to be on the other side, as a fan and I just want them to do well. They deserve that.”
Outside of England, USA’s Alex Morgan is the bookmakers’ favourite to score the most goals at the 2023 World Cup. Germany’s Alex Popp is in the mix, too, having scored six times at Euro 2022 – the joint-most alongside Beth Mead, whose ACL-enforced absence could also thrust Rachel Daly into contention for the Golden Boot.
Much of the spotlight will fall on Alexia Putellas, who won the last two Ballon d’Or awards. The midfielder barely featured last season due to an ACL injury but is in the squad for Spain after featuring in Barcelona’s final games of 2022/23. Even if Putellas lacks the match fitness to dominate the tournament, Spain have another exciting midfielder in their squad. Perhaps the most exciting player in the whole competition full stop, in fact. Aitana Bonmati managed five goals and seven assists during Barcelona’s Champions League-winning campaign.
Most entertaining characters?
There is double standards. Females in sports feel like we have to be humble in our successes, have to celebrate but not too much and in a limited fashion. You see men celebrating all around the world in big tournaments… When I [got all the criticism] for sipping a cup of tea, you have to laugh about it. – USWNT forward Alex Morgan on her goal celebration from the 2019 Women’s World Cup
As much as we all pretend to be purists, personality is a huge part of football’s appeal. Whether expressed on the pitch, a la Morgan’s “that’s the tea” celebration from 2019. Or off it, like when England won Euro 2022 and Jill Scott interviewed the trophy in Trafalgar Square while Lucy Bronze performed Martine McCutcheon’s Perfect Moment in ski goggles.
So after a summer where Jack Grealish clips from Manchester City’s Treble-winning celebrations were all over your timeline, which women’s footballer is most likely to go viral if England win the World Cup?
“Probably Lucy again,” Stokes said, asked who could be the Lionesses’ Grealish. “Or Georgia Stanway to be fair. Probably one of them two.
“Lucy tends to just do mad stuff anyway and Georgia I always say she’s a total loose cannon but in the nicest way. But if we win the World Cup, I hope all of them do so!”
Essential women’s football trivia for the 2023 World Cup
There are eight nations making their World Cup debuts this summer, with Ireland, Portugal, Haiti, Panama, Philippines, Vietnam, Morocco and Zambia all set to appear for the first time.
USA, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Japan and Nigeria have appeared at all eight Women’s World Cups so far and will be involved this summer too.
Brazilian legend Marta has scored 17 goals at the World Cup, more than any other player, and could add to her tally this summer.
All-time appearance makers
American Kristine Lilly played 30 World Cup games between 1991 and 2007, spreading her appearances across five tournaments. It looks like she’ll be holding that record for at least another four years, too, as the closest active players — Cristiane and Christine Sinclair — are both on 21. Brazilian Formiga, meanwhile, holds the record for most World Cup tournaments played in, appearing at seven before retiring in 2021.
2023 Women’s World Cup schedule
This summer’s World Cup starts on Thursday July 20th when co-hosts New Zealand take on Norway and ends a month later, with the final on Sunday August 20th in Australia.
- Group stage: Takes place from Thursday 20th July to Thursday 3rd August, with the winners and runners-up of groups A – E progressing to the knockout stages
- Round of 16: Saturday 5th – Tuesday 8th August
- Quarter-finals: Friday 11th – Saturday 12th August
- Semi-finals: Tuesday 15th – Wednesday 17th August
- Final: Sunday 20th August
Demi Stokes was speaking at the launch of Pixel FC, a collective of dedicated women’s football creators helping to close the visibility gap within women’s football.