How will Group B play out in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
Part 2 of a series
As the commencement of the 2023 Women’s World Cup approaches on July 20, teams from all eight groups are eager to make their presence felt in the tournament.
Group B comprises Australia, Ireland, Nigeria, and Canada, each prepared to make their mark in the competition.
The composition of this group raises numerous intriguing questions that will be answered when the first match between Australia and Ireland kicks off.
First Place: Australia
Australia enters the Women’s World Cup with a sense of optimism as they co-host the tournament alongside New Zealand.
The Matildas have consistently reached the knockout phase in the past four editions of the event. Their round of 16 elimination in France four years ago, on penalties against Norway, marked the end of a streak of three consecutive quarterfinal appearances.
Led by the outstanding form of striker Sam Kerr, one of the world’s premier players, Australia aims to rectify their premature exit from the 2019 tournament and make their mark on home soil.
Kerr possesses exceptional abilities in reading the game and showcasing agile movement. At the age of 29, she combines her veteran experience with the responsibility of carrying the hopes of a nation at the highest level. Her performance is not only fueled by the desire to win the World Cup trophy but also to contend for the prestigious Ballon d’Or Feminin.
As long as Australia remains in contention, expect to hear a great deal about Kerr and her impact on the team’s success.
Second Place: Canada
Similar to Australia, Canada is also considered a favorite to top their group.
Despite the absence of star forward Janine Beckie due to a torn ACL knee ligament in March, Canada possesses a talented attacking lineup with Adriana Leon, Jordyn Huitema, and the ageless wonder Christine Sinclair, who will be participating in her sixth World Cup at the age of 40.
The midfield duo of Sophie Schmidt and Jessie Fleming brings a wealth of experience with a combined total of 336 international appearances. However, their impressive tally barely surpasses the astonishing individual count of 323 caps held by Sinclair.
Despite the quality displayed by their national teams on the field, Canada Soccer faces significant challenges off the field. The women’s squad went on strike earlier this year, demanding pay equity and addressing budget cuts. Both the women’s and men’s teams are currently in negotiations with the federation for new collective bargaining agreements that will determine player salaries. In late June, the federation’s general secretary, Jason de Vos, even mentioned the possibility of considering bankruptcy protection.
With a deep roster featuring numerous veteran players, the impact of these off-field issues on the reigning Olympic champions remains to be seen. Having secured gold at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, they aim to achieve similar success this summer.
Third Place: Nigeria
Nigeria maintains their status as a perennial presence at the premier tournament in women’s football, as they make their ninth appearance in the Women’s World Cup.
However, this time Nigeria enters the tournament without a WAFCON title under their belt, experiencing only the third occasion where they have failed to secure the championship.
While Nigeria’s hopes of progressing beyond the group stage predominantly rely on the skills of Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala, she receives support from fellow attackers in the team.
One notable addition to their forward line is 21-year-old Gift Monday, who emerged from the same club, FC Robo in Lagos, where Oshoala honed her skills half a decade earlier.
Monday demonstrated an impressive transition to a higher level during her debut European season in 2022-23, recording three goals and three assists for Spain’s Tenerife across 1,340 minutes of play.
As a regular starter in the Spanish top flight, a strong tournament performance could propel Monday’s career from being on the verge of recognition to becoming a prominent figure in the next generation of exceptional footballers.
If Nigeria were to advance from this group, the most likely scenario would involve defeating Ireland and securing an upset victory against either Australia or Canada.
Fourth Place: Ireland
In a highly competitive group, the Fighting Irish find themselves playing with the freedom of unexpected success.
Representing the Republic of Ireland, this marks their inaugural appearance in a major tournament. They proved to be formidable opponents for the reigning Women’s World Cup champions, the United States, in a pair of April friendlies, narrowly losing 2-0 and 1-0.
The Irish squad carries an undeniable redemption story within its ranks. Sinead Farrelly, who retired in 2016 following a car accident, garnered worldwide attention three years later when she bravely shared her experiences of enduring sexual coercion and harassment while playing for coach Paul Riley at the NWSL’s Portland Thorns.
Returning to the sport, the former USWNT youth international made a remarkable comeback with New York’s NWSL team, Gotham FC, this year. At the age of 33, she earned her first cap for the Irish in April and will finally realize her long-awaited dream of competing in a World Cup.
While Ireland’s chances of progressing from this group may appear slim, there is no doubt that they will fiercely battle in all three of their matches, displaying a tenacious spirit.