How will Group E play out in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
Part 5 of a series
The long-awaited commencement of the 2023 Women’s World Cup on July 20th will witness teams from all eight groups eagerly competing to make their presence felt in the tournament.
After delving into the dynamics of Group A, Group B, Group C, and Group D, our focus now shifts to Group E. This enthralling group consists of the United States, Vietnam, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
The composition of these teams ignites a host of captivating questions that will find answers during the initial clash between the United States and Vietnam, ultimately setting the stage for an exhilarating journey within the group.
First Place: United States
No team, whether in the men’s or women’s edition of the World Cup, has ever achieved the remarkable feat of winning three consecutive tournaments, and now the United States has an opportunity to do just that.
Nevertheless, it won’t be an effortless endeavor for the American team. Since the departure of Jill Ellis, their coach after their World Cup triumph in 2019, they settled for a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics following a defeat to Canada in the semifinals. They rebounded by clinching the Concacaf Championship last year, although their goal tally of 13 paled in comparison to the 26 they recorded in 2018.
Despite missing three injured world-class players, namely playmaker Catarina Macario, extraordinary attacker Mallory Swanson, and versatile midfield stabilizer Sam Mewis, the United States remains equipped with one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the tournament.
The American squad boasts an abundance of experience across every position. Alyssa Naeher is anticipated to lead the goalkeeping duties with her impressive 91 caps, while the defensive line is fortified by the combined 289 appearances of Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn. In the midfield, Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz command with a collective 247 international showings, and up front, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe dominate with their 184 combined goals in an astounding 406 national team appearances.
Although she may be a familiar figure in domestic circles, having won the Defender of the Year award in her rookie season, Naomi Girma will now embark on what promises to be a fruitful career as the country’s top center-back in the absence of veteran Becky Sauerbrunn. The San Diego Wave defender possesses versatility beyond her 23 years, demonstrating composure and resilience against seasoned attackers.
Vlatko Andonovski, the coach of the United States, has faced similar critiques to his predecessor Jill Ellis, particularly regarding his ability to extract the maximum potential from the players under his guidance. However, anything less than a return to the final would be considered a subpar performance for the team.
Second Place: Netherlands
The Netherlands, the runners-up of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, will relish the opportunity to have a rematch with the United States, as they are widely expected to progress from this group alongside the American team.
However, the Oranje encountered a stumble in their journey over the past cycle, failing to defend their European Championship title from 2017 and experiencing a premature exit in last summer’s quarter-finals. Additionally, they suffered a defeat to the United States in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics, with the match ultimately decided by penalties.
Entering the tournament, the Netherlands face a significant roster disadvantage due to the absence of Arsenal star Vivianne Miedema, who sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Such circumstances have the potential to create opportunities for upsets.
Despite these setbacks, the Dutch team still possesses formidable talent in key areas. Stefanie van der Gragt and Dominique Janssen anchor the defense with a combined total of 199 international appearances, captain Sherida Spitse and Daniëlle van de Donk provide stability in midfield with their consistent performances, and Lieke Martens spearheads the offense, boasting the highest goal tally on the squad with 59 goals.
The Netherlands undeniably possess the quality necessary to make another impressive run in the tournament, although they will require a stroke of luck greater than what they experienced in their previous campaign.
Third Place: Vietnam
Vietnam has every reason to feel a deep sense of pride in their women’s national team, as they have secured their maiden qualification for the World Cup.
In contrast to many first-time qualifiers who rely on players from overseas clubs, Vietnam achieved their qualification with a squad composed predominantly of domestic league players. Their remarkable journey included a historic run to the quarter-finals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where they emerged victorious over Thailand and Chinese Taipei in the play-off matches to secure a coveted qualification spot.
Underestimating Vietnam would be a mistake. In June, they faced Germany, ranked second in the world, and put up a valiant fight, suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat despite playing on the home turf of the favorites.
Keep a close watch on the trio of captain Huỳnh Như, Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung, and Phạm Hải Yến. Together, they epitomize the precision and effectiveness of the Vietnamese attack, having amassed an impressive combined tally of 163 goals in 298 matches.
While Vietnam faces a challenging task in competing against powerhouse teams like the United States and the Netherlands, their success lies in maintaining defensive discipline and capitalizing on offensive opportunities. With the right approach, the sky’s the limit for what they can achieve in this group.
Fourth Place: Portugal
Similar to Vietnam, Portugal is set to make their long-awaited debut in the tournament, bringing the highest world ranking among the teams participating for the first time and benefiting from increased investment in the women’s national team. Since the appointment of Francisco Neto as head coach in 2014, they have successfully qualified for back-to-back European Championships and now secured their place in the World Cup.
In last summer’s European Championship group stage, Portugal displayed their resilience by staging a comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Netherlands, although they ultimately suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat.
One strength lies in the wealth of experienced players within their squad, with seven out of the 23 players boasting 100 caps or more.
However, a notable weakness is their limited scoring options, lacking a prolific goal-scorer and relying primarily on Carolina Mendes, who has accumulated 23 goals. While their attack is well-balanced, the concern arises from the potential stagnation of their offensive game-plan.
Portugal’s lack of World Cup experience may prove challenging when facing formidable opponents like the United States and the Netherlands. Nevertheless, their ability to demonstrate resilience and compete at a high level will undoubtedly earn them significant respect as a competitive unit.