How will Group F play out in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
Part 6 of a series
The highly anticipated start of the 2023 Women’s World Cup on July 20th will witness teams from all eight groups fervently vying to leave their mark on the tournament.
The inclusion of these teams sparks a myriad of compelling questions that will be answered as the initial encounter between France and Jamaica unfolds, setting the tone for an exhilarating journey within the group.
First Place: Brazil
This tournament presents a potential breakthrough moment for Brazil as they strive to secure their first-ever Women’s World Cup trophy.
However, they face significant challenges. Brazil is grappling with the departure of their golden generation, and deficiencies in national youth development have forced players to seek opportunities abroad to meet the required standards.
On the field, the Selecao Feminina continues to assert their dominance against South American opponents. Despite experiencing unfortunate exits in the knockout stages of the 2019 Women’s World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics, they remained undefeated in last year’s Copa America, scoring 20 goals and conceding none.
There are reasons for optimism as well. Following a thrilling but heartbreaking penalty shootout loss to Euro champions England at Wembley Stadium in April, Brazil bounced back with three consecutive victories over Germany, Chile, and China.
This World Cup also marks a remarkable sixth appearance for one of the game’s all-time greats, Marta. Despite recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the age of 37, she has earned a place in Pia Sundhage’s Brazil squad.
While Marta may not start every match due to her age and recovery, this tournament is likely to be her farewell on the world stage. After failing to win the World Cup in her previous five attempts, the send-off will be an emotional moment for this true legend of the sport.
Although Marta’s availability may be limited at the start of the group stage, Brazil possesses solid attacking options. Debinha stands out with 58 international goals, followed by Bia Zaneratto with 37 goals and Andressa Alves with 21 goals.
Their final standing in the group is yet to be determined, but if they can avenge their 2-1 extra-time defeat to France in the previous tournament, it could serve as valuable momentum to propel them deep into the knockout rounds.
Second Place: France
France seeks redemption after their quarter-final defeat to the United States four years ago in Paris.
Since hosting the World Cup in 2019, the French team’s performance has been inconsistent. They failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics but showcased resilience by reaching the semifinals of last year’s European Championship, where they suffered a narrow 2-1 loss to eventual runners-up Germany.
However, the team has faced internal challenges, with players and the federation experiencing varying degrees of turmoil. In February, three key players threatened retirement, prompting captain and defensive anchor Wendie Renard to call for “necessary changes” in a statement.
Following the captain’s threat, the federation appointed Herve Renard (no relation) as head coach, given his experience in the past two men’s World Cups with Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Despite the reinstatement of Wendie Renard as captain, the team faces selection dilemmas due to the injury-related absences of Lyon forward Delphine Cascarino and PSG’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto.
Nevertheless, France possesses scoring prowess even without their experienced strikers. Eugénie Le Sommer, in particular, stands out with 89 goals in 179 caps, making her a reliable and clinical scorer.
While there are challenges to navigate, the undeniable talent within the team provides hope for a successful campaign.
Third Place: Jamaica
Jamaica aims to surpass their debut performance in 2019 and advance further in the tournament this time around.
Although they did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, Jamaica showcased a commendable performance in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, securing third place for the second consecutive time with a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica to claim the bronze.
While Khadija Shaw remains a vital asset in the forward line, Jamaica will require additional support to spring surprises, and Jody Brown could be the player to step up. The 21-year-old right-winger had a standout year for the Florida State Seminoles in 2022, scoring eight goals and providing 10 assists. With her ability to read the game and calmly convert first-time finishes, Brown has the potential to be a key offensive threat for Jamaica.
A strong start to the tournament, particularly by withstanding France’s attacking prowess and potentially securing a draw in the group opener, could be crucial for Jamaica’s chances of causing upsets and making an impact in the knockout stages.
Fourth Place: Panama
Panama completes the lineup in their debut at the Women’s World Cup, representing another CONCACAF qualifier.
After their absence in the 2019 edition due to a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Argentina in the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL play-off, Panama secured their first-ever spot on the grand stage by defeating Papua New Guinea and Paraguay in the inter-confederation play-offs.
The relative youth and inexperience of their squad is evident when examining their players’ limited international caps, as no member of the team has accumulated more than 19 senior appearances. Standing out among them is Marta Cox, a prominent player and regular starter for Liga MX Feminil’s Pachuca.
Lineth Cedeño is another player to watch closely. The striker has scored eight goals in 14 matches, and her contribution could be crucial in Panama’s determined offensive efforts.
With a ranking of 52nd, placing them among the lowest-ranked teams in the Women’s World Cup, Panama faces a challenging task in terms of securing victories against their higher-ranked opponents and demonstrating their competitiveness on the field.