How will Group G play out in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
Part 7 of a series
The 2023 Women’s World Cup has gotten under way with teams from all eight groups fiercely competing to make their presence felt in the tournament.
After delving into the details of Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E, and Group F, our focus now shifts to Group G. This captivating group comprises Sweden, South Africa, Italy, and Argentina.
The presence of these teams gives rise to a plethora of intriguing questions that will find their answers as the initial clash between Sweden and South Africa takes place, setting the stage for an exhilarating journey within the group.
First Place: Sweden
Sweden has been steadily progressing towards a special achievement in the past few major tournaments, positioning themselves as strong contenders to win this group and ultimately lift the trophy.
Following a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, a third-place finish at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and a heart-wrenching silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Sweden is determined to surpass their reputation of always being the bridesmaid, never the bride.
However, recent results have brought about some nervousness, especially after a 4-0 defeat by Australia in November and a recent 1-0 loss to Denmark, despite being considered one of the favorites for the 2022 Euros.
Fridolina Rolfo, a key player for Barcelona, has been instrumental for Sweden, but the question remains whether she will play in her natural position higher up the field or at full-back, where she features for Barcelona.
Under Peter Gerhardsson’s management, Sweden has developed into an attractive and aggressive attacking side, with Rolfo playing a crucial role in the front line, showcasing her versatility and value to any team.
The Swedish team boasts one of the best defenses globally, led by Chelsea star Magda Eriksson, who has accumulated 95 caps and netted 10 goals for the national team.
With the remarkable progress they have made in recent years, Sweden aims to go deep in the tournament as they strive to achieve their aspirations for greatness.
Second Place: South Africa
South Africa returns for more Women’s World Cup action, with the dual goal of securing their first-ever win and advancing to the Round of 16.
Their debut in 2019 was challenging, suffering three losses, but they displayed promise with a brief 1-0 lead over Spain in their opening match. After missing out on the Tokyo Olympics, they made a triumphant comeback in the 2022 African Cup of Nations, claiming their first-ever title and elevating head coach Desiree Ellis to a national hero status in South Africa.
Ellis, who experienced both player and coach defeats at WAFCON, had a faultless campaign as a head coach, leading her team to victory in all six games, scoring 10 goals while conceding just three. Fans and her squad adore her, with midfielder Thalea Smidt describing Ellis as “a force to be reckoned with.”
South Africa’s attacking prowess will heavily rely on the impressive form of forward Thembi Kgatlana, who excels for NWSL club Racing Louisville. After missing the WAFCON final due to injury, Kgatlana is eager to make her mark on the grand stage. As one of the few squad members playing outside of South Africa, she brings valuable international experience.
With the benefit of World Cup experience gained since their debut in 2019, South Africa has the potential to emerge as a dark horse in this group.
Third Place: Italy
Italy is playing in their third World Cup and have been building momentum in recent years. They topped their group in 2019 and will be looking to replicate that success.
Their run to the quarterfinals during that tournament stands as the best performance for the Italians. Despite suffering a group-stage exit in last year’s European Championship, Italy returned to form by having a dominant World Cup Qualifying campaign. They won all but one of their matches, netting 40 goals and only conceding two goals.
The Italians won’t be starting this tournament with all of their best talent as captain Sara Gama will not be going. The 34-year-old defender has more than 120 caps for her country and has competed at several major tournaments but was dropped by head coach Bertolini and missed out on a spot in the squad.
In reaction to the news, Gama posted on Instagram saying she had accepted Bertolini’s decision “despite the bitterness of these difficult hours for the ways and times in which this decision was communicated to me”.
Dropping Gama is a huge call by the already under-pressure Bertolini. It remains to be seen whether that bold decision pays off. Roma full-back Elisa Bartoli is the most likely to take on captain duties in her absence.
Italy’s attacking power is equally exciting with players such as Cristiana Girelli. She leads the squad in goals with 53 across 102 appearances on the pitch. Her productivity with her shot creation could play a factor in Italy succeeding in the group stage.
Overall, Italy is capable of making it out of their group. What will matter is their level of consistency and the quality they will show against Argentina, South Africa, and especially Sweden.
Fourth Place: Argentina
Argentina is set to participate in their fourth Women’s World Cup, but are still seeking their first victory in the tournament.
In the 2019 World Cup, Argentina showcased their best performance to date. Despite not progressing to the knockout rounds, they managed to secure two thrilling draws, including a 0-0 tie against Japan and a remarkable 3-3 draw with Scotland. Their only defeat was a narrow 1-0 loss to England.
Now, four years later, the youthful players from the 2019 squad have gained invaluable experience and are prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Although they failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, Argentina continued to make progress among their South American counterparts, securing a third-place finish in the Copa America. During the tournament, they scored 13 goals and conceded six, ultimately securing bronze for the second consecutive time by defeating Paraguay.
Yamila Rodriguez will undoubtedly be a standout player for the Argentine side. The 25-year-old forward impressed in the Copa America, winning the Golden Boot with six goals, showcasing her capabilities as a high-quality goalscorer.
While advancing from the group stage may be a daunting task for Argentina, securing a victory would signify continued growth and success for this determined team.