There is genuine excitement in the football world as the ninth edition of the Women’s World Cup gets under way. It is taking place in the Southern Hemisphere for the very first time, as well as across two different host countries, which is also a first.
Australia and New Zealand welcome players from 30 other nations for a tournament that will be vastly different from the inaugural competition back in 1991, when just 12 teams took part.
Matches will take place at ten different venues, in nine different cities and it is confidently predicted to be the most watched ever, with more than 1.3 million tickets bought in advance for the 64 matches that will be played.
The United States are bidding to become the first national team ever to win three successive World Cups after success in 2015 and then again in 2019, but will face a tough challenge this time around with the likes of England, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden all looking to have strong enough squads to push them hard.
The Caribbean are represented by Jamaica and Haiti who are appearing on the biggest stage for the first time, with both capable of causing an upset.
Hosts get things started
New Zealand have the honour of getting the competition under way on 20 July with a game at Eden Park, Auckland against Norway, before fellow hosts Australia launch their challenge three hours later in Sydney, with the Republic of Ireland their opponents.
The kiwis have played at five previous tournaments but have failed to progress beyond the group stage on each occasion. The Aussies on the other hand have appeared seven times previously, reaching the quarter-finals three times.
In the eight World Cups that have been competed for in the past, the United States have won half of them, with Germany twice, and Japan and Norway once a piece, being the other champions.
They are all back to attempt another success and make up four of the seven teams to have been present at all past tournaments, with the other three being: Sweden, Brazil and Nigeria.
This latest edition sees eight sides competing in their first ever World Cup. Those sides are: Haiti, Morocco, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Vietnam, and Zambia.
Jamaica in tough group
Jamaica have a tough group to try and escape from and begin their challenge against the much-fancied French on Sunday 23 July, at the Sydney Football Stadium. They then meet Panama on the 29th, before completing their Group F fixtures by attempting to overcome the Brazilians in Melbourne on 2nd August.
Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw is the star of the show, with her 56 goals for the national team making her Jamaica’s record scorer across both the women’s and men’s games. The 26-year-old Manchester City striker will be determined to showcase her skills on the big stage.
The Reggae Girlz’ made a good impression at last year’s CONCACAF competition and will hope to use that as a springboard over the next few weeks.
Haiti aiming to spring a few surprises
Haiti face an even more daunting challenge when they kick-off their World Cup against the European champions, England on Saturday, July 22, in the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
It will be a stiff task, but they will hope to put up a good showing and take confidence from that into their next fixture against China on 28 July, and then finally in their clash with Denmark four days later. Both of these vital Group D matches will be played at the Coopers Stadium, Adelaide.
If they are to make an impression much will depend upon 19-year-old sensation, Melchie Dumornay, often referred to as Corventina, who plays her club football for Lyon. She has been identified as one of the best young players to watch out for in the whole tournament, after scoring 11 goals in just 17 appearances in France’s top flight last season.
Their 43-year-old French coach Nicolas Delépine has a wealth of experience and is confident his side can cause a few shocks and sees no reason why they cannot get out of the group, especially if Corventina and captain Nerilia Mondesir perform to the best of their abilities.Several in the running
Naturally the US have been installed as favourites having not actually lost a World Cup game for a remarkable 12 years; but they are an ageing side and the gap between them and the rest has undoubtedly closed.
England had a fantastic 2022 culminating in them being crowned European champions, but a few injuries to key players may have left them just a little short. Alexia Putellas is a great inspiration for Spain, France have a lot of experience, no more so than in manager Herve Renard, and the Swede’s are many people’s dark horses.
Australia with prolific scorer Sam Kerr leading the line, could be a real danger on home territory, but it is the Germans who may be the ones to emerge as the American side’s greatest threat, with strength and experience throughout their talented squad.
Who’d be a referee?
Referees will always be under the spotlight, but over the next month in this tournament they will be literally put there, as they will be required to take to the microphone and loudspeakers to announce the reasoning for video assistant referee (VAR) decisions, to both the fans in stadiums and millions watching on television.
Record viewing figures expected
Organisers are confident this World Cup is going to really see the women’s game take off spectacularly and hope the opening two games will attract an aggregate crowd of 100,000 fans and are targeting a record two billion television viewers for the tournament as a whole.
That would represent a figure double to that of the audience who watched the 2019 competition in France.
The final takes place at Stadium Australia, Sydney on 20 August.