Australia has been drawn in Group B for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The co-hosts were in in the Pot One group for top seeds meaning that they avoided an early encounter with heavyweights like England and Spain. However they have one of the tougher groups of the tournament.
The Matildas will play their first game against The Republic of Ireland before facing Nigeria and Olympic champions Canada in what looks like an unpredictable path to the knockout stages.
Going in Australia’s favour is that they have played The Republic of Ireland and Canada within the last year. Both encounters were close losses, but the plan to play nations from every possible region looks like good preparation.
There should be few surprises when playing those two nations, and Australia was understrength in both games. Ellie Carpenter, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso were all missing from one or all of those matches. If any one of those players are to be fit by the World Cup, it would significantly boost the chances of changing the result.
Nigeria is Australia’s other group game opponent. The 45th ranked nation are no easy beats, but Australia recently defeated African champions South Africa with some comfort. They have prepared as well as possible to emerge from this group.
Co-hosts New Zealand, also have a tough group. The Football Ferns have been drawn with Norway, The Philippines and Switzerland.
Norway will have former Ballon D’or winner and Lyon star striker Ada Hegerberg and Chelsea attacker Guro Reiten at their disposal. The Philippines coach, Allen Stajcic has experience against New Zealand from his time in charge of The Matildas.
The expansion of the Women’s World Cup to 32 teams from 24 has meant that there is no obvious Group of Death. Although there are some exciting clashes before the knockout stage.
England are one of the tournament favourites and will be confident of finishing top of Group D. How they fare against the fast-emerging China will be interesting to watch. If the women’s Basketball World Cup is any indication, China could enjoy huge support in Australia, expect a packed Hindmarsh stadium when they face the Lionessses.
Group E will give fans a rematch of the 2019 World Cup Final when The USA play The Netherlands. Jamaica will have their work cut out for them after being drawn against France and Brazil in Group F.
The Reggae Girlz have a genuine weapon in Kadija “Bunny” Shaw up front and in their second consecutive World Cup will still be dangerous.
Three spots still are left to be filled on the rosters. Group E, Group D and Group F each contain a place to be filled. Portugal and Chile look likely to fill at least two of those spots.
Cameroon, Thailand, Senegal Haiti, Chinese Taipei, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea and Panama are fighting it out for the remaining playoff places.
Those spots will be decided in a tournament in New Zealand from the 18-23 of February.