The upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand is set to kick off this Thursday, making history as the first-ever World Cup hosted in the Southern Hemisphere. With an expanded format of 32 teams and eight nations making their World Cup debuts, there are plenty of opportunities for underdog teams to shine. Let’s take a closer look at each group and identify the teams that have the potential to surprise the tournament.
Group A: Switzerland Switzerland finds itself in a group alongside World Cup co-hosts New Zealand and debutants Philippines. Despite being underrated, Switzerland has a solid track record, having reached the knockout rounds in the 2015 edition before being eliminated by Canada. Under the guidance of manager Inka Grings, the team has implemented tactical adjustments, showcasing their versatility on the field. Although they faced challenges in securing wins this year, Switzerland will face high-stakes matches against Norway, the Philippines, and New Zealand, providing an opportunity to prove their mettle.
Group B: Nigeria Nigeria, making their ninth World Cup appearance, faces tough competition in Group B against co-hosts Australia, Olympic Gold Medalists Canada, and debutants Ireland. Despite off-the-field issues with their federation, including unpaid wages, Nigeria possesses a talented roster capable of causing upsets. With experienced attackers like Ifeoma Onumonu, Michelle Alozie, and Uchenna Kanu, along with the leadership of prolific goalscorer Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria aims to surpass their previous achievements and make a deeper run in the tournament.
Group C: Zambia Zambia enters the World Cup with a sense of unpredictability and a reputation for turning heads. Despite controversy surrounding head coach Bruce Mwape, who is under investigation for alleged misconduct, the Copper Queens captured attention during the Tokyo Olympics two years ago. As one of the eight debutant teams, Zambia will rely on forward Barbra Banda, who impressed with six goals during the Olympics. While placed in a challenging group alongside Spain, Japan, and Costa Rica, Zambia’s ability to create upsets cannot be underestimated, especially considering their recent victory over Germany.
Group D: Haiti Haiti, considered more of a longshot than a dark horse, faces a difficult group consisting of England, Denmark, and China. The team has overcome adversity, including a sexual abuse scandal involving high-ranking officials, to secure their first World Cup qualification. The journey to their debut appearance captivated the footballing world as they showcased their talent and determination. Led by star striker Melchie Dumornay and supported by a core group of players who have come up together through Haiti’s youth sides, Haiti aims to make a statement and continue defying the odds on the world stage.
Group E: Portugal Portugal, another debutant team, has the potential to cause problems in Group E. Ranked 21st in the world, they face UEFA counterparts the Netherlands, fellow debutants Vietnam, and powerhouse USA. Portugal’s qualification journey was a testament to their resilience, clinching their first-ever World Cup spot through inter-confederation playoffs. With a blend of experienced players and rising talents, Portugal will look to players like Jessica Silva and Kika Nazareth to make an impact. Their clash against the USA could potentially decide their fate in the tournament.
Group F: Jamaica Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz make their second consecutive World Cup appearance, a historic achievement for any football team from the island. Despite facing challenges with their federation, including limited resources and inadequate training camp support, Jamaica has players like Bunny Shaw, whose impressive goal-scoring record for Manchester City in the FA Women’s Super League makes her a formidable force. With the support of players like Drew Spence, Jamaica aims to build on their previous experience and continue making strides on the international stage.
Group G: Argentina Argentina enters their fourth World Cup with the goal of progressing beyond the group stage for the first time. Their qualification through Copa America Femenina 2022, where they finished in third place, instills confidence in their abilities. Argentina’s journey in the 2019 World Cup featured a memorable 3-3 draw against Scotland, showcasing their potential. The team will rely on players from Palmeiras, including midfielder Daiana Falfan and Yamila Rodriguez, who emerged as their top scorer during Copa America. A successful campaign in a group that includes Italy, South Africa, and group favorites Sweden could see Argentina realize their dreams.
Group H: Colombia Colombia returns to the World Cup after missing out in 2019, aiming to make their mark in Group H alongside Germany, Morocco, and South Korea. The recent form of all teams in the group adds an element of unpredictability, presenting an opportunity for Colombia. While several players from the 2015 squad make a return, the spotlight will be on 18-year-old Linda Caicedo. The Real Madrid winger’s technical skills and fearlessness in one-on-one scenarios make her a threat in Colombia’s attack. Colombia will rely on Caicedo’s contributions to navigate a challenging group and advance to the knockout rounds.