The 2023 Women’s World Cup has kicked off with an exhilarating opening day, as New Zealand and Australia emerged victorious on their home soil. As the tournament progresses, the standings could see a shift on Friday with some exciting matches in store.
In Group A, Switzerland aims to challenge New Zealand’s position at the top by facing debutants, the Philippines. Meanwhile, in Group B, reigning Olympic champions Canada clash with Nigeria, both teams eager to replace the current group leaders, the Matildas.
There is also the potential for the tournament’s first major upset as Group C commences, with Spain facing underdogs Costa Rica. Despite their underdog status, Costa Rica held Spain to a 1-1 draw in their previous Women’s World Cup encounter in 2015.
Canada and Nigeria will battle it out in Melbourne, following Australia’s victory over the Republic of Ireland in Group B. Canada’s experienced captain, Christine Sinclair, emphasized that her team should not be underestimated, recalling how they were overlooked before winning the gold medal at Tokyo 2020. Sinclair stated, “This team is full of rock stars,” highlighting Canada’s formidable lineup.
The Philippines, ranked 46th, have had a remarkable journey to their first-ever World Cup appearance. They face Switzerland, a team with limited World Cup experience but boasting players from top European clubs. The Philippines’ manager, Alen Stajcic, acknowledges the challenges they face, as the world is ahead of them in women’s football. However, he aims to sustain their improvement and not settle for their achievements thus far.
Spain, despite facing internal disputes, remains a strong contender. With the return of Alexia Putellas, a back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner, and the presence of other world-class players, Spain aims to make an impact. They confront Costa Rica, a team ranked 30 places below them, hoping to replicate their 2015 opening game when they held Spain to a 1-1 draw.
Predictions from Rachel Brown-Finnis suggest a close match between Nigeria and Canada, with Canada having the edge with their experienced squad. The Philippines could pose difficulties for Switzerland, although a Swiss victory seems likely. Spain is expected to dominate against Costa Rica, aiming to make a strong statement by scoring multiple goals.
Key statistics reveal Nigeria’s unbeaten record against Canada in their previous Women’s World Cup encounters, with the Super Falcons winning their most recent match 1-0 in 2011. Additionally, Spain had the second-highest possession percentage (61.2%) in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, trailing only Canada (63.3%).