The US women’s national team (USWNT) aims to secure a historic third consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup victory. While they are the favorites, this tournament features a highly competitive field, with several teams improving since the last World Cup.
Although the USWNT has made necessary improvements following a rare three-game losing streak last year, other teams in the tournament now believe they can end the era of American dominance. This World Cup features a diverse and strong field, with as many as 10 32 qualifying teams presenting themselves as genuine contenders. If the USWNT aims to secure a fifth star on their jersey, they must overcome the most formidable opponents they have ever faced. This article will explore the top five challengers to the USWNT’s dominance and examine their strengths and potential obstacles.
Reasons Brazil Could Dethrone the USWNT:
World-class Attacking Duo:
Debinha and Kerolin are the world’s best attackers, providing Brazil with a potent offensive threat. With such a talented lineup, Brazil enters the World Cup as a quietly loaded team. They also have a significant motivating factor in Marta, one of the greatest women’s soccer players ever. This tournament marks her final chance to lift the World Cup trophy before retiring. Any player who cannot bring their A-game to support Marta’s quest for glory might need to question their dedication to the sport. Overall no one can ignore the “Marta factor” in the Brazilian squad that would lead to the world cup title.
Brazil’s Pre-Tournament Tests and Coaching Strengths
Brazil’s recent matches against top teams, including the USWNT, have demonstrated their competitiveness and ability to contend for victory. Brazil has also been actively testing its mettle against top teams in preparation for the World Cup. They proved a formidable challenge for the USWNT in a SheBelieves Cup match, narrowly losing 2-1. Moreover, they secured a draw against England at Wembley and secured victories against Germany and Japan in recent months. Notably, their last warm-up match ended in an impressive 4-0 rout of Chile, providing them with momentum heading into the tournament.
Under the guidance of coach Pia Sundhage, Brazil benefits from a tactically astute leader who understands the core principles of national team play in the modern era. Sundhage keeps the team’s approach simple but robust, allowing room for improvisation and avoiding overly intricate strategies requiring extensive training. Additionally, she has a strong track record of building team spirit, ensuring that Brazil remains cohesive and avoids self-destruction.
Overcoming Brazil’s Strengths
To defeat Brazil, opponents will face a considerable challenge. The task involves beating a team led by stars like Debinha, Kerolin, and Marta, whose combined abilities pose a significant threat. Brazil’s depth and motivation, coupled with their experienced coach, make them a formidable force on the field.
However, the teams competing against Brazil must devise effective strategies to neutralize their strengths and exploit potential weaknesses. They must aim to contain the attacking prowess of players like Debinha and Kerolin while remaining resilient in defense. Capitalizing on Brazil’s limited preparation time and potential lack of cohesion can also provide opportunities to gain an edge.
Ultimately, overcoming Brazil’s talented roster and inspirational figures will require opponents to bring their best performance and execute their game plan flawlessly. The path to victory against Brazil is undoubtedly challenging but possible for determined teams aiming to claim the World Cup. With Pia Sundhage at the helm, Brazil benefits from a coach who understands national team dynamics and fosters team spirit
Australia-FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
Reasons Australia could dethrone the USWNT:
Australia has a solid case to dethrone the USWNT in the upcoming World Cup. With the support of 80,000 passionate fans at a sold-out Stadium in Australia, the host nation will undoubtedly have a significant advantage. Additionally, head coach Tony Gustavsson, who previously served as an assistant on the USWNT’s coaching staff during their victorious campaigns in 2015 and 2019, possesses invaluable knowledge of the American squad. Having also won a UEFA Champions League title, Gustavsson will likely understand the USWNT better than any other opposing coach in the tournament.
Crucially, Australia boasts an abundance of talent. Sam Kerr, widely regarded as the world’s top forward for years, now faces stiff competition from Sophia Smith. Both players are exceptional, and Kerr, currently at the peak of her abilities as a striker for Chelsea, is more than capable of leading the team to victory and securing a coveted winners’ medal.
Head coach Tony Gustavsson, a former assistant to Jill Ellis during the USWNT’s previous World Cup victories, possesses in-depth knowledge of the American team.
In summary, Australia possesses the ingredients necessary to challenge and potentially dethrone the USWNT. With home advantage, an experienced coach, and exceptional talent, the Matildas have a strong chance of succeeding in this highly competitive World Cup.
England’s Quest to Challenge the USWNT:
Strong Performance in Previous World Cup
For those who primarily follow the World Cup, England’s impressive performance against the USWNT in 2019 remains a standout memory. Despite the heartbreaking 2-1 semifinal defeat, where Ellen White’s potential equalizer was controversially called offside, and Steph Houghton’s late penalty was saved by Alyssa Naeher, England left their mark. That moment and Alex Morgan’s tea-sipping celebration motivate this team to strive for redemption.
Since then, England has shown significant improvement. Under the guidance of Sarina Wiegman, the team has shed its predictability from the Phil Neville era. The Women’s Super League’s growth has coincided with their young players’ progress. Notably, core players Lucy Bronze, Georgia Stanway, and Keira Walsh have expanded their horizons beyond the WSL, reflecting increased confidence within the squad.
England’s recent triumphs in the Euro 2022 and the Arnold Clark Cup have instilled a belief that they can compete and defeat top-tier teams.
Their results have underscored their upward trajectory. England triumphed in an exhilarating Euro 2022 final against Germany and claimed victory in the 2022 and 2023 editions of the Arnold Clark Cup. Their unbeaten run in 2022 included a 2-1 win over the USWNT at Wembley in October, proving that they can compete with any team and emerge victorious when it matters most. This newfound belief uniquely positions England among the tournament’s contenders, as they are confident to challenge and overcome the formidable USWNT.
Obstacles to England’s World Cup Triumph:
Practical Challenges and Form Concerns
However, England faces practical challenges that could impede their journey to the final. If they win Group D, their path could potentially lead them to face Canada and two among Brazil, France, and Germany—a daunting prospect. Being placed in the stern half of the bracket raises the possibility that they may be unable to face the USWNT and seek redemption.
Moreover, England will be without the services of retired striker Ellen White and three key injured players—Captain Leah Williamson, star striker Beth Mead, and midfield engine Fran Kirby. Losing these influential figures, especially in the team’s spine, poses a significant setback.
Furthermore, England’s form has dipped at an inopportune time. While they convincingly defeated South Korea and Belgium in February, their performance in the Arnold Clark Cup raised concerns. A harder-than-expected 2-1 victory over Italy hinted at a loss of their cutting edge, ending their 30-game unbeaten streak. In April’s Finalissima at Wembley, England suffered a late defeat to Brazil, ultimately winning the UEFA-CONMEBOL clash’s trophy on penalties. The team’s downturn continued as Australia defeated them 2-0 in the subsequent FIFA window, followed by an uninspiring 0-0 draw against Portugal in their lone World Cup tune-up match. Despite dominating possession, England struggled against opponents who matched them in athleticism and mentality, conceding significant counter-attacking opportunities.
England may have missed their peak moment by a few months, and history has shown that the World Cup can be unkind to teams on a downward slope. However, the tournament remains unpredictable, and with their undeniable talent, England still possesses the capacity to surprise and challenge the USWNT’s supremacy.
Germany-FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
Reasons Germany could dethrone the USWNT:
Dynamic Play and Balanced Roster
Germany showcased their potential to challenge the USWNT’s dominance during Euro 2022. With Martina Voss-Tecklenburg at the helm, they exhibited dynamic and intelligent play throughout the tournament, rivaling any top club team. Their pressing game displayed exceptional coherence, complemented by technical prowess, athleticism, and squad depth necessary for a long tournament campaign.
The German roster is remarkably balanced, comprising nine players in their prime, nine younger talents, and five important veterans. The experienced players still contribute effectively, while the younger generation, including stars like Lena Oberdorf, Klara Bühl, and Jule Brand, adds excitement and domination to their game. Oberdorf, in particular, is arguably the world’s best player in her position, capable of completely dominating games as a defensive midfielder.
Previous victory over the USWNT:
Moreover, Germany draws confidence from their recent victory over the USWNT. Unlike other teams, Germany achieved this feat in the United States, defeating the reigning champions 2-1 in Florida. In the rematch, Germany pushed the USWNT to the brink of a historic fourth consecutive loss, highlighting their ability to challenge and unsettle the American team.
Obstacles to Germany’s Success:
Tactical Rigidity and Recent Performance
However, Germany faces challenges that may hinder its chances of dethroning the USWNT. The USWNT displayed intensity and physicality that unsettled Germany in the rematch, indicating that the Americans could access a level of play that could disrupt Germany’s game plan. Germany’s tactical adjustments could have been faster, as seen in the Euro 2022 final, suggesting a reluctance to deviate from their preferred approach. World Cups require adaptability, and if opponents can solve Germany’s high press, it remains to be seen what their response would be, as they tend to rely on trying harder rather than exploring alternative strategies.
Furthermore, Germany’s results in 2023 have been underwhelming for a tournament favorite. They suffered a surprising 3-2 loss to Zambia, had a tough time securing a 2-1 victory over Vietnam, and faced challenges against well-known opponents. A narrow win against the Netherlands, missing key player Vivianne Miedema, and a loss to Brazil raise questions about Germany’s ability to perform at their best consistently. A February friendly against Sweden ended in a scoreless draw, indicating potential difficulties in breaking down resilient defenses.
Germany’s recent score lines and defensive vulnerabilities have raised concerns as the World Cup approaches. Their peak performances arrived a few months too early, leaving doubts about their ability to sustain their best form throughout the tournament. Germany must address these issues and find ways to overcome potential weaknesses to challenge the USWNT’s reign effectively.
Spain-FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023
Spain’s Potential to Challenge the USWNT:
Talent and Triumphs
Reflecting on October 2022, the USWNT suffered a narrow 2-1 loss to England at Wembley. This match could have easily ended in a draw without a questionable offside call disallowing a Trinity Rodman goal. Following that game, Spain was slated to be an “easy” opponent for the USWNT, with 15 players, including notable names, declaring their intent to quit the national team if coach Jorge Vilda remained in charge.
In response, the Spanish federation called younger players to face the two-time defending World Cup champions. Surprisingly, this second-choice group comfortably defeated the USWNT 2-0, showcasing an apparent disparity in performance between the teams on the day. Spain’s success without their protesting regulars effectively broke the protest, leading several stars to make amends with Vilda and the federation, including Aitana Bonmatí, Mariona Caldentey, and Ona Batlle.
This victory demonstrated that Spain could defeat the USWNT even when understaffed and facing distractions. Their strength lies in the fact that they don’t rely solely on one superstar or luck to secure wins. They can impose their style of play on any team and boast the depth to depend on a wide range of players rather than banking on one individual’s transcendent form. Building on their strong performance in 2019, when they pushed the USWNT to their limits in a round of 16 clash, the current Spain squad, enriched with stars from renowned club Barcelona, can be considered contenders in the World Cup.
Obstacles to Spain’s Success:
Conflicts and Uncertainties
However, a significant conflict between players and the coach/federation presents a hurdle to Spain’s World Cup aspirations. While the USWNT managed to win the 2019 tournament amidst their fight for equal pay, their success was fueled by the unity of the collective group of players. In Spain’s case, the mutiny was only partial, with little hesitancy shown by the players who filled in for those protesting. Furthermore, the protesting players fragmented, some opting to return while others remained steadfast. Mapi León and Patri Guijarro, two exceptional talents, will miss the tournament due to their unwavering stance in the dispute.
Adding to the challenges, Spain’s biggest star, Alexia Putellas, will enter the World Cup with limited playing time. Since tearing her ACL days before Euro 2022, the Ballon d’Or winner has featured in just seven professional games, with her appearances for Barcelona lasting at most 29 minutes. While she may have played around an hour in tune-up victories over Panama and Denmark, her lack of match fitness raises concerns about her ability to perform at her best on the grandest stage.
Moreover, Spain’s recent results have raised questions about their will to win the biggest tournaments. They experienced defeat against Australia, a team that also defeated the USWNT, albeit on a day immediately following the release of the Yates report, casting doubts on whether Spain faced the best version of the American team. Their narrow losses to Germany and England during Euro 2022 revived uncertainties about Spain’s mentality, ruthlessness, and cohesion—essential elements determining success in major competitions.
While Spain has undeniable talent, doubts persist regarding their mentality and ability to perform at their best in critical moments. Addressing these concerns will be crucial for Spain to mount a significant challenge to the USWNT’s dominance.
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023- Final Thoughts
While the USWNT remains the favorite to win the World Cup, they face formidable challenges from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and England. These teams possess a combination of home advantage, talented players, experienced coaches, and past successes against the USWNT. However, each team faces potential obstacles, such as tough group-stage matches, injuries, and concerns about form and cohesion. As the tournament unfolds, the outcome will depend on how these contenders navigate the strongest pool of World Cup opponents they have ever faced.