Group A – New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland
Co-hosts New Zealand will be delighted. With the Olympic champions (Canada), the winners of the 2019 World Cup (Netherlands) and the winners of the 2011 World Cup (Japan) in pot 2, there was a chance that their placement in pot 1 as home country would mean little. Instead, Norway came out, beaten 8-0 by England in the European Championship group stage, Switzerland, a team one place ahead of them and debutants in the Philippines. Switzerland and Norway will be the favorites to advance, but New Zealand has a real chance of progressing to the last 16.
Group B – Australia, Ireland, Nigeria, Canada
Canada and the Republic of Ireland have a tedious trek to and from Perth, sandwiched between games on the east coast. If New Zealand got lucky in the draw, co-host Australia hasn’t. The Matildas have struggled lately and Canada could easily beat them to first place, building a tricky relationship with the winners of Group D, which will most likely be England. Disrupting a one-two of Australia and Canada, either way, will be difficult, but Nigeria and Ireland will not be walkovers.
Canada is aiming for the top of Group B after becoming Olympic champion in Tokyo in 2019. Photo: DPPI/Photo Kishimoto/LiveMedia/ShutterstockGroup C – Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan
Spain and Japan will progress to the quarter-finals in a very smooth manner. Spain’s pre-World Cup situation is complicated by many of its senior players’ disputes with the federation and coach, Jorge Vilda, but their understudies showed they can beat the best, with an unlikely win over the injury-stricken USA in a recent friendly match. . Costa Rica and Zambia, making their second and first appearances respectively, are unlikely to bother Spain, no matter who is on the pitch, or Japan. With the winner and runner-up of Group A guaranteed to play lower-ranked matches, a deep run is a tempting prospect.
Group D – England, winner play-off B, Denmark, China
The draw was favorable for England, with Denmark, China and the winner of play-off B (Chile, Senegal or Haiti) likely to give them all no trouble. They’ve also avoided the dreaded cross-country trip to Perth that the other two confirmed parties have to make for their opener. The challenge comes at the last 16, as Australia or Canada may be lurking. The battle for second place is where the juice stands, with China ranking 15th in the world, against Denmark (18th in the world) and built around Pernille Harder.
England should be wary of Denmark and Pernille Harder. Photo: Simon Dael/ShutterstockGroup E – United States, Vietnam, Netherlands, play-off A winner
A rematch of the 2019 final between the US and the Netherlands is a tasty prospect. They hope to outdo the group to avoid a draw in the last 16 with likely Group E winners, Sweden, and the Netherlands will be eager to finally beat the US on a big stage. One from Portugal, Cameroon or Thailand will round out the group, and the play-off winner and Vietnam are unlikely to upset the apple cart.
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France could do very well in 2023 if they get their act together. The drama off the pitch, with manager Corinne Diacre arguing with Eugénie Le Sommer and Amandine Henry, did surprisingly little to disrupt a strong Euro performance. Instead, it was Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s injury that caused them to stutter. Katoto is in a race against time to come back from her ACL injury next summer, but it is possible. Brazil will participate in the World Cup for the second time in the history of the competition without influential midfielder Formiga. They have lost three, drawn three and won twice this year against the European opposition, including a 2-1 defeat to France. Jamaica makes their second appearance and one of Chinese Taipei, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea and Panama complete the group.
Group G – Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina
Sweden will be favorites to conquer the group with their pedigree. Italy had a hugely disappointing summer, finishing behind France, Belgium and Iceland at the bottom of Group D at the European Championship with one point and only two goals. Should the Italians finish second, the winner of Group E, probably the US or the Netherlands, awaits. South Africa and Argentina will focus on improving the 2019 edition after the former lost all their matches and the latter drew twice and lost once in the group stage.
Group H – Germany, Morocco, Colombia, South Korea
Germany tops Group H. The number two of the European Championship impressed in England and is third in the world behind the US and Sweden. Secure the win and they’re in second place in Group F, likely France or Brazil, and then a potential European Championship rematch final against England is at stake. Morocco is making its World Cup debut, while Colombia failed to qualify in 2019, having reached the last 16 in 2015. South Korea presents Germany with the biggest challenge, although this is their fourth World Cup and they qualified once from the group stage in 2015.