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    The Women’s World Cup started in 1991 with 12 countries converging on China to determine the world’s best. It marked the beginning of an international event that’s played every four years to celebrate the growth and prosperity of the women’s game, and the ninth iteration of the tournament is set to commence this summer with 32 teams in Australia and New Zealand from July 20 through August 20.

    Ten stadiums across nine cities in the co-hosts – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, and Hamilton – will host the contests. This is the inaugural moment for both Australia and New Zealand to host the Women’s World Cup. It is also the fourth-straight Women’s World Cup to be held by a first-time host, with France (2019), Canada (2015), and Germany (2011) having their moments in the sun before. The tournament will open with New Zealand taking on Norway at Eden Park in Auckland, and it will conclude at Stadium Australia in Sydney for the final one month later.

    There has already been plenty of drama in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup before a single kick-off. Injuries have already eliminated key players for the United States, England, Netherlands, France, and Canada, and some crazy stuff off the field has happened, too. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has floated Europe-wide blackouts for the tournament because of what he considers low-ball broadcasting offers; the French experienced a mutiny that led to the ousting of coach Corinne Diacre and the introduction of Hervé Renard, who led Saudi Arabia over Argentina in the Men’s World Cup in November; Canada is having its own upheaval over pay that brought about the resignation of the federation’s president.

    Again, this is all before the first whistle. Imagine what it’ll be like when the games are actually happening.

    There are plenty of questions to answer on the field. Will the United States complete the first-ever three-peat? Can England capitalize on its momentum from its 2022 UEFA Women’s Championship title and play in its first Women’s World Cup Final, let alone win this thing? Will Germany restore itself to the throne it has twice claimed but not for a generation? How will France and Canada respond to the off-field issues surrounding them?

    Someone will finish the summer satisfied; one country is destined to cement itself among the immortals. Soon, we find out who.

    The 6 Historic Favorites in the FIFA Women’s World Cup

    United States

    The United States is the most decorated country in women’s soccer. The Americans have won four World Cups (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019) and are the back-to-back defending champions, and they’ve never finished worse than third in one of these events. The 2007 World Cup was the only tournament in which the winner wasn’t either the United States or the team that eliminated it. The Americans have dominated the Olympics, too, medaling in six of seven opportunities with four golds in the mix. The U.S. holds a tight grip over CONCACAF, too, securing nine of the 11 championships the federation has ever held. The USWNT is the benchmark in the sport, and it’s probable at the gold medal will go through it as it has nearly every four years.

    Germany

    The Germans are two-time champions (2003, 2007), three-time finalists (1995), and otherwise placed in the top four of the Women’s World Cup on two occasions. Germany has been the dominant force in Europe, claiming eight of the 13 UEFA Women’s Championships ever held, including seven in a row from 1995 through 2013. The country took gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and won three bronze medals in a row at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics. Since women’s football was made legal in 1970 (as insane as it sounds, yes, there was previously a ban on clubs forming women’s teams, and Germany was far from the only country to do something like this), it has grown to become one of the preeminent forces in the sport.

    Brazil

    A World Cup championship has eluded the Brazilians thus far. They were runner-up in 2007 and finished third place in 1999, but they haven’t come any closer than that. The country has also collected two silver medals at the Olympics (2004, 2008), coming so close to snatching gold on both occasions. On its continent, Brazil is unmatched, never missing a final in all eight editions of the Copa America Femenina and claiming the championship in seven of those trips. This is a nation that’s insatiable for soccer and has produced some wonderful talents over the years, with Marta in particular – arguably the greatest female player of all time – doing wonders to lift the team’s worldwide profile over the last two decades.

    Sweden

    Sweden reached the World Cup Final in 2003, coming up just short to Germany in added extra time. The Swedes have otherwise placed third at the event three times (1991, 2011, 2019), earned silver medals in two Olympics (2016, 2020), and won the very first UEFA Women’s Championship in 1984. Other than the lone European title almost 40 years ago, the country is still waiting for its big break – Sweden is 1-6 all-time in major international and continental finals. This is a country that supports its national team and has churned out great players and philosophies for decades, but it has never translated to an ascension to the very top of the sport. One has to think it will come eventually, though the question remains, when?

    Japan

    Japan has emerged as one of the top nations for women’s soccer on the planet, but it wasn’t always like this. Prior to 2011, Japan had only escaped the group stage at the Women’s World Cup once, and it swiftly exited in the knockout phase. But the 2011 World Cup ushered in a new era for the island nation – the Japanese shocked the Americans in the final, winning on penalties to give the country its first-ever major trophy. Since then, Japan has reached its first Olympics final in 2012, won its inaugural AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2014, played in another World Cup championship game in 2015, and claimed a second AFC title in 2018. Times have changed, and Japan is now ranked No. 11 in the FIFA rankings, but the country’s embrace of women’s soccer has been apparent.

    Norway

    Norway is one of four countries to have ever won the Women’s World Cup, donning its crown in 1995. The nation also reached the 1991 World Cup Final and finished fourth in 1999 and 2007. It is also one of four teams to have tasted gold at the Olympics, climbing that mountain top in 2000 and achieving bronze in 1996. In Europe, the Norwegians have played in nearly 50 percent of all UEFA Women’s Championship finals, earning two titles along the way (1987, 1993). It has been 16 years since Norway previously appeared in the semifinals of the World Cup and 10 since it played in its last major final. As women’s soccer has spread and other countries have stepped up, Norway has fallen a bit by the wayside, but the history and tradition are there for the Norwegians to remain one of the premier sides in the sport.

    Top 10 Women’s World Cup Teams: The Favorites to Win in 2023

    1: USA (+225)

    2: England (+300)

    3: Spain (+600)

    4: Germany (+700)

    5: France (+900)

    6: Australia (+1000)

    7: Sweden (+1800)

    8: Netherlands (+2500)

    9: Japan (+2800)

    10: Canada (+3000)

    Women’s World Cup Groups 2023

    Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland

    Group B: Australia, Canada, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland

    Group C: Costa Rica, Japan, Spain, Zambia

    Group D: China, Denmark, England, Haiti

    Group E: Netherlands, Portugal, United States, Vietnam

    Group F: Brazil, France, Jamaica, Panama

    Group G: Argentina, Italy, South Africa, Sweden

    Group H: Colombia, Germany, South Korea, Morocco

    Favorites to Win the Group Stages in Each Group

    Group A: Norway

    Group B: Australia

    Group C: Spain

    Group D: England

    Group E: United States

    Group F: France/Brazil

    Group G: Sweden

    Group H: Germany

    Teams Making Their Women’s World Cup Debut in 2023

    This is the first Women’s World Cup to include 32 teams. The first version of the tournament in 1991 hosted just 12 participants. In 1999, that number grew to 16, and by 2015, it was 24. It has expanded by eight again, and that same number of countries are appearing in their first Women’s World Cup.

    Haiti, Morocco, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Vietnam, and Zambia are all making their debut in the Women’s World Cup this summer. As women’s football continues to grow, so too does the international playing field – an introduction of an additional eight sides adds more exposure to the game and gives a greater number of nations something to strive for.

    Countries like the United States, Brazil, and Germany have been staples in international women’s soccer for decades. It allowed generations of girls to see what was possible, and it spurred further growth for the game within those borders. Tiffeny Milbrett begets Abby Wambach, who begets Alex Morgan, who begets the next best thing; one does not come without the other.

    In 2023, eight new populations of young girls will see women from their homelands compete at the highest level, representing something with which they can directly relate. It’s very possible that one of the girls watching at home will one day wear those same colors in a future World Cup, and these nations can begin their own chain of successful female soccer stars. With these extra spots available, more new countries will succeed in qualifying for the sport’s biggest event. This is a win for the game’s continued growth and health and will impact the lives of untold young girls around the world – it’s something worth celebrating.

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