The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Australia and New Zealand.
The lead: USWNT advances by the width of a post
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The U.S. women’s national team was inches away from seeing their Women’s World Cup end in catastrophe — until the loud clank of the ball hitting the post.
With the USWNT facing elimination with a loss to Portugal and the score tied 0-0 in stoppage time, Portugal’s Ana Capeta got onto the end of a long lofted ball and fired from inside the box. USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher dove, but she would never be able to reach it. Instead, the nearside post made the save.
“It was a beautiful sound to hear it hit the post, that’s for sure,” Naeher said afterward. “But that’s something we talked about — we knew they were good on the counterattack and they like to get in behind.”
Naeher gave credit to Girma for tracking Capeta’s run and blocking off the far post, forcing the shot to the near side where it went barely wide. Girma, a centerback, was arguably the USWNT’s best player all night.
– Women’s World Cup: Landing page | Schedule | Rosters | News
– How teams can qualify for the round of 16
Now, with the USWNT finishing second in their group, a date awaits with Sweden in the round of 16. It’s surely a path the USWNT would want to avoid — it was only two years ago that Sweden demolished the USWNT in the Tokyo Olympics.
Striker Alex Morgan said the draw to Portugal was not the performance the USWNT wanted, but the players still have faith.
“I know this team and I know what we’re capable of, and just because it hasn’t clicked every moment on the field and we’re not putting the goals in the back of the net doesn’t mean these aren’t the right players for the job,” Morgan said. “The confidence is there and now we just have to prove it out on the field.”
Asked if Sweden will be the favorites heading into the round of 16, Morgan’s response was succinct: “No.”
News of the day
– The 2023 Women’s World Cup saw its 1,000,000th fan pass through the turnstiles at the match between Portugal and the United States at Eden Park. Rebecca Sheely from Colorado was the millionth fan to come through the gates at the 10 venues across Australia and New Zealand, and was greeted by tournament mascot Tazuni. With the final still 19 days away, and 22 matches to be played after Tuesday’s games, FIFA remains firmly on target to host the biggest standalone women’s sport event ever.
– Canada became the first-ever reigning Olympic champions to be bundled out in the group stages of the subsequent World Cup, with a 4-0 defeat to Australia on Monday. Canada coach Bev Priestman said after the game: “These moments define you, I know that from [the] Tokyo [Olympics]. That result, they’re [Australia] going to be riding a massive high. They’ve turned things around in one game and they were brave and they went for it and changed things. Australia is a top, top side and I’ve said that from the start. There’s nothing stopping them from pushing through this because they should be probably in the top four of a World Cup.”
Today in USWNT camp
Morgan and Rapinoe react to USWNT’s lacklustre qualification
Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe still believe the USWNT can make it to the World Cup final despite an alarming performance in its 0-0 draw with Portugal.
Vlatko Andonovski, 4 — In his prematch news conference, the U.S. coach said he doesn’t read or listen to any of the media coverage surrounding the team, but it feels like he got word that everyone was clamoring for Lynn Williams to start. She was bright in getting into the box and finding chances, but she suffered from the same finishing yips that have affected the rest of the team.
Most concerning, rather, is that the USWNT didn’t seem to have a cohesive game plan and again it was up to individual moments to decide the match. But that’s nothing new in this era of the USWNT under Andonovski.
At least he remembered he could use subs this time. The USWNT switched to a double-pivot late to hang on for the draw.
Caitlin Murray gives us her manager and player ratings for the USWNT against Portugal.
Sights and sounds
Netherlands score seven
Knowing top spot in Group E could come down to goal difference, Netherlands showed no mercy against World Cup debutants Vietnam as they racked up a 7-0 win in Dunedin. Lieke Martens opened the scoring in the eighth minute and three more goals followed in the next 15 minutes, with Katja Snoeijs, Esmee Brugts and Jill Roord all on target.
The effort from Brugts, the 20-year-old whose goal qualified the Oranje for the finals, was the pick of the bunch, a fine strike from 25 yards. Danielle van de Donk added the fifth on the stroke of half-time, with Brugts completing her brace after the break. That allowed for the introduction of teenager Wieke Kaptein, who at 17 years and 337 days old became the youngest player ever for Netherlands at a Men’s or Women’s World Cup. Roord then added a seventh in the 83rd minute.
It was a brutal performance from Andries Jonker’s side, who with top spot will, save a remarkable goal difference turnaround in Wednesday’s games, avoid Sweden in the next round. Not much was said about the Dutch before the tournament in comparison to some of the other favourites, but after topping a group which included the USWNT, the 2019 runners-up go into the knockout rounds full of confidence. — Sam Marsden
Recapping Australia’s incredible night vs. Canada
Marissa Lordanic looks back on a huge night for Australia as they beat Canada 4-0 to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The emotion of knockout football
There are stereotypical photos we expect from knockout sporting events which juxtapose the two extremes of emotion that sport can push a person too. In the foreground there will be celebrations, tears of joy falling, jubilant roars of relief held frozen in time. Then, beyond the euphoria there are the players lying motionless on the turf, physically spent and emotionally torn open.
As we travel deeper into the stage of the World Cup where teams’ respective journeys come to an end, these images will multiply, showcasing the gamut of the human condition. In Melbourne on Monday night, the cliché was working overtime as co-hosts Australia snatched victory — and an imperious 4-0 victory at that — from the jaws of national humiliation and the biggest anticlimax in Matildas history. On the other side, Olympic champions Canada, who have been in a feud with their federation, crashed out of the tournament. Tears of joy and misery fell throughout the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium; players and fans alike all shared in the emotional rollercoaster.
It is the beauty and the misery of tournament football and, as the last of the group games wrap up, it is only just the beginning. Tissues at the ready everyone. — Sophie Lawson
Jamaica’s Secret Weapon: The Home of the Matildas
MELBOURNE/NAARM — Standing on the precipice of more history, Jamaica might have a secret weapon in their efforts to advance to the knockout stages at the expense of Brazil. One of three teams based in Melbourne during the World Cup, the Reggae Girlz have trained out of the Victorian State Football Centre — otherwise known as “The Home of the Matildas” — throughout a World Cup journey that began with a famous 0-0 draw with France and continued with a 1-0 win over Panama, the nation’s first-ever victory on this stage.
The product of the largest investment ever made by any level of government for a football-specific project in Australia, the first phase of the Bundoora-based facility opened just prior to the World Cup as the Matildas prepared for the final warm-up fixture against France. But with the Matildas opting to base themselves in Brisbane for the tournament, Jamaica were afforded the opportunity to use it to bolster their campaign.
“I tell you what, I say this to all my Reggae Girlz, I wish that we could take you back to Jamaica with us,” Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said. “It’s the most fantastic place, in terms of training facilities, that I have ever seen in the world. It’s better than most men… and it’s not [even] done yet, it’s not complete. We have enjoyed it, the staff has been excellent with us, it has everything for us to train. I think it’s fantastic stuff. To give it to the Matildas and you know what, I praise them for fighting for it and we need something like that [in Jamaica], it would be fantastic.”
Though he declined to discuss his own side’s struggles with their federation for resourcing, Donaldson also issued a rallying cry when quizzed on the platform the World Cup was supplying rising nations such as Morocco, Philippines and Colombia.
“You talk about smaller women’s football countries and the growth has been tremendous,” Donaldson said. “The smaller countries now will realise there’s a platform out there [as will] young women and girls all over the world. All these governments and everybody, it’s time to step up. Cut the bullcrap. Step up and support women’s football. And let’s move along.” — Joey Lynch
‘Under-appreciated no more!’ Nigeria book knockout spot
Brittanny Mitchell reports Nigeria earning their way through to the last 16 after goalless Ireland draw.
Match previews for Aug. 2
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook.
Group G: South Africa vs. Italy – (Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington; 7 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. BST)
Odds: South Africa +400, Draw +280, Italy -160
The scenario is simple for Italy: win and they will make the round of 16. A draw should also be enough to help them through, although they would be dependent on Argentina not beating Sweden. If they did, Italy and Argentina would be tied on four points but the Albiceleste would have the better goal difference.
Making Italy’s task harder is the fact South Africa are also very much alive. A win for them is likely to see them advance, although their fate in the competition would come down to goal difference if Argentina also win. Coach Desiree Ellis says she is hoping her side’s luck will turn in their final group game, lamenting a lack “rub of the green” as they gave up leads in their opening games against Sweden and Argentina. — Sam Marsden
Group G: Argentina vs. Sweden – (FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton; 7 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. BST)
Odds: Argentina +525, Draw +310, Sweden -205
With a thorough dismantling of an Italy team that simply did not know how to defend whipped corners, Sweden have already secured their place in the round of 16. But they will have one more chance to build momentum going into the knockouts and prove the last victory wasn’t just a one-off. Argentina, to their credit, have shown growth over their two games and know nothing short of a win will be enough in Hamilton. But they will need to get numbers forward early to ask questions of a Sweden backline that hasn’t looked overly stable so far. — Sophie Lawson
Group F: Panama vs. France – (Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney; 8 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET / 11 a.m. BST)
Odds: Panama +5500, Draw +1400, France -8000
Les Bleues will not just be looking to qualify for the round of 16 and confirm their place as group winners, they will want to go from strength to strength. The performance in the 2-1 win over Brazil was much better than it was against Jamaica in their opening 0-0 draw. They need to build on that.
Coach Herve Renard is likely to make changes in his starting XI, but Kadidiatou Diani will lead the line up front and, after getting better since the start of the tournament, will be looking for her first-ever World Cup goal. Renard will want intensity, goals, a clean sheet, and statement displays from the players coming in. France need to finish the job without taking this game for granted, while for Panama, after two losses and five goals conceded, the aim will be to frustrate their opponents for as long as possible and try to get a historic point. — Julien Laurens
Group F: Jamaica vs. Brazil – (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Melbourne; 8 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET / 11 a.m. BST)
Odds: Jamaica +1100, Draw +470, Brazil +450
After the highs of their opening 4-0 win over Panama, Brazil’s 2-1 loss to France in their subsequent fixture puts the onus well and truly upon them in their clash with Jamaica in Melbourne. Pia Sundhage’s side must win to progress to the knockout stages, with a draw or loss — short of Panama pulling off one of the greatest upsets of all time against France — meaning the Selecao would be going home. Sundhage wouldn’t be drawn on what kind of role 37-year-old iconic talisman Marta would have against the Reggae Girlz in her prematch news conference, only going so far as to say: “This old lady is very important for us.”
Jamaica, for their part, will be boosted by the return of Manchester City star Khadija “Bunny” Shaw for the contest after she was suspended for their history-making 1-0 win over Panama, but still remain the underdogs. Not that coach Lorne Donaldson sees that as a bad thing. “This is when you go enjoy it,” he said. “What the hell do we have to lose?” — Joey Lynch
Features of the day
Meet Beverly Ranger, forgotten superstar of the women’s game
Jamaica’s Beverly Ranger was a soccer star in 1970s Germany, but today the players who made the 2023 Women’s World Cup squad barely know her story.
World Cup debutante Zambia is leaving on a high note
Despite an early exit at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, a tournament debut for Zambia is a victory in itself.
What pressure? Matildas answer every question asked of them
In the afterglow of the victory, as fans flooded out of Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, positively buoyed by the spectacle that had unfolded before them, thousands of questions filled the air: How did the Matildas do it?
And, finally …
Is this Australia’s luckiest football fan?
Marissa Lordanic catches up with Emily, a Matildas fan who was given Sam Kerr’s jersey after Australia’s 4-0 win vs. Canada.
While it never saw the pitch, Sam Kerr‘s jersey is still one of the most coveted objects at this tournament.
After the Matildas’ 4-0 win over Canada in Melbourne, young fan Emily found herself in possession of the shirt. Following the match, Kerr spotted Emily in the crowd and made a beeline for her, taking off her shirt and placing it in her hands in what will be a core memory for the youngster.
Emily had tears in her eyes while recounting the story to ESPN postmatch. While the whole nation is in love with Kerr and Emily is so grateful and overwhelmed by Kerr’s generosity, the Aussie skipper is only her second favourite player: the top honour belongs to Mary Fowler. — Marissa Lordanic