The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files 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: Germany crash out as another big team falls
BRISBANE, Australia — Germany’s Women’s World Cup campaign came to an end in the group stage for the first time in their history as they were held to a 1-1 draw by South Korea, while Morocco’s 1-0 win over Colombia consigned the two-time champions to a shock early exit.
Germany started this World Cup with a flurry of goals in their 6-0 demolition of Morocco, but then fell to a surprise 2-1 defeat to Colombia. As they battled a host of injuries at the back, they still had a great chance of making the knockouts but needed to beat South Korea — who had lost both matches without scoring a goal — to make sure.
But despite dominating attacking territory, Germany’s attack fell flat leaving them leaving the tournament far earlier than expected.
– Women’s World Cup: Landing page | Schedule | Rosters | News
– How teams can qualify for the round of 16
South Korea started brilliantly, with 16-year-old striker Casey Phair having a chance early on as her close-range shot was saved by Merle Frohms, who turned it onto the post. But Colin Bell’s side didn’t have to wait long to take a deserved lead as Lee Young-Ju’s through ball found Cho So-Hyun unmarked and she finished well to give South Korea a shock lead.
Germany started to find more rhythm and tempo, dominating territory, but had to wait until the 41st minute to fashion their first decent opportunity with Alexandra Popp heading home a Svenja Huth cross.
Germany continued to pile on the pressure in the second half and had a goal disallowed in the 56th minute with Popp offside. She continued to be Germany’s main attacking outlet and planted a header on South Korea’s bar just three minutes later but, try as they might, they couldn’t break down the opponent’s resolute defence.
As the minutes ticked down, the match became more fractured, with the physicality leaving players sprawled on the deck. Germany had a couple of last desperate efforts, with Sydney Lohmann firing wide and then blasting another over. — Tom Hamilton
Germany captain Alexandra Popp thought she had scored a second goal to take her team through to the World Cup round of 16, but it was ruled out for offside. Chris Hyde – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
News of the day
South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana revealed she has lost three family members while at the World Cup after helping her country beat Italy 3-2 to reach the knockout rounds for the first time. Kgatlana, who scored the game winner to send the Banyana Banyana into the round of 16, revealed that: “Over the last three weeks, I have lost three family members, I could have gone home, but I chose to stay with my girls because that’s how much it means.” South Africa will next take on the Netherlands.
Pia Sundhage has a contract as Brazil coach through next year but her role at the 2024 Olympics in Paris isn’t guaranteed, according to ESPN Brasil sources. The team bowed after the group stage at the World Cup after finishing third behind France and Jamaica — the first time since 1995 that Brazil didn’t reach the knockout stages. The early exit also saw Marta’s legendary Brazil career end by playing in her sixth World Cup but not scoring a goal.
After coaching the Philippines at the World Cup — and beating co-hosts New Zealand in the process — former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic has set his sights on turning Perth Glory back into a powerhouse after being appointed coach of the embattled A-League Men side on a three-year deal. Stajcic said aiming for finals in his first season in charge was a “non-negotiable” and added: “If you’re playing in the A-League, if you’re playing in any elite competition and you’re not aiming for finals, you probably shouldn’t be there.”
Today in USWNT camp
This No. 1-ranked USWNT hardly resembles the reigning Women’s World Cup champions, and while some pundits and former players have raised questions about the players’ mentality, others have all called out a failure of tactics and structure, which are the purview of coach Vlatko Andonovski.
It’s a chicken-or-egg question: Is the USWNT not executing tactics well because the players lack the right mentality? Or are the players not showing the right mentality because the tactics are holding them back?
After a listless 0-0 draw with No. 21-ranked Portugal to close out the group stage, it becomes all the more imperative to figure out the answer. Up next, the USWNT faces Sweden in the round of 16 in a win-or-go-home scenario that necessitates playing better than the Americans have up to this point.
ESPN’s Caitlin Murray looks at the main cause of the USWNT’s troubles at this World Cup.
Williams: The USWNT will be a scary thought when team clicks
Lynn Williams says the USWNT is embracing the pressure it faces at the World Cup.
Sights and sounds
Morocco beat Colombia to join them in next round
PERTH, Australia — The threat was there from the get-go for Morocco as Ibtissam Jraïdi forced a strong save from Catalina Pérez inside the first 60 seconds, the Atlas Lionesses possessing a clear threat when they could work the ball into Colombia’s box.
Even with the fiercely vocal Colombian support making Perth’s Rectangular Stadium feel like it had been displaced from the heart of Bogota, it was Morocco who looked far more at home in the stadium swathed in yellow.
A clumsy and needless shove on Jraïdi in first-half stoppage time brought about the breakthrough, there could be no question that it was a penalty for the North African nation. Pérez again came up trumps to keep the ball out, diving to her left to parry Ghizlane Chebbak’s effort, but she was unable to put the ball out of harm’s way and Anissa Lahmari poked it home in the ensuing melee.
GPWDLGDPTS1 – Colombia3201+262 – Morocco3201-463 – Germany3111+544 – South Korea3012-31Top two countries qualify for round of 16
After their dream result (and goals) against Germany, the spotlight was on Colombia to impress once again, and as the second half wore on Khadija Er-Rmichi was called into action to deny Daniela Montoya and Mayra Ramírez with reaction saves before getting her fingertips on a ferocious Linda Caicedo effort.
As Colombia grew, the breaks in play began to multiply, causing the game to fracture, impacting the whole outlook of the group, from Perth all the way to Brisbane.
The whistle couldn’t sound soon enough for the Atlas Lionesses, who streamed onto the pitch to celebrate. But then came the nervous few minutes as the clock in Brisbane counted down as they awaited confirmation that Germany had bowed out.
The two sides in Western Australia were the two still standing and through to the next round, Colombia’s loss on the night not enough to take them from the top spot. — Sophie Lawson
Spanish siege mentality
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Spain forward Jenni Hermoso has reacted to criticism of the team’s 4-0 defeat to Japan on Monday by saying there are people who want to see La Roja fail. Despite the loss, Spain progressed to the round 16 after winning their first two games and will meet Switzerland in Auckland on Saturday.
“I think there are people waiting for Spain to slip up, I do think that,” she told reporters in Wellington. “If you look at social media. … To be honest, I don’t look, but we know people are waiting for us to fail.
“For all we have tried to fight to be here and to go as far as possible, there are people that are happy when we don’t get good results. If they don’t want to stay on the Spain boat, then they should get off. What is good for us is support from everyone following Spain.”
Defender Irene Paredes added that the criticism did not “annoy” her and was “part of the job,” saying: “It is normal that it happens and that more is demanded from us because we are capable of giving more.” — Sam Marsden
‘Determined’ Jamaica reach WC knockout stage for first time ever
Joey Lynch recaps a “momentous” goalless draw between Jamaica and Brazil that sends the Caribbean nation to its first-ever World Cup knockout match.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Not only will Jamaica make history in the World Cup’s round of 16, they will, remarkably, head there as one of only three teams (along with Switzerland and Japan) to have not conceded a single goal. Not bad considering they were drawn in a group with France and Brazil.
Coming in with a plan centred on a rock-solid defence anchored by goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, The Reggae Girlz have been able to grind out 0-0 draws with these high-powered opponents despite controlling 24% of possession against France and just 20% against Brazil.
“We don’t come in with a defensive mind, we want to score goals, but you got to do what you got to do if you want to proceed, and it’s going to be hard work,” Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said. “We’re not going to lay down and say win the game. We don’t believe in that. If you want to beat us, then you’ve got to beat us. The smaller country teams they’re going to fight for everything. So the trend is going to continue until people can prove it wrong.”
Indeed as the gap between football’s old guard and rising challengers has begun to shrink, the former can no longer rely on a resource-driven chasm in technical ability and physicality to see off their longshot rivals. Per FIFA’s official statistics, South Africa only controlled possession for 29% of the game against Italy in their 3-2 win that sent them to the round of 16, the same percentage that Colombia retained in their momentous 2-1 win over Germany.
“Everybody’s organized now and the physical part is pretty good as well,” Brazil coach Pia Sundhage said after her side’s draw with Jamaica. “Not only that, if you play the ball [and you’re] dispossessed, then you have this counter-attack situation.
“In four years, the best team will not give away the ball away. If you look at completed passes, I think that percentage will rise in the future [while] still keeping the speed of play — the best will be capable of doing that.” — Joey Lynch
Visiting the giant Sam Kerr mural in Western Australia
Sophie Lawson takes a trip to a huge mural of Sam Kerr in her hometown of East Fremantle in Western Australia.
Man! I Feel Like a Matilda!
BRISBANE, Australia — In case you were wondering how the vibes are in Matildas camp following their magnificent 4-0 victory over Canada in Melbourne, the answer is: immaculate.
Taking to the track for their first session since reaching the round of 16, the team strolled out to begin stretching and warming up. Out of nowhere the instantly recognizable and iconic opening of Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” blared out through the speakers. Let’s go girls, indeed.
Katrina Gorry, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Charli Grant were bopping along while Mackenzie Arnold was dancing as well. The goalkeeper was full of praise for the song selection.
“That was actually Georgia, our strength and conditioning assistant,” Arnold told media.” She was actually under a little bit of pressure with that. We just told her to put on some tunes and that was what she came out with. So thankfully, it was a banger. Otherwise, it could have been a bit embarrassing for her.”
When asked about the team’s playlist, Arnold was quick to mention captain Sam Kerr’s role in the music selection. “We’re actually into a bit of singalongs,” she said. “So like none of the ‘doof-doof’ s—. We’re not really into that. Little bit of a beat behind it. Sam’s actually quite good at that. She finds the bangers and puts them on.”
And while Twain’s global 1997 hit got the group going, it’s an iconic Aussie song that has become the team’s anthem. “‘Strawberry Kisses’ by Nikki Webster has been a team favorite,” Arnold admitted.
Webster herself is no stranger to Stadium Australia, singing during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics. As for how the team landed on Webster’s hit?
“It’s actually Steph Catley’s favourite song and now we’ve all jumped on the wagon.” — Marissa Lordanic
Features of the day
The USWNT’s path to the Women’s World Cup final
Which teams must the USWNT beat in order to lift the Women’s World Cup for a third successive time? ESPN lays out the path ahead.
Marta’s World Cup finale overshadowed by Brazil’s poor play
While Marta’s sixth World Cup could have been one too many, there will be questions on whether Pia Sundhage is the right coach to lead Brazil.
How Marta’s World Cup dreams turned to disaster vs. Jamaica
Sophie Lawson reacts to Brazil being eliminated from the Women’s World Cup after a 0-0 draw with Jamaica.
And, finally …
MELBOURNE, Australia — Are you the suspicious type? If so, are you the suspicious type and a living legend of football coming toward the end of your career? If you are, you might want to avoid the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium (MRS) for a little while.
Across one 48-hour period this week, the Melbourne venue has seen both Christine Sinclair and Marta’s illustrious World Cup careers end upon its surface: two icons of the game, whose careers span decades and leave legacies impossible to properly quantify.
Given that they serve as the natural conclusion to the end of a footballing chapter — as well as the start of another — World Cups often provide some level of synchronicity and coincidence.
But few would have anticipated the somewhat bittersweet claim to international notoriety that the venue would secure heading into the tournament; Sinclair’s Canada becoming the first-ever reigning Olympic champions to be bundled out in the group stages of the subsequent World Cup when they lost 4-0 to Australia, and Marta’s Brazil crashing out at the first hurdle for the first time since 1995 when they ground out a 0-0 stalemate with Jamaica.
Both greats were aiming to become the first player — male or female — to score at six different World Cups. But the rectangle of sadness had other ideas.
And while MRS’ contribution to the World Cup ends after the round of 16, it’s not done yet claiming legacies. For on Sunday, either the World Cup career of USWNT talisman Megan Rapinoe or Swedish stalwart Caroline Seger will end when their sides meet. — Joey Lynch