The 2023 World Cup is down to two teams, with England and Spain set to face off in the championship match. Both teams are competing in their first World Cup final, so a first-time champion will be crowned in Sydney on Aug. 20.

Check out the complete schedule and knockout stage results below, and catch up on the semifinals with our coverage of La Roja’s 2-1 win against Sweden and the Lionesses’ 3-1 victory over Australia.

2023 World Cup: Schedule and how to watch

All remaining World Cup matches are available to watch on Fox, Telemundo and Universo. They can be streamed on the Fox Sports app and on Peacock.

Third place

  • Saturday, Aug. 19
    • 4 a.m. — Sweden vs. Australia (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)

Championship match

  • Sunday, Aug. 20
    • 6 a.m. — Spain vs. England (Stadium Australia, Sydney)

For fans of the U.S. women’s national team, the World Cup quarterfinals might feel like a landmine of missed opportunities. After the reigning champions suffered the earliest World Cup exit in team history, fans back in the States are now in the unfamiliar position of finding a new squad to support with three rounds still to be played.

The good news for USWNT fans is that there are a number of other teams ready to make history that are worthy of a now neutral fan’s attention. After a group stage that saw underdogs rise up and favorites fall, it feels like anything is possible on the path to the 2023 World Cup title.

Here’s a quick guide for USWNT fans looking to get caught up before the quarterfinal round begins.

Australia

For fans of: Hometown heroes, attacking football, good vibes

Australia is trying to advance past the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in team history, and for lack of a more descriptive term, the vibes are strong. They looked confident against Denmark in the Round of 16, progressively finding their feet without star striker Sam Kerr. The game was Kerr’s first appearance at the World Cup after sustaining a calf injury in training, and she’ll continue to build fitness the longer the tournament progresses. Australia’s defense in transition is still a major question mark, but who doesn’t love a team that only moves in one direction: forward.

France

For fans of: Redemption, clarity of purpose, towering headers

France wasn’t perfect going into the knockout rounds, but they got the performance they needed against Brazil in the group stage to move onto the Round of 16, where they defeated Morocco 4-0. Under new head coach Herve Renard, France has appeared less caught up by decision-making in transition, moving the ball with purpose and providing service to Kadidiatou Diani, who has four goals and three assists so far in the tournament. France failed to advance past the quarterfinals at home four years ago, and they have the chance to wipe that memory away in 2023.

Colombia

For fans of: The underdog, singular generational talent, a larger movement

Colombia’s success has quickly become one of the most fun storylines of the tournament, following an impressive group-stage performance and a clinical win over Jamaica in the Round of 16. They’ve played in front of raucous crowds and awoken the sleeping giant in South American soccer. They also have a superstar of both the present and future in 18-year-old Linda Caicedo, who terrorizes defenders by scoring goals herself and creating space for her teammates. They face European champion England next, with a chance at pulling off an upset for the ages.

England

For fans of: The favorites, tactical flexibility, a good plan coming together

Everything was going well for England after three wins in the group stage, but a bad decision resulting in a red card for star playmaker Lauren James in the Round of 16 leaves the team even more shorthanded. The good news for the Lionesses is they’ve already made necessary tactical shifts, and there’s no reason to believe head coach Sarina Wiegman can’t make similar adjustments against Colombia. England is now the consensus favorite to win it all, with the mentality to match, but their roster has cracks they’ll need to fill.

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Chloe Kelly scored the game-winning penalty kick for England in the Round of 16. (Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Spain

For fans of: A new style of winner, club investment leading to international success

Spain has been almost stereotypical in their approach to the World Cup thus far. Outside of one tough loss to Japan, they’ve looked ready to overpower their opponents with ease. They are willing to pass endlessly to find the right entry point through a defense, and they’ll keep shooting until they find the right moment to slip the ball into the back of the net. Aitana Bonmati has been particularly excellent for a Spanish side ready to prove that their style of soccer can win the program its first major championship.

Netherlands

For fans of: Individual quality, riding the wave, big game experience

Fans might be surprised at the Netherlands’ resilience as they’ve dealt with roster transition and injury to star forward Vivianne Miedema, but perhaps their ability to progress this far shouldn’t come as such a shock. They have a number of quality players with big-game experience both at the club and international level, and they survived the Round of 16 thanks to a fair amount of problem-solving. In two big games against the U.S. and South Africa, the Dutch haven’t been able to control entire matches, but they capitalize on their chances when they arrive and can ride the wave of momentum to positive results.

Japan

For fans of: Youthful exuberance, incisive passing, clinical finishing, NWSL stardom

Japan has looked like the most complete team in the World Cup through four games, as their multi-year development plan is coming to fruition at exactly the right time. They can both out-possess their opponent and make them pay on the counter-attack, with a cutting passing ability that can collapse a defense with ease. Hina Sugita and Jun Endo are two NWSL stars fans in the U.S. might know well, and they also have two of the best kits left at the World Cup.

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Hinata Miyazawa has a team-leading five goals for Japan at the World Cup. (Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Sweden

For fans of: Old frenemies, finding a way to win

As U.S. fans will likely rue for a while, Sweden keeps finding ways to win even when the going gets tough. They had their moments of dominance in the group stage, but in difficult matches they’ve stepped up in the margins in order to survive and advance. Against Japan, they’ll rely on their ability to unlock defenses on set pieces and perhaps another staunch performance from goalkeeper Zećira Mušović. Lina Hurtig joked she might get a tattoo of the goal-line technology that declared Sweden the winner in the Round of 16. There’s a lot to like about Sweden’s never-say-die attitude.

Quarterfinal Schedule

Thursday, Aug. 10

Spain vs. Netherlands, 9 p.m. ET (FOX)

Friday, Aug. 11

Japan vs. Sweden, 3:30 a.m. ET (FOX)

Saturday, Aug. 12

Australia vs. France, 3 a.m. ET (FOX)
England vs. Colombia, 6:30 a.m. ET (FOX)

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The 2023 Women’s World Cup knockout rounds are here, with several powerhouse teams missing from the show. Yet despite a nail-biting end to the group stage, the U.S. women’s national team advanced, avoiding the ignominious fate of Germany, Brazil and Canada.

The Round of 16 features a number of intriguing matchups, from the USWNT vs. Sweden to England vs. Nigeria, which could set the tone for the rest of the tournament. Just Women’s Sports is breaking down the eight matchups before the action starts Saturday.


Sweden vs. USWNT

Head-to-head: USWNT: 27 wins — Sweden: 7 wins — 12 draws
When: 5 a.m. ET Sunday
TV: Fox, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo

Much has been made about this match, and for good reason. The No. 1- and No. 3-ranked teams in the world, the USWNT and Sweden last met at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 in a group-stage match that Sweden won 3-0. But in the World Cup, the USWNT holds a 4-1-1 edge in the rivalry. Their most recent World Cup clash came in the 2019 group stage, a 2-0 win for the USWNT.

While the USWNT historically holds a significant advantage, the clubs split their last 10 meetings, with four wins each and two draws. Nine of the last 10 meetings have been decided by two or less goals.


Switzerland vs. Spain

H2H: Switzerland: 2 wins — Spain: 1 win — 0 draws
When: 1 a.m. ET Saturday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

Another intriguing matchup, Spain had a topsy-turvy group stage that ended in a 4-0 rout by Japan. Meanwhile, Switzerland enters the knockout rounds having drawn seven of its last 10 international matches, but the squad is one of just three at the World Cup not to concede a goal in the group stage.

These two teams have met just three times, with Switzerland holding the edge. Their last matchup came in 2019, with Spain finally recording its first win against La Nati.


Japan vs. Norway

H2H: Japan: 6 wins — Norway: 3 wins — 0 draws
When: 4 a.m. ET Saturday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo

Japan blew through the group stage, outscoring opponents 11-0 as one of just three teams to win all three group stage games.

Norway, meanwhile, finished second in Group A, outscoring opponents 6-1 even without star forward Ada Hegerberg, who hasn’t played in more than two weeks. Her status hasn’t been confirmed, although Norway coach Hege Riise said Hegerberg has been “successful” in the recovery plan.

“She’s been following the medical plan and been successful in every step of that plan,” Riise said. “So we will see her in training (Friday) and see how she reacts to that, like the last step before the game. And we prepare for Ada to play or come in.”


Netherlands vs. South Africa

H2H: Netherlands: 8 wins — South Africa: 0 wins — 0 draws
When: 10 p.m. ET Saturday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Telemundo, Universo

After winning Group E over the USWNT, the Netherlands will face South Africa, who finished as Group G runner-up. South Africa has been able to get out ahead early but can run out of steam late. Still, the squad managed to clinch its first round of 16 appearance. South Africa finished with an even goal differential in the group stage, while the Netherlands outscored opponents 9-1 – including an astounding 7-0 rout of Vietnam to close out the group stage.

Through eight meetings, South Africa has never beaten the Netherlands, which holds a 22-5 scoring edge.


England vs. Nigeria

H2H: England: 1 win — Nigeria: 2 wins — 0 draws
When: 3:30 a.m. ET Monday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

Led by Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria had a dream run in the group stage to advance past Canada and into the knockout rounds. That run included a win over Australia, though the Matildas took the top spot in Group B.

England, meanwhile, won all three of its group stage matches, outscoring opponents 8-1. Lauren James has been electric for the Lionesses and will look to continue her run of form. History favors Nigeria, however, as the Super Falcons have beaten England twice in three tries.


Australia vs. Denmark

H2H: Denmark: 2 wins — Australia: 1 win — 1 draw
When: 6:30 a.m. ET Monday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

For the second time in less than a year, Australia and Denmark will face off. Last October, the Matildas secured a come-from-behind victory – their first win over Denmark in their history.

Denmark won two games and lost one to England in the group stage. Australia, meanwhile, was upset by Nigeria but still managed to win its group. Denmark managed just three goals in the group stage, compared to seven for Australia. One big question mark surrounds the status of Sam Kerr, who missed the group stage for the Matildas. She reportedly was cleared to play in their final group stage game but did not feature.


Colombia vs. Jamaica

H2H: Colombia: 1 win — Jamaica: 1 win — 0 draws
When: 4 a.m. ET Tuesday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

Whichever team wins will advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time. These two teams have met just twice before, with one win apiece.

Linda Caicedo has starred for Colombia at this tournament, helping them to a shocking 2-1 upset of Germany. Jamaica, meanwhile, finished second in Group F behind France, allowing no goals through three matches in the group stage.


France vs. Morocco

H2H: N/A
When: 7 a.m. ET Tuesday
TV: FS1, Peacock, Universo

World Cup debutante Morocco made it out of a tough group after recovering from a 6-0 defeat by Germany in its opening match. But it hasn’t allowed a goal since then, including against a tough Colombia team.

France, meanwhile, played Jamaica to a scoreless draw before beating Brazil and Panama, outscoring them 8-4 overall. This will be the first meeting between France and Morocco.

Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup news: Marta’s sixth World Cup ends in group stage

A legendary World Cup career came to an end Wednesday, as Marta and Brazil bowed out in the group stage in a scoreless draw with Jamaica. She leaves her final World Cup as the top goalscorer in tournament history.

Marta nearly added another Wednesday in her first start of the tournament for Brazil. She came inches from finding the back of the net in the fifth minute.

Ultimately, though, Brazil fell short, marking the first time since 1995 that the team has failed to advance out of the group stage. In contrast, Jamaica earned its first trip to the knockout rounds. Marta and Jamaica’s Khadija “Bunny” Shaw shared a moment after the match in a symbolic passing of the guard.

And Marta herself issued a call to action in a passionate postgame interview.

“Continue supporting women’s football,” she said. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play in another World Cup… Hugely grateful. … But for (my teammates) it’s not over, for Brazil and the world, continue to support. For Marta, that is the last World Cup. For me, that is the end, but it’s just the beginning for the others.”

The 37-year-old forward won’t be retiring from the game just yet, but ahead of the tournament she said that “we have to understand that a time comes for us to prioritize other things.”

She not only stands as the top goalscorer in tournament history but also the first player to score in five consecutive World Cups, though she did not score in this one.

“I knew that she was big, she’s a famous player,” Brazil coach Pia Sundhage had said before the game. “[But I] couldn’t even imagine how big she is in Brazil. … I get very emotional just being around such a good player. Not only what she’s going to do tomorrow, but what she’s done for so many years and been a fantastic role model.”

Today’s top highlight: Bunny Shaw and Jamaica celebrate knockout round berth

After crowdfunding their way to the World Cup, Jamaica will advance to the knockout rounds for the first time. The unforgettable moment was celebrated by the players and coaches after Wednesday’s draw with Brazil to close out the group stage.

“This is one of the best days I’ve ever had in my life,” Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said. “To see a country like Jamaica be able to do this, it’s unbelievable. The girls are doing it for the country, the country should be proud.

“We had resilience, fight. We are going into a war and we need to be ready,” he added. “And it was a war, and we stayed in the battle.”

Today’s results:

  • Sweden 2, Argentina 0
  • South Africa 3, Italy 2
  • France 6, Panama 3
  • Jamaica 0, Brazil 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • Marta Cox scored first against France on a banger, but it didn’t take long for Les Bleues to get going – particularly Kadidiatou Diani, who notched a hat trick for her first goals of the tournament. In the end, France put up six goals despite resting some of their big-name players.
  • The USWNT will face Sweden, which won Group G and maintained its perfect World Cup record with a 2-0 win over Argentina. The last time these two teams met resulted in a 3-0 loss for the USWNT at the Tokyo Olympics. Still, World Cup history favors the USWNT, which holds a 4-1-1 record against Sweden in World Cup competition.

France’s Wendie Renard returned in triumph on Saturday, while Haiti’s Jennyfer Limage received the unfortunate distinction of sustaining the first torn ACL of the 2023 World Cup.

Just Women’s Sports is keeping track of the biggest names dealing with injuries at the tournament, which kicked off July 20.


Possible to return

Keira Walsh, England

The 26-year-old midfielder exited England’s 1-0 win against Denmark on July 28 with an apparent knee injury. Walsh twisted awkwardly while trying to intercept a pass, and she could be seen telling team medical staff: “I’ve done my knee.”

After she was stretchered off the field in the first half, she returned to the sidelines in the second half on crutches. On Saturday, the Football Association confirmed that Walsh has avoided an ACL tear,  but has been ruled out of the team’s match against China and her status is in doubt for the remainder of the World Cup.

Ada Hegerberg, Norway

After being named to Norway’s Starting XI against Switzerland on July 25, star forward Ada Hegerberg was pulled moments before kickoff.

The former Ballon D’Or winner felt discomfort in her groin while warming up for the match, Fox Sports reported. She was evaluated by the team doctor and returned to the locker room to receive treatment, according to Norwegian TV. Following the game, Hegerberg addressed her absence on Twitter.

“I felt discomfort when sprinting right after the anthems,” she wrote. “We decided with the staff that no risk should be taken and no subs should be wasted in such an important game for us, and we all trusted Sophie, Karina, and the team to do the job, which they did. We move on.”

Marina Hegering, Germany

Defender Marina Hegering missed Germany’s first match against Morocco with a bruised heel.

Mary Fowler and Aivi Luik, Australia

Australia will be without Mary Fowler and Aivi Luik for at least its second group-stage match after the duo sustained mild concussions in separate incidents during practice on July 25. Both have “fully recovered” and are in return to play protocol, per the team. But as of 2018, Football Australia’s return to play protocol “provides for a minimum of six days before the player can play a competitive game.” Australia plays its third and final group-stage match on July 31.

Sam Kerr, Australia

Two hours before Australia’s World Cup opener, the star striker announced that she would miss the Matildas’ first two group-stage games with a calf injury.

“Unfortunately I sustained a calf injury yesterday in training,” she wrote. “I wanted to share this with everyone so there is no distraction from us doing what we came here to achieve. Of course, I would have loved to have been out there tonight but I can’t wait to be apart of this amazing journey which starts now.”

Even without Kerr, Australia pulled off a 1-0 win against Ireland thanks to a penalty from Steph Catley in the second half. They lost to Nigeria 2-1, however, in their next match.

Kerr said Saturday she is “definitely going to be available” for the team’s game against Canada, while coach Tony Gustavsson noted that the time frame is “tight.”

Lena Oberdorf, Germany

Star midfielder Lena Oberdorf missed Germany’s first match against Morocco with a thigh injury.

“It looks as if we won’t be able to fall back on either of them in the first game,” head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said of Oberdorf and Hegering. But even without the pair, Germany pulled off an impressive 6-0 win.


Out for World Cup

Jennyfer Limage, Haiti

Haitian defender Jennyfer Limage will be out for the rest of the World Cup after tearing her ACL and rupturing her meniscus in her team’s 1-0 loss to England on July 22. Limage had to be carried off the field and is slated to undergo surgery.

Her injury marks the first ACL tear of the World Cup and continues what has become a growing injury trend in the women’s game, with a number of stars missing this year’s World Cup due to ACL tears.


Returned to play

Denise O’Sullivan, Ireland

O’Sullivan went down with a shin injury during an “overly physical” friendly on July 14 between Ireland and Colombia, which was halted after 20 minutes. The 29-year-old midfielder was taken to the hospital for treatment after the match was abandoned.

O’Sullivan underwent scans, with the team tweeting out that the results were “positive news,” and she played in the World Cup against Australia on July 20.

Wendie Renard, France

The France captain underwent an MRI on July 24 after feeling pain in her calf. She briefly appeared at training, where she spoke with the team doctor and later left the field, according to L’Équipe.

French media outlet Le Progrès has reported that Renard’s injury could keep her out of France’s final two group-stage matches. The injury is similar to one she suffered prior to the 2022 club season with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, which kept her out of play for a month, the outlet noted.

But Renard made her return on Saturday, even after her status was unclear on the eve of the match.

“Our hope is that everything goes well because we need her,” France coach Herve Renard said Friday night. “We are not sure tonight 100%. Our trainings are quite intense and we will have to see how things happen once we face the match.”

Renard was ready to go, playing the full 90 and even scored the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute.


Did not appear at World Cup

Janine Beckie, Canada

The 28-year-old forward tore her ACL during a preseason NWSL game in March. She later confirmed in an Instagram post that she will miss this summer’s World Cup after helping Canada to its first Olympic gold medal in women’s soccer in 2021.

“Having worked so hard during off-season for what was set to be one of the biggest seasons of my career, defending the title for @thornsfc and of course playing in the World Cup for Canada, being out for an extended period of time is a difficult pill to swallow,” she wrote.

Delphine Cascarino, France

French winger Delphine Cascarino suffered a partial ACL tear while playing for Lyon in a league win over Paris-Saint Germain on May 21. As a result, she will be sidelined for “several months” and will miss the World Cup.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to take part in the World Cup this summer with my teammates, whom I’ll be supporting from here,” Cascarino said on Instagram.

Cascarino has made 56 appearances for France, scoring 14 goals. Her loss is a blow to France’s chances at the World Cup, as the team also could find itself without Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who is still making her way back from an ACL tear.

Amandine Henry, France

The midfielder was ruled out of the World Cup on July 7 after sustaining a calf injury while training with the France national team two days earlier. She underwent an MRI that confirmed the diagnosis, France coach Hervé Renard said.

Henry, who signed a three-year contract with Angel City FC in June, will be replaced on the roster by Aïssatou Tounkara, the French Football Federation announced.

The former French captain had recently returned to the national team after a longstanding dispute with Corinne Diacre, who was fired as head coach in March due to a “very significant divide” within the team.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto, France

The 24-year-old striker tore her ACL last July during the Euros tournament. She reportedly had to pull back from her recovery at the beginning of the year, and while she has since resumed running and weight-bearing exercises, she will be unable to join France at the World Cup.

Katoto underwent medical exams on May 30 at the training ground for the France women’s national team, and she was ruled unfit to participate in the tournament, French news agency AFP reported. France coach Herve Renard will reveal his World Cup roster on June 6.

Fran Kirby, England

Kirby is slated to undergo surgery on a knee injury she sustained in February, which will keep her out of World Cup contention, she revealed on May 2.

The 29-year-old midfielder had been trying to rehab her knee since exiting the pitch during a Chelsea match on Feb. 9. But after a reassessment with a specialist and the Chelsea medical team, she will have surgery to repair the injury. Details of the injury have not been disclosed.

“I have been trying my best to not have to undergo this but unfortunately my progress has been limited due to the issue in my knee,” Kirby wrote in a social media post. “I’m absolutely gutted to announce that this means my season is over and I will not be able to make the World Cup in the summer.”

Catarina Macario, United States

After tearing her ACL last June, the initial recovery timeline would have had the 23-year-old back on the pitch in plenty of time for this summer’s World Cup. But she “won’t be physically ready for selection,” she announced on May 23.

“The desire to return to play for my club and country has driven my training and fueled my everyday life,” she wrote. “However, what’s most important right now is my health and getting fit and ready for my next club season.”

Beth Mead, England

Another Arsenal injury, the 27-year-old striker ruptured her ACL last November during Women’s Super League play.

While Mead said in early May that she was “ahead of schedule” in her recovery, she did not make the England roster for the World Cup, as revealed on May 31.

Sam Mewis, United States

After dealing with a nagging injury since the Tokyo Olympics in August 2021, the 30-year-old midfielder underwent knee surgery in January.

“I don’t have a timeline for return to soccer,” she said after the surgery, all but certainly cementing her absence from the U.S. women’s national team lineup for the World Cup.

Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands

Miedema went down with a torn ACL while playing for Arsenal in December. The all-time leading scorer for the Netherlands, the 26-year-old forward ruled herself out of the World Cup in a statement.

“I won’t be able to help my team anymore this season, no World Cup, surgery and rehab for a long time,” she said.

Hazel Nali, Zambia

Zambia’s starting goalkeeper Hazel Nali will miss the World Cup after suffering an ACL tear. The announcement came on July 12, mere days before the World Cup kicks off on July 20.

Nali has been a standout in net for Zambia, making her senior national team debut in 2014. She played for the senior team at the 2014 African Women’s Championship, the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations and the 2020 COSAFA Women’s Championship, as well as at the Tokyo Olympics.

Christen Press, United States

The 34-year-old forward has had three surgeries on the same knee in eight months since she tore the ACL in her right knee last June during the NWSL regular season.

She has yet to feature for Angel City FC this season and is still listed under a season-ending injury designation carried over from 2022. Press had held out hope for a spot on the plane to New Zealand, but she was not selected to coach Vlatko Andonovski’s final 23-player roster as she continues to recover.

“There has never been a moment where I lost hope and that I took my focus off of the World Cup, from the moment that I got injured until now,” Press said in May. “It’s the North Star for all of us professional players and it’s a motivation.”

Katie Rood, New Zealand

The 30-year-old forward has “joined the ACL club,” she announced Monday via Instagram.

Rood tore her ACL while playing for Heart of Midlothian WFC in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. A member of the New Zealand national team since 2017, she’s made 15 appearance and notched five goals.

“Obviously gutted about it,” she wrote. “I have intended to return to NZ in June for a training camp to have one final crack at making the World Cup team. Looks like life has other plans for me.. and as gutted as I am about the World Cup dream being over, I’m beginning to look forward to seeing what other opportunities are out there for me.”

Becky Sauerbrunn

USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn was ruled out of the World Cup due to a lingering foot injury, in news she confirmed days before the team’s roster reveal.

The starting center-back said she, too, had held out “like 10% hope” of making the U.S. roster, but ultimately her timeline for recovery did not match up with the USWNT’s needs.

“It sucks, like it’s such a bummer,” she said on the Snacks podcast. “I really thought that I was gonna get back in time. Had a setback, you know, we gave them timelines where I could feasibly have played minutes at the World Cup. But the variability of it was, they just didn’t want to have to deal with that.”

Mallory Swanson, United States

Swanson’s injury is not a torn ACL, but it’s just as serious: a torn patellar tendon. The 24-year-old forward had surgery to repair the ligament, which she tore in the USWNT’s first April match against Ireland. Patellar tendon tears typically have at least a six-month recovery timeline, although that can extend to as long as 12 months, so Swanson will miss the World Cup.

Leah Williamson, England

The 26-year-old Arsenal defender tore her ACL during an April match.

“Unfortunately the World Cup and Champions League dream is over for me and everyone will think that’s the main focus, but it’s the day to day of what I’m going through that’s the most draining of my thoughts,” she said in an Instagram post.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind: The 2023 Women’s World Cup is going to be the most competitive the world has ever seen. With an expanded 32-team field, expect twists and turns as the exponential growth of the game in the last four years culminates in a tournament where any one of the top teams could hoist the trophy.

Let’s take a look at a few perennial contenders in alphabetical order, all of whom have the ability to win it all. One of the exciting aspects of the 2023 event is that no team is perfect, with strengths and weaknesses that should make for instant classics.

Australia

Players to watch

Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Mary Fowler

Why they could win the World Cup

The Matildas have arguably never looked more comfortable going into a major tournament as they have in 2023. Manager Tony Gustavsson has the team firing on almost all cylinders, with wins over Spain, England and France in friendlies just this calendar year. Australia as a group has the creative instincts and forward-facing talent that allow them to score at will against even the most seasoned backlines. They’ve integrated younger players into the squad to shore up positions of need, and have played with a more complete style than in 2019 or even the Tokyo Olympics, with a vastly improved defensive performance in recent months. Even without star forward Sam Kerr, who strained her calf in training this week, Australia grabbed a 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup opener on Thursday.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

Heavy is the head that wears the host’s crown at a World Cup, with no host country winning the event on the women’s side since the U.S. achieved the feat in 1999. While the Matildas will have home-crowd advantage throughout the tournament, they’ll face an extra amount of pressure that even the steadiest teams can struggle with — the kind that also saw them falter in the 2022 Asian Cup. Australia has historically been a team that can be goaded into a shootout, with the ability to concede goals as well as score them.

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Brazil forward Marta announced the 2023 World Cup will be her last. (James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

Brazil

Players to watch

Kerolin, Geyse, Rafaelle, Debinha

Why they could win the World Cup

Four years after Marta’s impassioned speech encouraging the next generation of Brazilian stars to commit to the hard work of playing for the crest, the Brazil roster looks as balanced as ever. Marta actually encouraged a number of her protégés to join her in the physical, highly transitional NWSL, where stars like Kerolin and Debinha have thrived. Passion for an elder is a galvanizing force, and Brazil will do everything in its power to win one for its legendary leader, who has announced this World Cup will be her last.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

Brazil’s weaknesses are almost baked into the team’s identity as much as their overwhelming strengths. They’re a creative team whose poise on the ball and tenacity in quick transition puts opponents on their heels. But they also can fall victim to their own approach, conceding more goals than they can score. It will take organization in the back combined with attacking fireworks to win a World Cup.

Canada

Players to watch

Kailen Sheridan, Vanessa Gilles, Ashley Lawrence, Jordyn Huitema

Why they could win the World Cup

Canada is a contender for World Cup gold for the same reason they are reigning Olympic champions: Their defensive spine is very hard to penetrate, and they have enough attacking discipline to grind out results. Coach Bev Priestman has done a very impressive job infusing the squad with a balance of youth and experience, with players from top clubs across the globe coming together to form a tight unit.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

The way Canada won Olympic gold isn’t foolproof, as the team used a defensive clampdown and penalty opportunities to keep games close and grit out wins. They’ve also had their fair share of injuries, giving them less time to gel on the pitch as in former years. They also haven’t had sufficient federation support to show up as their best selves, with few camps and friendlies in 2023 due to Canada Soccer’s financial distress. The team greatly struggled through the 2023 SheBelieves Cup tournament while playing under similar duress.

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Rachel Daly and England are considered one of the favorites to win it all. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

England

Players to watch

Lauren James, Kiera Walsh, Alessia Russo, Millie Bright

Why they could win the World Cup

England, the reigning European champions, still appear to be the most balanced and deepest team in the world despite suffering injuries to both their defense and their frontline. Lauren James and Alessia Russo are ready for significant roles in the attack, and the Lionesses’ midfield is second to none as orchestrated by maestro Kiera Walsh. They also have one of the most consistent managers in all of women’s international football in Sarina Wiegman, whose trademark as England’s coach has been a team playing with singular purpose.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

There are two main barriers between the Lionesses and their first World Cup title, and they go hand in hand. With a grueling 2022 schedule that included the fall-to-spring club seasons running alongside their Euros campaign, England suffered injuries to key players, namely captain Leah Williamson and star forward Beth Mead. Outside of obvious absences, the downside of great success is the fatigue that can follow. The postponed Euros were held only one year before this year’s World Cup, and top teams have always struggled with calendar back-to-back tournaments. England has had trouble scoring in recent friendlies, perhaps indicating that the gas tank is beginning to empty.

France

Players to watch

Wendie Renard, Grace Geyoro, Kadidiatou Diani, Selma Bacha

Why they could win the World Cup

France at times this year has looked like a squad with a new lease on life. After the effective ouster of longtime manager Corinne Diacre, once-alienated leaders have been brought back into the fold under new head coach Hervé Renard, who is well respected in both the men’s and the women’s game. France has long had the ability to dominate through possession and force tempo when necessary, and under Renard, they’ve introduced an urgency that can steamroll opponents.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

The FFF should have made the coaching change long before their hand was forced. Now, the roster has had less time to gel under new management than is ideal. France has also dealt with their share of injuries, most notably to Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Amandine Henry. If France has trouble unlocking their opponent’s defense for long stretches of play, they’ll need to avoid falling into bad patterns that have led to early exits in the past.

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Lena Oberdorf, Germany's midfield anchor, will miss the World Cup opener. (Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)

Germany

Players to watch

Lena Oberdorf, Alexandra Popp, Sara Däbritz, Jule Brand

Why they could win the World Cup

In 2022, Germany turned what was supposed to be a learning experience for a young group into a run that almost ended in Euros glory. A balanced team with both rising and experienced talent, Germany has seemed to address what ailed them in 2019 by developing a much stronger spine. Lena Oberdorf is arguably the most dominant No. 6 in the world who can disrupt opposing play while resetting her team’s attack.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

When Oberdorf is not on the pitch, some of Germany’s old defensive issues persist. The center-backs can be stretched out of position, particularly in a fast-paced, highly transitional game. The team’s recent 3-2 loss to Zambia in a tune-up game is a good example of what can go wrong for the squad when Oberdorf needs to rest her legs (the midfielder will miss the tournament opener with muscle tightness). Their belief and attacking firepower never waver, but they can’t let their defensive discipline rely too much on one player who won’t play every single minute of the tournament.

Japan

Players to watch

Maika Hamano, Jun Endo, Hina Sugita, Yui Hasegawa

Why they could win the World Cup

Aesthetically, Japan has been one of the most enjoyable squads to watch in 2023. A young, hungry group with tactical flair and an impeccable ability to exploit space, Japan can progress the ball through build-up play as well as any other contender on this list. After losing ground following their 2011 World Cup win and 2015 World Cup final appearance, the roster has been completely refreshed under new management after a disappointing Tokyo Olympic campaign. Japan’s approach has been to lean into what is already working on the youth levels, and they’re beginning to see results.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

This World Cup may have simply come a little too soon for a project that needs more time. Currently, Japan is a team that makes the hard parts look easy and the easy parts look difficult, as they try to convert their dominance in between the penalty areas into comfortable wins. Japan has a few lethal attackers, particularly on the wings, but it would take a big step forward in real time for the team to overcome opponents who have had more time to prepare.

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Spain star Alexia Putellas returned to the roster from an ACL injury just in time for the World Cup. (Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Spain

Players to watch

Alexia Putellas, Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmati, Salma Paralluelo

Why they could win the World Cup

If you’ve been following the domestic game in Europe over the last four years, Spain’s ascendency into the upper echelon of international soccer has been all but guaranteed. Spain’s roster pulls heavily from domestic talent developed through the country’s two main powerhouses, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, who have been the premier clubs in the world in recent years. They can move the ball with ease and control games well after taking leads through passing combinations.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

Unlike France, Spain’s federation has stuck with embattled manager Jorge Vilda after a number of stars refused call-ups to the team over their unhappiness with the direction of the squad. RFEF’s refusal to concede to player concerns has already had quantifiable impact, with sure starters Patricia Guijarro and Mapi Leon choosing to sit the tournament out in protest. In short, Spain might still be talented enough to fight through adversity, but the federation’s refusal to get out of their own way greatly hampers the team’s potential.

Sweden

Players to watch

Fridolina Rolfö, Stina Blackstenius, Magdalena Eriksson, Kosovare Asllani

Why they could win the World Cup

The USWNT’s longtime adversary, Sweden has shown their blueprint for success at a number of international tournaments. In their silver-medal performance at the Tokyo Olympics, they humbled the U.S. 3-0 in their first match of the tournament. Sweden’s willingness as a group to do the dirty work defensively to disrupt opponents and send the ball the other way has been an attribute that puts them on even footing with any opponent.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

Sweden has been another team dealing with injury: Olympic star Hanna Glas is out indefinitely as she recovers from a knee injury, and fellow defender Hanna Lundkvist recently went down in the team’s final closed-door friendly. Sweden’s dependable core of elite players are also aging, which could pose problems for the team in a difficult group-stage draw.

United States

Players to watch

Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma, Trinity Rodman, Rose Lavelle

Why they could win the World Cup

The U.S. still has one of the deepest player pools in international soccer, bringing a number of strengths to their quest for a third straight World Cup title. Their attacking firepower will be difficult to match, especially on the wings. They also had room to bring creative midfielders and specialists who can beat their opponents in a number of different ways.

Why they won’t win the World Cup

Frankly, there is a reason why no team has won three straight titles before. The U.S. will be up against their own roster rotation, injuries to key contributors, positional imbalances and the challenge of forcing tempo for a full 90 minutes. There’s also the fact that the rest of the field has grown in talent with every passing year. Unwilling to commit fully to 2023 as a development year, the U.S. under Vlatko Andonovski is trying to do many things at once, sometimes without executing those things well. It could simply take one day where the mental discipline slips, and the U.S. has to go back to the drawing board.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Wendie Renard has returned to the France women’s national team in the first roster under new coach Hervé Renard.

The 32-year-old defender stepped away from the team in February alongside fellow stars Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto. The players cited growing dissatisfaction with team leadership and called for “necessary changes” as a prerequisite for their return. While not mentioned directly by the players, then-coach Corinne Diacre was cited as a major reason behind their decision.

During her tenure, Diacre clashed with many players. After the star players made their stand in February, the coach was fired by the French Football Federation in March.

The federation pointed to the “fracture” in Diacre’s relationship with players and “irreversible” dysfunction in its decision to part ways with Diacre. The “very significant divide” within the team “has reached a point of no return,” the FFF said.

Hervé Renard, no relation to Wendie, was announced as the new France women’s national team coach Thursday ahead of the team’s April friendlies against Colombia and Canada.

On his first roster, Wendie Renard has returned to the team. Diani and Katoto are injured and thus were not included on the roster. But whether or not Renard will once again be captain of the team remains a question mark.

“I always make it a practice to let the interested parties know before anyone else,” Hervé Renard said. “First I’ll have a chat with her and get the pulse of this group, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Just a day after France women’s national team coach Corinne Diacre vowed to remain at the helm despite the departures of key players, the national federation dismissed her from her post.

The French Football Federation pointed to the “fracture” in her relationship with the players in its announcement of the decision Thursday. The “very significant divide” within the team “has reached a point of no return,” the FFF said.

Three top French players had refused to play for their country in this summer’s World Cup under the “current system,” they announced on Feb. 24.

France captain Wendie Renard and star forwards Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani all cited issues with Les Bleues management in their decisions to step away from the national team. Both Katoto and Diani called for “necessary changes” as a prerequisite for their return.

Yet Diacre pushed back against the criticism of her leadership.

“I have been the subject of a smear campaign that is astonishing in its violence and dishonesty,” she said in a statement Wednesday.

The FFF executive committee cited “irreversible” dysfunction in its decision to part ways with the 48-year-old coach. A four-person panel commissioned by interim FFF president Philippe Diallo had reviewed Diacre’s tenure in the wake of the players’ departures.

Diacre had coached the France senior national team since 2017. She was involved in a number of controversies during her tenure. She stripped Renard of her captaincy in 2017 before reinstating her as captain in 2021, and she left Katoto off the 2019 World Cup squad.

The four-person panel has been charged with finding a replacement coach “as soon as possible” as the team, No. 5 in FIFA’s world rankings, continues its preparations for the World Cup.

France women’s national team coach Corinne Diacre has vowed to remain at the helm despite the departures of several top players.

Three top French players have refused to play for their country in this summer’s World Cup under the “current system,” they announced on Feb. 24.

France captain Wendie Renard and star forwards Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani all cited issues with Les Bleues management in their decisions to step away from the national team. Both Katoto and Diani called for “necessary changes” as a prerequisite for their return to the team.

Yet Diacre plans to stay on as coach through the World Cup, she said in a statement released Wednesday. She also pushed back against criticism of her leadership.

“I have been the subject of a smear campaign that is astonishing in its violence and dishonesty,” she said.

Diacre has coached the France senior national team since 2017, but she has been involved in a number of controversies during her tenure. For example, she stripped Renard of her captaincy in 2017 before reinstating her as captain in 2021. She also left Katoto off the 2019 World Cup squad.

“My detractors have not hesitated to attack my personal and professional integrity without bothering with the truth,” Diacre said. “I will not let myself be affected by this destabilization operation, which does not take into account my sporting record, and whose only objective is a personal settling of scores.”

French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët resigned in February, which brought a temporary halt to the FFF’s consideration of Diacre’s fate. Her future will be discussed at a meeting of the FFF executive committee on Thursday, per reports.

France women’s national team coach Corinne Diacre remains in limbo after three top players refused to play for their country in the upcoming World Cup under the “current system.”

While she was expected to step down from her post on Tuesday, as The Times reported Monday, the resignation of French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët has halted plans regarding Diacre’s fate. Her future with the team will be decided at a March 9 meeting of the FFF executive committee.

Le Graët had served as FFF president since 2011 but resigned in the wake of sexual harassment and bullying allegations surfaced. In his absence, the executive committee will appoint a small group from among its members to consider Diacre’s case, French newspaper L’Equipe reported.

The furor over Diacre’s leadership came to a head last Friday, as France captain Wendie Renard and star forwards Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani all cited issues with Les Bleues management in their decisions to step away from the national team. Both Katoto and Diani called for “necessary changes” as a prerequisite for their return to the team.

The World Cup is set to kick off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

In response to the players’ statements, the FFF announced that its executive committee would address the issue at its meeting Tuesday. “The FFF would like to remind that no individual is above the Équipe de France institution,” the statement said.

Diacre has coached the France senior national team since 2017, but she has been involved in a number of controversies in her tenure. For example, she stripped Renard of her captaincy in 2017 before reinstating her as captain in 2021. She also left Katoto off the 2019 World Cup squad.