Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are submitting a bid to FIFA to host the 2027 Women’s World Cup, the countries’ football associations said Friday.

Brazil submitted their bid to host last month, while the United States and Mexico have also expressed interest.

Friday is the deadline for member associations to submit their bids to FIFA. South Africa had also submitted a bid, but withdrew that last month in favor of presenting a “well-prepared bid” for the 2031 World Cup.

“Extensive and detailed consultations between the three federations along with key stakeholders including central governments dates back to 2021,” the Dutch football federation (KNVB) said in a statement. “This has led to alignment around the belief that our three countries are well placed to stage a FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027 of unparalleled quality and impact.”

Bid cities for the countries’ bid include Brussels, the capital of Belgium; Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands; as well as Düsseldorf and Cologne Germany.

FIFA will conduct on-site inspection visits to bidding countries in February. FIFA Congress will then appoint the 2027 World Cup hosts in May.

Germany has hosted the Women’s World Cup once before, back in 2011, after having won the 2003 and 2007 editions of the World Cup.

This year, Australia and New Zealand hosted the World Cup, which was won by Spain.

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: Knockout bracket set after Germany’s shock elimination

Another powerhouse is out of the World Cup as Germany was eliminated in the group stage for the first time. A 1-1 draw with South Korea, coupled with Morocco’s 1-0 win against Colombia, sealed Germany’s fate.

Cho So-hyun got South Korea on the board early with a goal in the sixth minute. Germany responded with a goal from Alexandra Popp in the 42nd minute but failed to add to that total despite managing 14 shots, including four on target.

Germany held possession for 71% of the match, more than doubling South Korea on passes and completing 77% of their attempts. Despite the Germans’ dominance in the attacking territory, they failed to convert, including on a would-be goal from Popp in the 56th minute disallowed due to an offside call.

With the surprise exit, Germany joins Brazil as pre-tournament favorites who will not advance to the knockout rounds. The bracket for the Round of 16 is set, with either Colombia or Jamaica sure to reach the quarterfinals for the first time ever. And while the USWNT faces a tough test in Sweden, Germany’s exit proves that this World Cup is impossible to predict.

Today’s top highlight: Morocco reacts to knockout round berth

After a 1-0 win against Colombia, Morocco still needed the other Group H match between Germany and South Korea game to go its way in order to advance.

Huddled on the field after their match had ended, Moroccan players watched as the time ticked down on Germany’s World Cup run, sending them to the Round of 16. And their reaction is something you’ll want to watch on repeat.

Today’s results:

  • Morocco 1, Colombia 0
  • South Korea 1, Germany 1

More World Cup news to know:

  • USWNT captain Lindsey Horan pushed back on the negative commentary from Carli Lloyd. “It’s noise and, again, it’s an opinion and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. … For anyone to question our mentality hurts a little bit but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really care. It’s what’s going inside of the team and getting ready for that next game.”
  • South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana revealed that she has lost three family members in the span of the World Cup run. After scoring the game winner to send the Banyana Banyana into the knockout stages, she said that while she “could have gone home” she “chose to stay with my girls because I know how much it means.”
  • Pia Sundhage’s future with Brazil is up in the air, ESPN Brasil reported. While her contract runs through next year, she may not be with the team through the Paris Olympics in 2024. This tournament marks the first time since 1995 that Brazil did not reach the knockout rounds.
  • Spain forward Jenni Hermoso called on her country for support while also calling out the criticism the team has faced. “I think there are people waiting for Spain to slip up, I do think that. … 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.”

From the U.S. women’s national team posting its worst-ever group-stage result to Olympic champion Canada making an early exit, those watching the 2023 World Cup may notice some differences from years past.

Alongside the obvious markers of change, such as the expanded 32-team format, unexpected results have underscored the shifting women’s soccer landscape. What are some of the signs of history in the making? Just Women’s Sports takes a look.

Canada becomes first Olympic champion to exit in group stage

Canada was eliminated from the tournament in a crushing 4-0 loss to Australia, becoming the first reigning Olympic champions to go out in the group stage. The result caps a months-long dispute with Canada Soccer over their pay, which finally reached a tentative conclusion over the weekend – just before the team was set to fight for its World Cup life. The loss made an already tough couple of months for Canada even tougher. But after the match, players and coach Bev Priestman refused to put the blame on their struggles off the field.

“Has it been a really really tough year? Absolutely,” Priestman said. “But at the end of the day, we came here tonight thinking we should have been able to win. And we didn’t. And we have to reflect on that.”

Christine Sinclair, who was playing in her sixth career World Cup for Canada, agreed, but she did express hope that the result would serve as a “wake-up call” for the national federation.

“We’ve been battling our federation for support but I can’t put this [loss] on [Canada Soccer],” Sinclair said. “We’re 23 players and staff and we didn’t get it done tonight. More of it is a wake-up call for our federation, the lack of a professional league [in Canada], the lack of support for youth national teams, I think you’re just going to continue to see teams reach our level, surpass us, whatever you want to call it, if things don’t change.”

New Zealand is first host to bow out in group stage

Tournament co-host New Zealand started with a bang, earning its first-ever win World Cup win with a 1-0 result against Norway. It was a historic moment, and it captured everything the World Cup should be: the beauty of the game, the emotions of the players, what women’s football can mean for a country if we let it.

Yet while the Football Ferns made some positive history, they also made an unfavorable mark in the World Cup record books. They followed up their win with a stunning loss to the Philippines in their second game, then a draw with Switzerland, finishing third in their group and becoming the first tournament hosts eliminated before the knockout stage. Still, captain Ali Riley remained upbeat.

“I really think that we’ve inspired the country,” she said. “I hope that little girls across New Zealand and the world now will start playing sport and feel like they can achieve whatever they put their mind to and just dream bigger.”

Colombia hands Germany its first group-stage loss since 1995

Colombia has been one of the most exciting countries to grace this tournament, led by 18-year-old Linda Caicedo.

Caicedo provided the team’s first goal against powerhouse Germany, which stood as the lone goal in the match until the 89th minute. While Germany scored at the death, Colombia’s Manuela Vanegas wouldn’t let her team be denied. The 22-year-old scored the game-winner in the seventh minute of extra time to clinch the improbable 2-1 win and a spot in the knockout rounds.

While Germany dominated every aspect of the game, from shots to possession to passes, Colombia notched its biggest win to date — and the first group-stage win over Germany by any team since 1995. Colombia advances to the Round of 16 for just the second time.

“It’s a win that’s very, very important,” Vanegas said. “It’s a win against one of the World Cup favorites for a lot of people. But Colombia obviously played very well. It’s (a product of) all the work that people don’t see. We made history. What happened today is historic.

“We want to keep making history — not only today, but tomorrow, too.”

Four World Cup debutantes leave with group-stage wins

Four of the eight World Cup debutantes are leaving the tournament with a group-stage win: Morocco, Zambia, the Philippines and Portugal. Their success marks a historic moment for the tournament, which expanded to 32 teams from 24 this year, bringing it in line with the men’s World Cup.

Morocco is the first Arab country to take part in the Women’s World Cup, and it made its mark with a 1-0 win against South Korea. Additionally, Nouhaila Benzina became the first player to wear a hijab in a game in the history of the World Cup.

“We are just so pleased our efforts have paid off,” Morocco forward Ibtissam Jraïdi said. “This victory is for Morocco and Arabs — it’s the fruit of our hard work.”

USWNT wins just one group stage game for the first time

Add one more statistic to Vlatko Andonovski’s résumé: For the first time, the USWNT finished the World Cup group stage without at least two wins.

A 1-1 draw with the Netherlands and a lackluster performance against Portugal have the USWNT limping into the Round of 16. The possibility of a World Cup three-peat remains alive thanks to a goalpost; if not for a late Portugal shot ricocheting off the post to preserve Tuesday’s 0-0 draw, the USWNT would have made even more unfathomable history.

Perhaps what has been the most infuriating is Andonovski’s refusal to implement (or even consider) tactical changes. The group-stage results made clear that something needs to change, but he is unwilling to change it. The USWNT and its players might still hold the will to win, but what good is will when the way won’t change?

And as the runners-up in Group E, the two-time defending champions now face an even tougher road in the knockout rounds. The USWNT has never bowed out before the semifinals at a World Cup, but that could change this year.

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: Australia advances to knockout stage with emphatic win

Australia entered its final group-stage match against Canada on the brink of elimination. But even before halftime, the Matildas silenced any doubts about their chances to advance in their home World Cup en route to an emphatic 4-0 win.

Hayley Raso had a brace before the half to put her team up 2-0. A third would-be goal for Australia was ruled offside on a VAR review. And the goals didn’t stop coming after the half, with Mary Fowler and Stephanie Catley both adding their names to the scoresheet.

While Australia held possession for just 38% of the match, the lopsided win put the World Cup co-hosts through to the knockout stage. Canada was eliminated with the loss, while Nigeria will advance as the runner-up from Group B.

Australia star Sam Kerr, who missed the first two matches with a calf injury, was available but did not feature in the victory. She will have another week to get rested and ready for the Round of 16, which kicks off Saturday.

Today’s top highlight: Christine Sinclair leaves World Cup pitch ‘one last time’

Canada captain Christine Sinclair paused to pick blades of grass as she exited the pitch after the loss to Australia, which brought to an end her sixth career World Cup appearance.

“It’s the end of the World Cup and I’m probably not going to play in another one,” the 40-year-old told TSN’s Claire Hanna. “I’m leaving the pitch one last time in a World Cup.”

Sinclair reflected on her team and their journey together while speaking with TSN after the match.

“We go through everything together,” she said. “Winning and losing, it’s all part of the game. It’s why we love this sport. We’ve always said we’re a family, and we do it together. Whether we win an Olympic gold medal or lose in the group stage of a World Cup, we do it together.”

Today’s results:

  • Japan 4, Spain 0
  • Zambia 3, Costa Rica 1
  • Republic of Ireland 0, Nigeria 0
  • Australia 4, Canada 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • Spain’s Aitana Bonmatí didn’t mince words after the 4-0 loss to Japan. “[The team is] p—-d off, I am very p—-d off,” she said. “We have to be able to move forward however possible; you have to ride with the punches in football. Today was not our best game and we know we have to improve a lot of things if we want to continue in the tournament.”
  • Despite holding the lowest FIFA ranking in Group B at No. 40, Nigeria has advanced to the Round of 16 thanks to a dream group stage, which ended in a scoreless draw with Ireland. The Super Falcons likely will play England in the Round of 16.
  • Germany needs to play “smarter” after a 2-1 group stage loss to Colombia, according to coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. “I think you have to play deep then, I don’t think that we should have acted like this. And that’s where we need to learn our lessons, we needed to focus on ending the game 1-1 but I think my team rather tried to win 2-1,” she said. “We need to be smarter than that, we need to think of the result. Because of our goal difference, with a draw we would have still been first [in the group] which would have been good for us mentally.”

Every team at the 2023 World Cup has now played their first group stage match, with a number of fun surprises and close matchups underlining the competitive nature of this year’s tournament.

With no 13-0-style blowouts in sight, players from across the globe had to step up their games to ensure three points for their teams. In a strong first week for World Cup debuts, players participating in their first major international tournaments are quickly making their mark on the competition.

Here are a few of the top performers from the first round of the group stage who might be the key to their squads going all the way.

Ary Borges, Brazil

Borges, a star forward for Racing Louisville in the NWSL, kicked off Brazil’s World Cup campaign with a bang against Panama. The 23-year-old scored a hat trick in her first career World Cup start, leading the way as Brazil cruised to a 5-0 win. The forward also notched an assist, contributing to four of Brazil’s five goals.

Brazil’s next generation is eager to win the country’s first Women’s World Cup title in honor of the legacy of players like Marta and Formiga, and Borges is one of those players who has been building toward this moment. She connects well with World Cup talent in Louisville, such as the USWNT’s Savannah DeMelo and China’s Wang Shuang. She’s scored two goals in all NWSL competitions so far in 2023, but her introduction to the world stage could not be denied.

Sophia Smith, United States

Going into this World Cup, the USWNT’s hopes for a three-peat placed a lot of pressure on 22-year-old Sophia Smith, the reigning NWSL MVP. If Smith felt the pressure in first major international tournament, she didn’t show it as she contributed to all three of the USWNT’s goals against Vietnam.

With the USWNT, Smith is tasked with being more versatile from her winger position, something that has not slowed down her scoring output. She’ll be relied upon once again in the reigning World Cup champions’ next group stage match against the Netherlands on Wednesday night. A win would put the USWNT in control of their own destiny in Group E.

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Alexandra Popp scored a brace for Germany in their opener after missing last year's Euros final. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Alexandra Popp, Germany

At the age of 32, Alexandra Popp is playing some of the best soccer of her career, just in time for Germany’s chance to lift the World Cup trophy for the third time. Playing in her fourth World Cup, Popp is Germany’s imposing target striker, scoring with her head as well as her feet. She made her presence felt with a brace in Germany’s 6-0 opening win over Morocco, the biggest margin of victory in the World Cup thus far.

When Germany made a surprise run to the European Championship final in 2022, Popp missed the eventual loss to England due to injury. Her form has not waned in the year since then, with the forward scoring a goal for her club, Wolfsburg, in the 2023 Champions League final. Popp’s presence on the field at this World Cup could be the difference-maker that puts Germany over the top.

Linda Caicedo, Colombia

The 2023 World Cup is 18–year-old Linda Caicedo’s third in the past year: She starred at both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups before taking the 2022 Copa America Femenil by storm with Colombia’s senior team. In her senior World Cup debut against South Korea, she looked like the most technically advanced player on the field, controlling play and notching her first senior World Cup goal to put the game out of reach.

Caicedo is just getting started, signing with Real Madrid earlier this year to take her game to the next level. She’ll need to step up even more in Colombia’s next two games, as her team aims to make it out of Group F alongside Germany. Colombia is making its return to the world stage after missing the tournament in 2019, but with Caicedo leading the way, they won’t stay under the radar for long.

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Angel City's Jun Endo is off to a hot start for Japan at the World Cup. (Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images)

Jun Endo, Japan

The vision for Japan’s rebuild materialized in their opening 5-0 victory over Zambia, not least due to the contributions of World Cup debutante Jun Endo. A force with Angel City FC in the NWSL, Endo gave Zambia’s defenders very little time to compose themselves, often getting to the endline and cutting in centrally to generate an overwhelming pace of attack.

Endo finished the match with a goal and an assist, as well as a number of good chances called back for marginal offsides. But what sets the winger apart is her ability to control the tempo of the match while still executing with the perfect timing to find her teammates in space. All the more impressive is that the performance came after Endo suffered a knee injury at the club level, briefly putting her World Cup dreams in doubt. The 23-year-old brings an edge that her teammates feed off of, and that energy could lead Japan — who also defeated Costa Rica 2-0 on Wednesday — all the way to the final.

Melchie Dumornay, Haiti

Haiti has a difficult task ahead of them to get out of their group, after a slim 1-0 loss to England in their tournament opener, but they still have a global star on their hands. Nineteen-year-old Melchie Dumornay looked like the generational talent she’s been heralded as in the game against the reigning European champions. The new Olympique Lyon signing came into the tournament as one of the breakout stars of Concacaf W qualifying in 2022, and she raised her game to a new level on the biggest stage.

With Haiti as heavy underdogs, Dumornay needed to not only generate attack, but also retain as much possession as possible to relieve pressure on the defense behind her. Her constant motor is an underrated facet of her game, allowing her to push back into Haiti’s defensive midfield and defense to get the ball, and then evade defenders with her dribbling as she progresses into the attacking third.

Haiti will have to get through Denmark for a shot at extending their stay at their first World Cup, but with Dumornay on the field, anything is possible.

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

The 2023 World Cup is just getting started, but it’s never too early to look at the possible path to the title for the U.S. women’s national team.

What opponents could the USWNT face on its route to a third consecutive World Cup championship? Just Women’s Sports used the FIFA world rankings to pick projected winners for each group and then for each match in the knockout stage, all the way through to the World Cup final on Aug. 20.

Check out the projected bracket and the USWNT’s projected opponents.

Round of 16: Italy

As the No. 1 team in the FIFA rankings, the USWNT would be expected to advance as the top team out of Group E. After starting the tournament with a 3-0 win against Vietnam, the U.S. still has to face the Netherlands and Portugal to close out the group stage.

The winner from Group E will face the runner-up from Group G in the first round of the knockout stage. Based on FIFA rankings, No. 16 Italy would be expected to finish second to No. 3 Sweden in Group G. Striker Cristiana Girelli could be dangerous for Italy, but the multifaceted USWNT would be a tough draw.

Quarterfinals: Japan

Japan sits at No. 11 in the FIFA world rankings, which puts them as the projected runner-up out of Group C behind Spain. But after a 5-0 win in their World Cup opener, the 2011 World Cup champions are ahead of every team in chaotic Group A, which could open a path to the quarterfinals.

Japan and the USWNT have recent World cup history, facing off in back-to-back championship matches in 2011 and 2015. But this year’s younger Japan squad is relatively unknown to the USWNT — and the same could be said in reverse, as the USWNT features 14 World Cup debutantes itself. Japan does have urgency on its side, as the players want to provide a clear path forward for women’s soccer in their country.

Semifinals: Sweden

Sweden gave the USWNT its toughest match in the group stage at the 2019 World Cup, then reached the tournament semifinals before falling to runner-up Netherlands. The squad also has had good Olympic luck against the USWNT, winning 3-0 in the group stage in 2021 and winning 4-3 on penalties in the semifinals in 2016.

Barcelona star Fridolina Rolfö headlines a group of world-class players for Sweden, which also features Sofia Jakobsson, Anna Sandberg, Stina Blackstenius and Kosovare Asllani. Sweden has all the tools to beat the USWNT — it’s just a question of whether the team can put all the pieces together.

Final: England or Germany

England and Germany met in the 2022 Euros final. The teams could be headed for a rematch at the 2023 World Cup, and the projected quarterfinal clash between the heavyweights would hold the import of a tournament final. Certainly, the winner of a match between world No. 4 England and No. 2 Germany would emerge as the favorite to reach the championship from that half of the bracket.

Both teams bested the USWNT in friendlies last fall. England scored a 2-1 against the USWNT at London’s Wembley Stadium in October, and then Germany and the USWNT split a pair of friendlies stateside in November. Germany had the more impressive start to the World Cup, but the Sarina Wiegman-led Lionesses are just as formidable.

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: Germany and Brazil impress with emphatic wins

Despite some surprising results and close calls over the first few days, Germany and Brazil looked every bit the favorites in their opening wins.

An Ary Borges hat trick for Brazil and Alexandra Popp brace for Germany headlined the final day of the first round of group-stage games.

Popp, Germany’s captain, opened the scoring for her team, then netted another just before the half. Klara Bühl and Lea Schüller also found the back of the next for Germany, which also benefited from two own goals by Morocco in a 6-0 win.

Germany managed the lopsided scoreline even without star player Lena Oberdorf, who missed the match with a thigh strain. The 21-year-old should be back soon, but her team proved it can do just fine without her. Germany next will face Colombia, which is gearing up to play its opening match against South Korea.

Meanwhile, Brazil put on a clinic against Panama, with Ary Borges netting a hat trick in her World Cup debut. She also added an assist on a goal by Bia Zaneratto. Brazil looked every bit a World Cup contender, with style and chemistry that had not yet been seen in this year’s tournament.

Brazil dominated possession, holding the ball for 73% of the match, and posted 10 shots on goal compared to two for Panama. The Seleçãos next will play France and undoubtedly will enter as the favorite.

Today’s top highlight: Ary Borges gives up hat trick

While Borges later would net the first hat trick of this year’s World Cup, she gave up her first opportunity, instead passing the ball to teammate Bia Zaneratto. Still, the backheel flick from the Racing Louisville midfielder was a highlight in and of itself.

Borges later secured the hat trick with a nutmeg header, which went between the goalkeeper’s legs. What a coming out party for the 23-year-old at the World Cup.

Today’s results:

  • Italy 1, Argentina 0
  • Germany 6, Morocco 0
  • Brazil 4, Panama 0
  • Colombia vs. South Korea — 10 p.m. ET

More World Cup news to know:

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.

The U.S. women’s national team remains the favorite to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and the field looks as wide open as ever after a wild international window.

While the USWNT looked shaky in its two wins against Ireland, several of its competitors did not fair any better.

England fell 2-0 to World Cup co-host Australia, snapping its 30-match unbeaten streak, while Germany lost to Brazil for the first time since the 2008 Olympics. Sweden tied with long shot Norway, and France bested Olympic gold medal-winner Canada.

After the break, the USWNT leads all odds at +275 to win its third straight World Cup, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

England follows with +350 odds. That represents a slight change from January, when both England and the USWNT were tied with odds of +300 to win the World Cup trophy. At that time, Spain stood in third with +600 odds, while France and Germany tied for fourth at +700.

Spain and Germany now are tied for third at +650, while France is fourth at +750.

Sweden’s odds have slipped to +1400, while Australia remains at +1400 and is now tied for fifth. The Netherlands (+1600), Canada (+2500) and Brazil (+2500) also remain the same.

The international window represented the last chance to see national teams in action before World Cup rosters are finalized. The USWNT next takes the pitch at 4 p.m. ET Sunday, July 9, in San Jose, California, for a World Cup send-off match against Wales.