The 2023 Women’s World Cup is down to the final 8 teams, and for the first time in history, the United States Women’s National Team is not a part of it. Their exit in the Round of 16 left an opportunity for another team to get their chance to lift the World Cup trophy. And, for the first time in a while, the odds are great that a team might win the trophy for the first time.
Of the 8 teams remaining - Australia, Colombia, England, France, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden - only Japan has won a Women’s World Cup. That creates what can be a thrilling finish to the most competitive Women’s World Cup ever, where each of these strong teams have a chance to win it all. We break down the strengths of each team along with how strong they are currently playing.
This is no disrespect to Sweden, but someone has to start at 8. The Swedes eliminated the USWNT on penalties in the Round of 16, but it was after a match in which the USWNT dominated most aspects of the match except the scoreboard. The most dominant player on the field for Sweden was goalkeeper Zecira Musovic, who recorded 11 saves in the match. In any sport, a hot goalkeeper can carry a team far, but Sweden will need their offensive production to return if they want to continue beyond the quarterfinals. They will also want to use their height on set pieces to get shots on net and pressure the opposing goalkeeper.
England advanced to the quarterfinals also through penalties, knocking off Nigeria in the Round of 16. England is one of the teams that, on paper, should be one of the more dominant teams in this tournament, but Nigeria exposed them and almost knocked them out of the entire tournament with their play. With Lauren James out for potentially the rest of the tournament due to her red card against Nigeria, England is now desperate for creativity in the attacking third, and they will need to find it quickly if they want to equal their 2019 run and make it to the semifinals.
Spain got back to business in the Round of 16, dismantling Switzerland 5-1. Their only loss in this tournament was a thorough beating at the hands of Japan, who also remain in this tournament, but Spain has the opportunity to make some noise in these quarterfinals. Their key is to dominate possession and get the ball onto the feet of their creative players who can make something happen on the attack. Spain has a chance to show that they have created one of the best teams in the world, and this opportunity is one they plan on seizing.
The Netherlands made quick work of South Africa in the Round of 16, and the 2019 World Cup finalists are built to get back to that game to hopefully win it. They’ve received production from so many players on their roster, and they’ve put big numbers on the board the past two matches, which helped them win Group E over the United States. The Dutch will want to use their technical skill combined with some physicality to remain on the ball and keep possession. Finally, they will rely on their World Cup experience to continue their run in this tournament and get back to aim for the trophy which eluded them 4 years ago.
The underdogs of the group, you better not count out Colombia. They have some incredible attackers, creative midfielders, physical defenders, and they are not scared of anyone. Linda Caicedo is one of the breakout stars of this tournament, but Colombia got here with so many other stars, like Catalina Usme and veteran Lady Andrade. Colombia arrived in the Round of 16 playing on house money by winning their group, and they added to that by beating Jamaica in the Round of 16. Colombia may have the underdog label, the lone team left in the Americas, but they are entering this with the confidence of favorites. And they hope to add to their house money pile in the quarterfinals with another upset.
The co-hosts carry their entire nation on their back as they enter the quarterfinals. They arrived here by winning their group, sending the Canadians home in the process, and then beating Denmark 2-0 in the Round of 16 before a sold out Stadium Australia. They have their work cut out for them, but the co-hosts have become one of the fan favorites for teams who have been eliminated. They’ve advanced this far mostly without the services of Sam Kerr, who finally made her debut in this tournament as a late second half substitute against Denmark. The Matildas have the entire continent of Australia believing that they can lift the trophy in the final, but they will have to continue to answer the call on each test they have left before them, keeping their defensive third clean while finishing their chances on the offensive end.
France arrived in the quarterfinals by destroying Morocco in the Round of 16, the final team into the final 8. Les Bleues have most of their veterans back with a few new players that have shown they can lead this women’s soccer power all the way to the top. And, they’ve put the turmoil they experienced as a team over the past year behind them, and their chemistry on the field is undeniable. They have some incredible talent who can make you pay on all ends of the field, and captain Wendie Renard is determined to bring a title back to France. They are one of the favorites to finish out the tournament and lift the trophy.
Japan is the only team on this list that has won a Women’s World Cup title, and they are playing like they’re the #1 team in the world. At every turn, they have shown how dominant they are and they’re playing the best of any team right now. They have their work cut out for them to win their second World Cup title, but they have been formidable in their defense and electric on offense. The Japanese arrived in the Round of 16 by thumping Norway, and they showed everyone that they’re back and need to be feared on the international stage. Seven other teams are trying to lift the trophy for the first time, but Japan is the strongest team left in the field, and they already have the experience and motivation necessary to return to the world’s greatest stage: the one where the World Cup trophy is given out.
The quarterfinals begin on Thursday in the United States, with the following matches taking place this weekend:
Spain vs. Netherlands
Japan vs. Sweden
Australia vs. France
England vs. Colombia
The final 8 teams will create some wonderful moments, and we look forward to seeing who will stand tall at the end as champions.