GOOOOOOOOOAL! Women’s World Cup 2023 is in High Gear

By Rockin’ Reese

Women’s World Cup Soccer 2023

The first weekend of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has come & gone. Thousands of people from around the world have journeyed to Australia and New Zealand to witness the premiere event in women’s soccer (or association football, for our international readers).

While the real tournament won’t begin, until August 5th, that won’t stop a few people from being excited now, especially those who live in the host countries. If you don’t believe me, watch fans from the host countries, during this past Thursday’s games or in the remaining games, during the group stage. Speaking of those group stage games, let’s talk about them.

Thursday kicked off with the host countries competing in separate games. At Eden Park (New Zealand’s national stadium), New Zealand would take on Norway. Coming into this match, Norway was 3-0 against New Zealand in women’s international competitions…with all 3 victories being shutouts. Also, New Zealand had never won a World Cup game in either men’s or women’s competition.

A record-setting crowd of 42,137 people in Auckland hoped that their country’s fortune would finally change. After a scoreless first half, Hannah Wilkinson eventually scored a goal just past the 47-minute mark (over 2 minutes into the second half) to put New Zealand on the board. New Zealand had a chance to seal the game in regulation, but Ria Percival narrowly missed a penalty kick.

Near the end of “additional time”,  Norway had a chance to tie the game, but Guro Reiten hooked her shot to the left of the net. When the whistle blew to end the game, the Auckland crowd & New Zealand women’s team erupted in celebration.

In the next game, Australia would take on Ireland at Stadium Australia. In their only prior meeting, Ireland won 3-2 in a “friendly” at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin (Ireland’s capital) on September 21, 2021. However, things would be different in front of a record-setting crowd of 75,784 people in Sydney. The key part of the match came at the 50-minute mark (5 minutes into the 2nd half).

Ireland’s Marissa Sheva would shove Australia’s Haley Raso in the back, while Australia was on the attack. That would result in a penalty kick for Australia, which led to a Steph Catley goal. Over 7 minutes later, Megan Connolly nearly tied the game on a free kick, but (Australia’s goalie) Mackenzie Arnold made a leaping save. Arnold would be tested twice on corner kicks from Katie McCabe.

Just before the 71-minute mark, Arnold punched McCabe’s kick away from the net, then made a leaping save just after the 78-minute mark. Arnold made another leaping save at the 88-minute mark (under 2 minutes left in regulation), this time against Abbie Larkin. In “additional time”, McCabe nearly tied the game just 30 seconds into the overtime period, but her shot sailed over the net.

Ireland had a final chance to make a play, after Katrina Gorry failed to cut off a pass attempt. Larkin centered a pass to McCabe, but stubborn Australian defense led to Arnold making another save. Larkin tried to recover the loose ball, but Clare Polkinghorne kicked it away from her to seal the game.

Friday’s action kicked off with Nigeria taking on Canada at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. A crowd of 21,420 people saw the 5th meeting between these 2 teams. Early on, it seemed Canada had the momentum with 4 attempts at a goal in the first 30-plus minutes, but Nigeria responded back with 4 attempts of their own in the next 10 minutes.

After a scoreless half, Canada had a prime opportunity at the 46-minute mark (over 1 minute & 30 seconds in to the 2nd half). Christine Sinclair was tripped by Francisca Ordega, resulting in a penalty kick. However, (Nigeria’s goalie) Chiamaka Nnadozie made a big save. After exchanging goal attempts for most of the 2nd half, Canada’s Jordyn Huitema nearly had 2 chances to end the game in regulation.

In “additional time”, Nigeria’s Deborah Abiodun was given a red card for stepping on Canada’s Ashley Lawrence, after Lawrence tried to pass the ball to a teammate. When all was said & done, the game ended in a double shutout, which made their 3rd draw.

Next, it was a first time match, as Switzerland took on Philippines at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand. The crowd of 13,711 people were treated to a competitive match for The first 40-plus minutes, as neither team gave ground. However, a penalty would prove to be a difference maker, again. Jessika Cowart of the Philippines clipped Switzerland’s Coumba Sow in the knee. Ramona Bachmann would score on the pnealty kick, just before the 1st half ended.

In the 2nd half, Switzerland would prove that the third time is a charm just before the 64-minute mark. Ana-Maria Crnogorčević would try to score against (Philippines’ goalie) Olivia McDaniel, but failed. Sow tried & failed, too. However, Seraina Piubel would ultimately make the game 2-0, in favor of Switzerland. Not much “additional time” was needed, before this match was declared a Switzerland win.

Finally, it was Spain taking on Costa Rica in a rematch from the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. These 2 teams played to a draw in their only prior meeting, but the crowd of 22,966 people at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand wanted to see a winner. Just past the 20-minute mark, Spain’s Esther González had a goal attempt blocked by (Costa Rica’s goalie) Daniela Solera.

Unfortunately, Solera’s deflection bounced off of teammate Valeria del Campo for an own goal, which put Spain on the board. Just over 2 minutes later, Aitana Bonmatí would use some fancy footwork, before drilling a goal past Solera, to give Spain a 2-0 lead. Just before the 27-minute mark, Spain took a 3-0 lead, after Teresa Abelleira launched a pass to Jennifer Hermoso, who tried a header, but the ball bounced off of the crossbar.

Thankfully, González was able to recover the loose ball & score the goal. Other than Solera making a save on Hermoso’s penalty kick attempt (to prevent Spain from taking a 4-0 lead), nothing went right for Costa Rica, as they were outshot 46-1, with a kick by Melissa Herrera in the first 10 minutes of the game being their only goal attempt.

women's World Cup

Saturday, kicked off with the United States taking on Vietnam in a first time match. The 41,107 people at Eden Park wanted to see how the 2-time defending champions would do & America didn’t disappoint. Over 13 1/2 minutes, a Lindsey Horan pass deflected off of Alex Morgan’s foot & Sophia Smith would have some open space to score the 1st goal of the game.

Morgan nearly had 2 goals in the 1st half. The first attempt rose on her, then when she settled the ball, she kicked wide to the right, at 27 1/2 minutes. The second attempt was on a penalty kick, caused when  Hoàng Thị Loan tripped Trinity Rodman. However, Trần Thị Kim Thanh came up with a big save. In the 2nd half, Smith picked up where she left off. At the 51-minute mark (over 6 minutes into the 2nd half), Naomi Girma blasted a kick toward the net.

Thanh would punch it away, but Smith would bounce her 2nd goal into the net. Around the 76:30 mark, Smith would return the favor & set up Horan for a goal for a 3-0 lead for the US. Rose Lavelle nearly put an excalamation point on this game (just before the 85-minute mark), as her shot hit the crossbar. However, the US was still satisfied with a 3-goal shutout win.

women's World Cup

Next up, Zambia took on Japan at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, New Zealand. A crowd of 16,111 people were on hand to witness this first time match. Japan came out on fire, with 4 goal attempts in the first 15 minutes. However, things seemed bleak, when a Mina Tanaka goal at the 20-minute mark was overturned, because she was offside. Nearly 22 minutes later, Hinata Miyazawa’a goal would count, as Japan would take the lead before halftime. In the 2nd half, Tanaka had a 2nd goal disallowed for being offside, just before the 49-minute mark (under 4 minutes into the 2nd half). 

However, nearly 5 1/2 minutes later, Tanaka would not be denied, because this goal would count. At 61 minutes, Tanaka would set up Miyazawa for her 2nd goal of the day and give Japan a 3-0 lead. Near the 70 1/2 minute mark, Jun Endo would make it 4-0. Just after the 77-minute mark, Riko Ueki had (Zambia’s goalie) Catherine Musonda out of the net, but when she tried to score, Martha Tembo prevented the goal. In “additional time”, Musonda earned a red card for diving in front of Ueki on a breakaway.

Ueki’s penalty kick attempt hit the crossbar, but Musonda was guilty of encroachment, so the kick would be retaken. Ueki would score to end the game with Japan having a 5-goal shutout victory.

Next, it was England taking on Haiti at Lang Park in Brisbane, Australia. A crowd of 44,369 people witnessed this first time match. Just under the 4-minute mark, England’s Chloe Kelly nearly scored the quickest goal of the tournament, but (Haiti’s goalie) Kerly Theus made a good save. Past the 24:30 mark, Haiti’s Batcheba Louis blocked a corner kick with her hand, resulting in a penalty kick.

Theus made a save against Georgia Stanway, but she was called for encroachment, which meant Stanway would get a 2nd chance at her penalty kick. Just past the 28:30 mark, Stanway scored on her 2nd penalty kick attempt. England had many chances to make it 2-0, but Theus was able to prevent any more goals from passing her. Those misses almost came back to haunt them, just before the 81-minute mark.

Nerila Mondesir set up Roseline Eloissaint, but (England’s goalie) Mary Earps came up with a sliding save. In “additional time”, Melchie Dumornay nearly tied the game on a corner kick, but Earps managed to punch the ball away to preserve England’s 1-goal shutout win.

Finally, Denmark took on China from Perth Rectangular Stadium in Perth, Australia. A crowd of 16,989 people watched to see if Denmark could finally earn victory against a China team that they were winless against in 4 previous meetings (0-3-1). Linyan Zhang nearly scored over 7 minutes into the game, but a great save by (Denmark’s goalie) Lene Christensen kept the game scoreless.

In the 2nd half, past the 48-minute mark (over 3 minutes into the half), Shuang Wang had a good goal attempt stopped by Christensen. Over 2 minutes later, Josephine Hasbo nearly put Denmark in the lead, after Nicoline Sørensen’s pass was deflected by Wei Yao. Hasbo tried to head the deflection in, but her shot was high. Just before the 74-minute mark, Katrine Veje nearly scored on a free kick, but Shanshan Wang nearly headed the ball away from (China’s goalie) Huan Xu. Just before the 89-minute mark, a Pernille Harder corner kick led a header from Amalie Vangsgaard to finally put Denmark on the board.

In “additional time”, Shuang Wang nearly tied the game on a free kick. Wang hit the post to her right. Christensen moved to her left to try to recover the ball, but it bounced right. Simone Boye managed to kick the ball away from the net before it was over the line and preserve the 1 -goal shutout victory, Denmark’s 1st against China.

Sunday’s action started with Sweden taking on South Africa from Wellington Regional Stadium. A crowd of 18,317 people watched this 3rd showdown between these 2 teams. Sweden looked to go 3-0 in this matchup. Both teams exchanged goal attempts in the first half, but nobody had anything to show for it. In the second half, things got interesting. Bongeka Gamede lauched a pass halfway across the field to Gabriela Salgado, who made a goal attempt, but it was blocked by (Sweden’s goalie) Zecira Musovic.

However, Musovic’s deflection allowed Hildah Magaia to score the 1st goal of the game, around the 47:30 mark. Before the 65-minute mark, some teamwork would allow Sweden to tie the game, thanks to Fridolina  Rolfö. With less than 1 minute left before “additional time”, Kosovare Asllani delivered a perfect corner kick, allowing Amanda Ilestedt to deliver a perfect header to give Sweden a 2-1 lead. South Africa desperately tried to tie the game up, but Mapula Kgoale, Thembi Kgatlana, & Bambanani Mbane all failed to score the tying goal. In the end, Sweden remained undefeated against South Africa.

women's World Cup

Next, it was the Netherlands taking on Portugal at Forsyth Barr Stadium. The crowd of 11,991 people went to see if Portugal could finally defeat the Netherlands in the 5th meeting between these teams. Around the 12:30 mark, Sherida Spitse delivered a perfect corner kick to Stefanie Van der Gragt, who headed the ball into the net. The goal was reviewed & upheld, after it was determined that Jill Roord was not offside.

The Netherlands brought the heat for the rest of the first half, but couldn’t add a 2nd goal. In the 2nd half, Portugal tried to get something going, but the Netherlands didn’t give them many opportunities. In fact, Portugal didn’t have a goal attempt, until the 81:30 mark by Telma  Encarnação. While the Netherlands outshot Portugal 12-2, they only scored once…however, that was all they needed.

Finally, France took on Jamaica at Sydney Football Stadium. The crowd of 39,045 people saw this 1st time match. Until Jamaica’s Chantelle Swaby, nobody had a goal attempt in the first 13-plus minutes. Most of this game was a bunch of misdirection. Both teams had good opportunities, but bad execution.

A good chance for Jamaica came at the 40:40 mark, when Khadija Shaw nearly scored on a free kick, but (France’s goalie) Pauline Peyraud-Magnin spralwed out for the save. France’s Eugénie Le Sommer had a good bend, but (Jamaica’s goalie) Rebecca Spencer made an equally good save. Even with “additional time”, neither team scored, causing the 2nd draw of the tournament.

As the tournament continues, watch Fox & FS1 for the remainder of July & throughout August and keep your eyes on Bleacher Brothers to find out the latest on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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