If you can believe it, the first round of group fixtures at the 2023 Women’s World Cup is already complete. Now, we are starting to get an idea of what each team is going to be capable of.
Brazil, Japan, Germany, the United States and Spain all impressed with comfortable wins. But it wasn’t just about who scored the most goals. Jamaica stood out for frustrating France, while Nigeria proved they are very much a contender to get out of Group B by holding Canada to a stalemate.
Here, 90min picks the best XI from the opening set of group games.
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GK: Chiamaka Nnadozie – The Nigeria goalkeeper was the main reason her team was able to frustrate Canada and claim a point that could yet help them reach the knockouts. Her penalty save from Christine Sinclair was of the highest quality and she got up to push the rebounded to safety.
RB: Ona Batlle – Spain are grateful to have the right-back in the squad for this tournament and she showed why she is widely considering the best in the world in the position. A dominant defensive performance and a standard assist going the other way.
CB: Saki Kumagai – Japan could have very easily had a problem with Zambia forward Barbra Banda, who lit up the 2020 Olympics and helped the first-timers stun Germany in a recent friendly. Kumagai, at the heart of a back three, controlled everything superbly to ensure there was no such issue.
CB: Rebekah Stott – The New Zealand defender’s football career was put on hold in 2021 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her goals was always to play at the World Cup and she went into remission two years ago. Her inch-perfect tackle on Ada Hegerberg in an already emotionally charged opening game against Norway received a standing ovation.
LB: Deneisha Blackwood – Jamaica went home in 2019 without a point and set out to change that this time around. Even facing a strong France side up first, the Reggae Girlz rose to the occasion and their left-back epitomised the competitive sprit and walked away with FIFA’s player of the match.
RM: Ary Borges – Marta has been the big draw when it comes to Brazil for the last 20 years, but it was a new star who wrote her name all over the 4-0 demolition of Panama with a fine hat-trick on her World Cup debut. At just 23 years of age, the future is bright.
CM: Aitana Bonmati – Like Batlle, the Barcelona midfielder is back for Spain after deciding to end a self-enforced absence from international duty. She dominated the win over Costa Rica, both scoring a top quality goal and creating other chances with clever passes.
CM: Lindsey Horan – Wearing the United States armband, the midfielder proved she is more than worthy of the role with a performance against Vietnam that saw her seem to cover every blade of grass. She peppered the goal with shots before finally getting on the scoresheet too.
LM: Hinata Miyazawa – With all the focus elsewhere, people were sleeping on Japan a little coming into the tournament. Two goals from Miyazawa, finding the net either side of half-time set the 2011 champions on their to a comfortable win in a game that was prime for an upset.
ST: Alexandra Popp – Cruelly forced to miss last summer’s Euro 2022 final through injury, the Germany captain hardly skipped a beat as she scored twice against Morocco in what was the biggest win by any team in the first round of fixtures.
ST: Sophia Smith – The 22-year-old was among the pre-tournament favourites to win the Golden Boot and gave no reason to believe that isn’t possible by finding the net twice in her country’s comfortable opening win over Vietnam. An assist also means she had a direct hand in every goal.
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Former Italy international Arianna Criscione, Dulwich Hamlet’s Brittany Saylor and Football for Future founder Elliot Arthur-Worsop join Katie Cross to have football’s climate conversation about the Women’s World Cup and tournament football’s carbon footprint. Pledgeball’s Heather Ashworth also gives an update on the Pledgeball’s new Women’s World Cup initiative.
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