Canada, Germany, Australia and USA will be out to stop them – but Lionesses CAN win the World Cup
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A total of 32 teams are gearing up, as we speak, for what they hope will be a month-long tournament in Australia and New Zealand. The Matildas will open the tournament on Thursday – July 20 – in a game against debutants the Republic of Ireland.
A lot of the focus will be on European champions, the Lionesses, who had a 30-game unbeaten streak under new manager Sarina Wiegman up until April. The Matildas were the team to finally beat the Lionesses, with star striker and face of FIFA 23, Sam Kerr, opening the scoring in what ended a 2-0 win for the Australian side.
However, as others fear that the loss was a worrying wake-up call, I believe that the defeat was a highly necessary one and will only have been of benefit to the Lionesses ahead of the upcoming tournament. With Wiegman allowing herself during that game, and since in a friendly against Portugal, to test out different partnerships, she will now be close to knowing her starting XI for the opening group stage game against Haiti.
Speaking of which, despite fans’ fears that the Lionesses aren’t the team they once were, which is of course true as injuries to Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and Leah Williamson mean none of those three players will take part in the tournament, England fans appear quite confident that the Lionesses will win Group D.
This is a feeling I share too, as I predict that Sarina’s side will manage to take the three points in each of their three group stage games against Haiti, Denmark and China. I am certainly not under the illusion that it will be a walk in the park for England, as Haiti and China may well play with five players at the back. Meanwhile, Denmark are a very tough team, with incredibly talented and technically gifted striker Pernille Harder playing up top for the Danish side.
If England win their group and subsequently progress to the Round of 16, they will face the runner up of Group B, with that spot most likely to be occupied by Canada come the end of July. Canada are the 2021 Olympic champions, who beat finalists Australia to win the tournament after knocking out back to back World champions USA in the semi finals. With this incredible tournament and trophy win to their name, England fans should be worried.
With a tight game ultimately being handed to Canada by a woeful England defence when the two sides last met in April 2021, Wiegman knows her side will have to be defensively strong to progress to the quarter finals – especially with national hero Christine Sinclair back up top for Canada.
However, as England fans we have to remember that this new and improved team is far from the side interim manager Hege Riise played for that 2-0 loss to Canada some two years ago. With this in mind, if the Round of 16 tie turns out to be between the two sides, I think fans should feel a few nerves while certainly believing that England can win the tie. In my view, the Lionesses certainly edge Canada as the team to be in the quarter finals.
It certainly doesn’t get easier for England in the quarter-finals. If Germany beat, most likely, Brazil in the Round of 16, England and Germany will meet in yet another major tournament. A repeat of the European Championship final at Wembley in the quarter finals of a World Cup may be happening just over a year later, with England fans hoping for a very similar outcome.
Whether this will be the case or not, England fans will be just as unsure as they were when apprehensively waiting for the game to kick off at Wembley. Unsurprisingly, Germany are one of the toughest opponents going into the World Cup. However, even more so for this tournament as their deadly striker, Alexander Popp, is fit and will certainly want to score in every game she plays, just as she did during the Euros.
However once again, as I readjust my England hat, I believe that England can make it through to the semi-finals. If this game takes place on 12 August, it will definitely be the biggest test of the tournament so far for the Lionesses. However, from watching the Euros and every game before and after that historic, never to be forgotten tournament, I have seen the players fight for one another and give it everything they have.
If the players do that whilst executing the game plan which Wiegman sees working most effectively against Germany, we can win. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.
If we make it past ‘Die Nationalelf’, there will be another massive hurdle to face before the final in the shape of Australia. The team to knock the Lionesses out in the semi-finals of the 2021 Olympics after a thriller ended 5-4 to the Matildas, will have the backing of the overwhelming majority of the crowd inside the stadium. In addition to contending with the crowd, the Lionesses will have to keep Kerr at bay: something which did not happen during that semi at the Olympics and which did not happen in the aforementioned friendly of April this year.
However, as I’m sure you can tell from my previous optimism, I believe that the Lionesses can finally beat this foe of theirs. The semi-final of the Olympics was a tight game and was before national hero and owner of a CBE Wiegman got hold of the reins and took the team soaring to higher heights. Therefore, what better time is there than this tournament to finally overcome a hurdle which has proved to be slightly too much for the Lionesses up until now?
So if the Lionesses manage to knock the hosts out of the competition, who will they face in the battle for world domination? The USA, of course. World domination is something more than familiar to the USA, having won back to back world titles in 2015 and 2019.
The USA have been the team to beat for years, with the Lionesses always struggling to beat them due to their athleticism and incredible technical ability. However, a friendly win at Wembley, which was actually anything but friendly, for the Lionesses over their arch enemy suggests that times are changing.
Away from the international scene, England’s top flight league, the WSL, has been attracting attendances 227% higher than previous seasons, with a women’s football match record attendance of 60,063 set when Arsenal Women played Wolfsburg at the Emirates in the Champions League.
This all indicates a change in tides, which could turn into something much much stronger if the Lionesses were able to beat the USA in what would be the most incredible Women’s World Cup final to date.
It seems the world may soon be bowing down at the feet of Sarina and her squad of national heroes, however they first have a long month of intense focus and concentration ahead of them to make the dream a reality…