The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup provided us with some stunning results and moments. From New Zealand’s maiden win in World Cup play to Spain’s triumphant score over England, the ninth edition of the Women’s World Cup had it all. Here is a look back at some of the top moments from the tournament.
Sam Kerr sets Sydney alight
Australia fell short in the semifinal against England but not before Sam Kerr gave the country’s newfound soccer crazies a moment to remember for a lifetime. Trailing 1-0 in the second half, Kerr got the ball in space and ran at the English back line. Instead of taking on keeper Mary Earps one-on-one, Kerr launched a shot that got up over the eventual Golden Glove winner and leveled the match. Kerr turned around and leapt in the air as Stadium Australia went mad with delight.
The World Cup began with the shocking news that Sam Kerr had suffered a calf strain the day before Australia’s opener and would miss at least the first two Matilda’s matches. When Australia got tripped up against Nigeria and nearly crashed out in the group stage, a real possibility existed that Kerr would no be able to participate in her home World Cup. Kerr was finally unveiled in the Round of 16 and looked more rusty than dominant but she got her one shining moment during a month that may just have turned Oz into a land of soccer.
Earps stops Hermoso, keeps final interesting
The final was rather one-sided considering the 1-0 final score. Jenni Hermoso had a chance to double Spain’s lead when a VAR-inflicted handball call against Keira Walsh put Spain on the spot. After some back-and-forth with England goalkeeper Earps about the placement of the ball, Hermoso shot to her right. It was hardly the best struck penalty on the tournament, but regardless, Earps had it read like a book. She sprang to her left and saved it clean, then sprang to her feet and unleashed a blood-curdling scream.
Unfortunately for England, Earps’ penalty save did not swing momentum in their favor and settled for the silver medal. But Earps, who won the Golden Glove as the tournament’s top keeper, provided the top moment of the night.
Was it or wasn’t it?
Not every moment to remember is one that takes your breath away. The end of the Sweden-United States Round of 16 match was a moment to remember, because it left us confused before, at least on the American side. In the seventh round of penalties, Lina Hurtig stepped up with a chance to send Sweden through. Alyssa Naeher dove to her right and got a hand on the shot, knocking it up off the bottom of the crossbar.
The television audience thought Naeher had kept the ball out. But a delay ensued as VAR took a closer look. In the end, the animated still shot showed the ball crossed the line by a literal millimeter, sending Sweden into a delayed dogpile and the U.S. into a tearful circle. Even after the circle broke, Naeher appeared to be questioning whether the ball had actually crossed the line.
Colombia shakes off equalizer, beats Germany
Colombia took the match to Germany in the middle match of Group H, but when a late penalty equalized for Germany it looked like the dream upset was off. Then in the 7th minute of what was only guaranteed to be six minutes of stoppage time Manuela Vanegas got free on a corner kick and headed one down and in to give Las Chicas Superpoderosas a stunning victory.
The victory became all that much bigger four days later when Colombia were upset by Morocco while Germany were held 1-0 by South Korea. That gave Colombia the group and knocked Germany out. Colombia went on to beat Jamaica and take a lead against England before capitulating 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
The Group of Death be Group of Deathing: Canada exits early
As soon as the draw happened, Group B was dubbed the group of death including co-host Australia, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland and defending Olympic champions Canada. In their opening match Nigeria and Canada were in a fierce battle, when shortly after the start of the second half, Christine Sinclair was fouled in the box. The Canadian captain also ended up taking the penalty kick, which was subsequently saved by the Nigerian goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie. Both sides continued to look dangerous through stoppage time, but neither team could find netting.
The saved penalty ended up being the difference maker for Nigeria to make it out of group play and into the Round of 16, while Canada was sent home after group play for the first time since 2011 after a decisive loss to Australia left them in third place in the group.
New Zealand setting records
Co-host New Zealand was entering it’s fifth World Cup, still without a win, when they faced off against Norway in the 2023 World Cup opening match. In front of a New Zealand record-setting attendance for any soccer match held in the country of 42,137 the Football Ferns made history after Hannah Wilkinson scored the only goal of the match in the 48th minute. Norway looked dangerous at times throughout the match, but was just missing that clinical finish to change the scoreline.
New Zealand didn’t make it out of Group A after a loss to debutant Philippines and a tie with Switzerland, but the World Cup will have a lasting impact on New Zealand soccer for future generations.
Possession Play v Possession Play? Counters win for Japan
When Japan and Spain faced off in the group play, no one quite knew what to expect since both teams love playing a possession-based game. Certainly no one could’ve expected a 4-0 Japan win, while Spain held 77% of the possession. Japan decided to let the future-World Champions retain possession, and just put on a clinic on… being clinical. They racked up three goals in the first half, off of only three shots all coming off of fast break counter attacks, something Japan has not historically been known for. On the defensive side, Japan defended their box beautifully only allowing Spain to convert their 77% possession into 10 shots, only two of which were on frame.
The 4-0 loss for Spain was double the worst loss ever by a Women’s World Cup champion (2011 Japan, 2-0 to England). For Spain, it was a learning experience and they continued to play better and better as the World Cup continued. Japan continued their momentum into the Round of 16, but was outplayed by Sweden in the quarterfinals and knocked out of the tournament.
Jamaican defense holds true
Brazil and France were the favorites to advance out of Group F, but the Reggae Girlz had different plans. Jamaica advanced out of Group F not having lost a match (1W, 2D) and having not conceded a single goal across the three matches. Drawing France was an impressive feat with Les Bleues retaining 72% possession and forcing Jamaican goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer to make five saves. Even more impressively was the 0-0 draw against Brazil in the final group match where Brazil needed the win to move on. Brazil ended the match with 18 shots, and forced Spencer to make eight saves, but the Jamaican defense rose to the challenge and walked away with the draw and the ticket to the Round of 16, sending Brazil home early.
Compared to Jamaica’s 2019 World Cup showing, which ended with three losses and an exit in the group stage, for the Reggae Girlz to come into the 2023 World Cup, while fighting their federation for proper support and to not lose a game in the group stage while sending home favorite Brazil was just an incredible showing. Jamaica did finally concede a goal in the Round of 16 matchup against Columbia, which would see them exit the tournament with the 1-0 loss.
Down a player and off to PKs we go
Heading into the England versus Nigeria Round of 16 matchup, the big question was, will Keira Walsh play, and if so, for how long. The answer ended up being — 120 minutes. England really struggled to look dangerous early in the game, in part because that English attack that normally funnels through Walsh, was being disrupted by a comprehensive press by the Nigerian attackers and midfield. The Super Falcons side were looking to make it past the the Round of 16 for the first time since 1999, and when Lauren James received a red card in the 87th minute, it looked like they might just have the upper hand. In extra time, Nigeria continued to look dangerous, but just couldn’t get the ball on frame leading viewers to the second night in a row of penalty kicks.
England were able to advance after two Nigerian penalties weren’t put on frame, and Chloe Kelly made England’s fifth attempt with an absolute bullet making it 4-2. In a show of incredible sportsmanship, Kelly, Hannah Hampton and Alex Greenwood would go on to console the Nigerian goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie and block her from the cameraman.
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