With just over 300 days until the world descends on Australia and New Zealand for the Women’s World Cup, excitement has never been higher.
October is set to be a big month in preparation for the tournament with the final direct European slots to be decided and the World Cup draw to be conducted on Oct. 22 in Auckland.
As it stands, 27 nations have qualified for the expanded 32-team tournament after a hectic July window, filled to the brim with continental competitions. While some teams have extended their streaks of never having missed a Women’s World Cup, others will be dreaming about their first World Cup matches. This is a rundown of every team that has qualified for the 2023 edition.
The first of the 2023 host nations, Australia has tried repeatedly to stage a football World Cup, starting in 2003, notoriously continuously in 2010, and finally, successfully, bidding for 2023. Tony Gustavsson is the man tasked with leading the Matildas on home soil but his tenure has been anything but smooth sailing.
A fourth-placed finish at the Olympics and a quarterfinals exit at the Asian Cup perhaps provide the best summation of where Australia is at right now. When they’re good, they’re great. When they’re bad, it feels disastrous. Tipping the scales back into ‘good’ territory, and keeping it there consistently, is the challenge for the Matildas right now.
New Zealand will become the first OFC host of a major international tournament when the world comes to play in 2023. The Football Ferns were at the inaugural World Cup in 1991, and they haven’t missed a tournament since 2007. However, they’ve also never won a World Cup match so home soil in 2023 could well be the perfect setting.
The team did not participate in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup in July, opening the door for a first-time winner. Instead, Jitka Klimkova’s side has been traversing the globe and recently nabbed wins against the Philippines and Mexico as well as a draw with Wales and a loss to Norway. The Ferns will need to use the lead-up to the World Cup to find suitable midfielders having lost Ria Percival and Annalie Longo to long-term knee injuries in the past six months.
Through expansion comes opportunity, and the Philippines have felt this in more ways than one. The expanded Asian Cup and World Cup tournaments have presented more opportunities than ever, and the national team, under head coach Alen Stajcic, has gone on a recruitment drive, tapping in to the Filipino diaspora, particularly in the United States.
The Malditas have played a monumental 25 matches in 2022, with the Asian Cup, Southeast Asian Games, and AFF Championship — which they won on home soil — providing tournament experience. Scheduled friendlies against Costa Rica will provide further opportunities to benchmark themselves against a fellow World Cup-bound side.
South Korea qualified for a fourth World Cup, and a third consecutive tournament, by finishing second at the Asian Cup earlier this year. Defeat in the final was undeniably disappointing for the Taegeuk Ladies, but it represented progress as the team had never previously made the decider of an Asian Cup.
This team has long shown it is among the best in Asia, but translating that competitiveness continentally to the international stage hasn’t always been forthcoming. The Taegeuk Ladies are more than capable of matching the best, as evidenced by draws against the USWNT in late 2021 and Canada in mid-2022; but now they are looking to take the next step to build on their best World Cup result — a Round-of-16 exit.
Once a global powerhouse in women’s football, China are enjoying “a new start”, according to their coach. The Steel Roses have qualified for all but one World Cup, and they reached the 2023 tournament by winning the Asian Cup. That was their first continental victory in 16 years, and it represented an unmatched ninth Asian Cup success.
China, like many teams that have qualified for 2023, are undergoing a bit of a refresh within their squad. At one end of the spectrum are the likes of Wang Shuang and Wang Shanshan, who boast more than 260 caps and almost 100 goals between them; at the other end are players with fewer than 20 caps. China have always made it out of the group stage at World Cups, at a minimum, and they will be hoping their mix of experience and youth can guide them deep into the tournament.
Japan qualified for a ninth straight World Cup but did so in a manner that perhaps wasn’t as convincing as they’d have liked. With the Asian Cup doubling as World Cup qualifying, and Nadeshiko heading to the tournament as the two-time reigning hosts, there was some level of expectation on the team. But a semifinals defeat by China, on penalties, saw them fail to make the final for the first time since 2010.
Nadeshiko are undergoing a rebuild following immense success in the 2010s; results aren’t what they would like now, but Japan have essentially futureproofed their squad and continue to develop players capable of going deep in youth international tournaments. Whether the rebuild has been timed to coincide with a challenge in 2023 remains to be seen.
Vietnam will make their World Cup debut in 2023, after winning the Asian Cup repechage to earn the final direct qualification spot from Asia. That repechage saw them defeat Chinese Taipei and 2019 World Cup debutants Thailand to avoid the intercontinental playoff.
Vietnam have long been a regional powerhouse, winning Southeast Asian Games medals and consistently finishing in the top four of the AFF Championship. There is still a bridge to be crossed when it comes to competing with the continent’s best at the Asian Cup, however, but the expanded tournaments have given Vietnam an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Spain’s stature and reputation have been growing in international circles, and there is a lot to like about La Roja; this excitement has been happening in front of a backdrop of discontent that has only grown louder in recent months, however. The playing group is reportedly unhappy with manager Jorge Vilda, and the federation appears to be doubling down on support for the coach rather than listening to the players’ concerns. The federation has a history of neglecting and ignoring player concerns, leading to a fractured relationship.
Despite this, and certainly not because of it, Spain continue to produce results on the park. Their Euro 2022 quarterfinals exit at the hands of England was well short of expectations, but their World Cup qualifying campaign was literally flawless: Eight games, eight wins, 53 goals scored, zero conceded. Alexia Putellas ‘ return from an ACL injury should be the biggest worry for the Spanish team, but the background discontent could threaten to derail this golden generation.
– USWNT Big Board: Projecting the 2023 World Cup roster
– Predictions: After Euro 2022, who looks ready to topple USWNT?
– Co-hosts: Faith, not results, keep Gustavsson in charge of Matildas
– Afghanistan in exile: ‘The heart that is still beating’
France are another team that constantly seems to play well despite tensions off the pitch; divisions within the team, an unhealthy environment, and the strain between players and coach Corinne Diacre, are well known and well documented.
Euro 2022 saw the team break through the quarterfinals barrier, only to lose to Germany in the semifinals. They went through World Cup qualifying with a 10-0 record, but in a group where Wales were Les Bleues‘ stiffest competition. France have lost only one game this year, their Euros semifinal, and yet the level of angst and concern around the team is as high as ever. There is currently no indication that any of this will be resolved in order for the team to make a tilt at the trophy in 2023.
Sweden topped Group A of European qualifying, dropping points only when they drew with Republic of Ireland in April 2022, and this will be their ninth appearance at the pinnacle of women’s football. Hopes were high for Blågult at the Euros in the middle of the year, when they were coming off a silver medal at the Olympics, and Adidas’ marketing campaign for the Swedish kit included a “How to Beat Sweden” guide on the tags of the jersey. But it can be argued that the team never really hit the heights expected, and they lost 4-0 to eventual champions England in the semifinals.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side are always a threat on the world stage, but they must show they aren’t perennial bridesmaids. Stern tests against France and Spain await the team in the October window, while a trip to Australia in November will offer ideal preparation for next year.
Denmark qualified for their first World Cup since 2007 by topping Group E of the European qualifiers. Eight wins from eight games, 40 goals scored and only two conceded, both against Montenegro, made it a flawless campaign for De rød-hvide.
Some pundits expected the Danes to build on their Euros 2017 runners-up finish by progressing deep into the 2022 tournament, but the team exited in the group stage; it was always going to be a tough task with Spain and Germany in the group. Denmark have undeniably talented players but their Euros campaign feels like an accurate indicator of where they are at globally; good but not great.
Was there ever a doubt the two-time reigning world champions would qualify for a ninth straight World Cup? The USWNT progressed through the CONCACAF W Championship without dropping a point or conceding a goal on the way to a ninth continental title. But the ease with which they qualified for the World Cup isn’t the story. This team is going through a rebuild after a decade of success built on the backs of players who are no longer part of the set-up.
Things are by no means perfect for the USWNT — with regeneration comes growing pains — but they are maintaining a near-flawless record of results. Friendlies against England, Spain, and Germany close out the year, and those games will be a fantastic barometer of where teams stand globally less than a year out from the World Cup.
Costa Rica return to the international stage for the first time since Canada 2015, making their second appearance at a World Cup. Las Ticas defeated Trinidad & Tobago and Panama, but lost to Canada, the USWNT and Jamaica to finish fourth in the CONCACAF W Championship.
Costa Rica will come up a gainst the Philippines in the October international window, in what should be a pair of interesting clashes, but they are on a five-game losing streak that has extended beyond the continental tournament with two defeats by Colombia. Back in 2015, Costa Rica offered other teams a surprise, nabbing points off Spain and South Korea. With an expanded tournament they’ll hope to shock even more nations and progress out of the group.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallists, Canada proved last year that they could win on the world stage. They could not repeat their efforts from Japan in this year’s CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico, but Canada have continued to evolve under Bev Priestman. With qualification secured, the goal is now to become a team that scores as easily as they keep teams out.
Their two-game friendly series against Australia showed they were still entirely capable of producing a 1-0 win but could also come from behind. It also provided invaluable minutes to the players of tomorrow. Glimpses of the more attacking, free-scoring Canada were shown at the continental tournament, and there is still time for the team to make that a more defined pillar of their play. You don’t want to be peaking nine months out from the World Cup.
The story of women’s football has so often been a tale of achievement despite the surroundings, and Jamaica are among the prime examples. A second consecutive third-placed finish at the CONCACAF W Championship secured a second consecutive qualification to a World Cup — something no Caribbean team had done in the men’s or women’s game — but this success comes despite the Jamaican Football Federation not because of it.
The team’s story is well documented: The assistance of Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella, has taken them from non-existent to consecutive World Cups in the space of six years. But a lack of funding and care from the federation continues to hamper and hinder the Reggae Girlz; most recently, they were stranded in the United States on the way home from the CONCACAF W Championship. The team’s unity has been a saving grace and they’ll hope to channel that into a maiden World Cup win in 2023.
Zambia followed their first Olympic campaign in 2021 by finishing third at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations to claim their maiden World Cup berth — albeit victory against perennial African champions Nigeria in the third-place playoff was an impressive feat in itself. Moreover, the woman who became the face of the Copper Queens at the Olympics, Barbra Banda, was unable to continue scoring for fun after she, among a number of players, was controversially prevented from competing at WAFCON due to high testosterone levels.
Zambia’s bronze medal in Morocco was their best WAFCON finish, and it perfectly encapsulated the duality of the team. They are fun to watch and can score for fun, but can be scored against just as easily. This rollercoaster vibe is sure to win them fans in 2023 but maybe not as many games.
South Africa are the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations champions, but Morocco are equally at the forefront of the new brigade in women’s football in Africa. The Moroccan federation’s investment in women’s football appears to be paying immediate dividends, and while the Atlas Lionesses ultimately fell short against Banyana Banyana on home soil they registered their first appearance in a final at their first WAFCON in 22 years. The team was undoubtedly buoyed by the home crowds — 51,000 people watched the final alone — but the Atlas Lionesses showed they could compete on the continental stage.
With their second-place finish, Morocco became the first team from the Arab world to qualify for the World Cup, and they will be one of a handful of debutants taking part in Australia and New Zealand. Whether the country’s investment in women’s football is enough to have them making an impact on the world stage is a question to be answered in 2023.
South Africa are making themselves comfortable on the world stage having qualified for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and securing back-to-back World Cup qualifications after debuting at the tournament in France in 2019. Banyana Banyana have been building within Africa as well, and their qualification for 2023 was achieved with their first Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title.
Five times runners-up in the continental showpiece, they finally earned the title of champions under the leadership of former player Desiree Ellis — who had experienced some of those losses as both player and coach. South Africa’s emergence as a frontrunner in African women’s football has been built on talented players and lots of hard work. Their next goal will be to earn their very first points at a World Cup.
No longer the unbeatable force of African women’s football, Nigeria finished fourth at this year’s WAFCON — their equal-lowest ranking at the continental tournament. Fourth doesn’t seem that bad, but it’s quite the drop given the Super Falcons won 11 of the previous 13 tournaments. While they were undoubtedly disappointed with their placing, Morocco needed penalties to defeat them in the semifinals while they lost the bronze final by a single goal from Zambia.
Nigeria’s talent, including the likes of Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala, is such that the team shouldn’t be down for long, having continued their record of qualifying for every World Cup.
Colombia return to the world stage for the first time since 2015 after reaching the Copa America Femenina final on home soil. However, the team could not find a way past Brazil to claim an elusive continental title; Las Cafeteras have finished second in three of the past four Copas. Colombia have impressed on the continental stage for some time while created history internationally, too: Their win against France in the 2015 group stage is one of only two South American victories at the World Cup not achieved by Brazil.
Like many South American teams, Colombia are hard to gauge. The team does well against fellow CONMEBOL sides and can hold their own against neighbouring CONCACAF teams; two wins against Costa Rica and 3-0 and 2-0 defeats by the USWNT are cases in point. But they play few matches beyond these regions.
The perennial South American champions have never missed an edition of the Women’s World Cup, and Pia Sundhage’s side coasted through the Copa America Femenina without dropping a point or conceding a goal. The story in South America is very much As Canarinhas and the rest, but that narrative doesn’t give the best picture as to where Brazil are globally.
The Brazilians are undergoing a regeneration, and their Copa victory without Marta, Formiga or Cristiane marked the first time the team had contested a major tournament without any of the big thee since1995. It would appear the next generation is ready to continue Brazil’s dominance on the continent but are they ready to take on the rest of the world?
Argentina have qualified for back-to-back World Cups, replicating their feat from 2003 and 2007, after they finished third at the 2022 Copa America Femenina. This placing cemented the team as one of the best of the rest in South America, and they have not finished lower than fourth since the inaugural Copa America Femenina in 1991 — which they did not enter.
Argentina have consistently fought for bare-minimum recognition and funding from their federation — like many teams across the globe — and their journey to the 2019 World Cup came after two years of inactivity between 2015 and 2017. La Albiceleste have not been dormant, nor are the conditions as bad as they once were, but progress is slow, particularly compared with the levels of investment elsewhere.
It was entirely unsurprising when Norway parted ways with Martin Sjögren following Euro 2022, at which the team failed to progress after a wholly unimpressive campaign that featured an 8-0 loss to England. World Cup qualifying, however, was more straightforward, with only a scoreless draw against Poland marring an otherwise comprehensive display.
Norway have oodles of talent but they they have not translated that into anything meaningful of late; a quarterfinals appearance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup is the exception. Norwegian legend Hege Riise has been tasked with turning things around; with World Cup qualification ticked off the to-do list, next comes a friendly against the Netherlands, another team hoping that a new coach will offer up better fortunes.
Concern and confusion reigned when Germany lost to Serbia in World Cup qualifying after friendly defeats by Canada and England and a draw with Spain; hence Die Nationalelf didn’t rate a mention among the tournament favourites heading into Euro 2022. This wasn’t to suggest they’d do poorly, just that they wouldn’t win the tournament.
They flew delightfully under the radar, and only England on home soil prevented Germany from claiming yet another European crown. But in the process, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side confirmed the next generation of German talent was ready to take on the world. Germany were excellent in World Cup qualifying, bar the blip against Serbia, and coming friendlies against the USWNT will influence how their chances are viewed in the lead up to 2023.
There has arguably never been more hype or more joy surrounding the Lionesses, and with good reason. Their historic Euros victory on home soil felt like a crowning glory, and it put to bed at least some of the disappointment caused by decades of almosts. The Euros win absolutely stands as a mighty achievement, but it also feels like a very necessary step on the road to potential world champion status.
Sarina Wiegman is getting the best out of her players, a statement justified not only by the Euros win but also by England’s record in World Cup qualifying: the Lionesses won all 10 qualifying games, scoring 80 goals without reply. England’s coming friendly against the United States at Wembley could be the greatest indicator yet as to where the world order in women’s football sits: With the reigning world champions or with the champions of Europe?
The Netherlands have hit reset on their hopes for 2023 after a lacklustre Euro 2022. Mark Parsons was the coach for the majority of qualifying, but he will not lead them down under after the team underperformed in England. The 2017 Euro champions had high hopes but failed to put things together during the continental tournament.
While the players and the federation no longer trusted Parsons to get them where they wanted to go, he did play a role in blooding the next generation of Oranje Leeuwinnen. Andries Jonker is now tasked with getting the Netherlands back into major tournament finals, and he has successfully completed the job Parsons started. Will he have enough time to develop the team further?
The battle between Italy and Switzerland to qualify directly out of Group G was decided by the finest margins. Italy topped the group by two points only after Switzerland were held to a draw by Romania..
The Italians reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2019 and there was some hope they would replicate that effort in the European Championship. The team disappointing at the Euros, however, and failed to make it beyond the group stage. An expanded tournament means Italy could match their efforts from France in Australia and New Zealand, but they may need to reset ahead of 2023.
28 and 29. Spots 28 and 29 will be decided via the UEFA playoffs, which sees the second-placed teams from the qualifying groups ranked in a series of one-off matches. The bottom six sides have been drawn against each other — Portugal vs. Belgium, Scotland vs. Austria, and Wales vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina — with the winners heading to round two. There they will meet one of the three best second-placed teams: Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland. The two best-ranked teams from these winners, taking into consideration the group stage and second-round play-off results, qualify directly for the World Cup while the third team heads to the intercontinental playoff.
30, 31 and 32. The men’s game has long been acquainted with intercontinental playoffs but this is a first for Women’s World Cup qualifying. The tournament will take place over five days in Auckland, New Zealand.
Europe will have one representative, as noted above; OFC Women’s Cup winners Papua New Guinea will represent Oceania; Paraguay and Chile, respectively the fourth and fifth-placed finishes at the Copa America Femenina, represent South America; Haiti and Panama compete for North and Central America having finished third in their respective groups at the CONCACAF W Championship; and Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Cameroon and Senegal play after winning through repechages at the Women’s Asian Cup and Women’s African Cup of Nations.
Of the nine teams already qualified for the playoff tournament, four have qualified for the World Cup before. Chinese Taipei will look to return to the world stage for the first time since 1991, and Thailand, Cameroon and Chile will look to extend their runs of consecutive Word Cup appearances. Everyone else will be dreaming of a very first Women’s World Cup.