Women’s World Cup 100-day countdown: questions for top teams


The 2023 Women’s World Cup is now formally 100 days away, and of the top 12 ranked teams on the earth, there is not a single one getting ready for the match with out at the very least one huge purpose to fret.

These teams comprise the favorites to win all of it as soon as the World Cup begins in July, however what may forestall every of them from lifting the trophy? From participant revolts, to injured stars, to fights with their federations and extra, each group is going through a novel problem.

With ESPN sending a number of reporters to Australia and New Zealand for this summer time’s huge match, we have requested our specialists to dig into the massive, burning questions that face these top dozen World Cup contenders. Caitlin Murray, Sophie Lawson, Mark Ogden, Julien Laurens, Sam Marsden, Tim Vickery and Marissa Lordanic break down the place these powerhouse teams stand, offered within the order of their FIFA world rankings.

No. 1: The United States



The points going through the massive teams 100 days from the World Cup

A number of ESPN FC contributors clarify the important thing points going through a number of the match favourites 100 days out from the Women’s World Cup.

What’s the fitting reply to the USWNT’s midfield conundrum?

When the U.S. received the Women’s World Cup in France 4 years in the past, the American squad boasted arguably the most effective “No. 6” defensive midfielder on the earth: Julie Ertz. But after the 2021 Olympics, Ertz stepped away from the sport to give attention to beginning a household. Unlike striker Alex Morgan or defender Crystal Dunn, Ertz was not coaching up till she could not, nor was she speeding to get again — Ertz has been with no membership group for all of 2022 and all of 2023 to date.

So USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski moved on with out Ertz, however sadly for him, the U.S. pool hasn’t had anybody like Ertz, a defensive destroyer who flies into tackles and covers tons of floor. Moving the USWNT’s present midfielders there, like Lindsey Horan, hasn’t labored. Washington Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan has been the best choice, however she nonetheless is not the identical sort of No. 6 as Ertz, working finest as a deep-lying midfielder who distributes the ball and helps in possession. Andonovski has even experimented with a double-pivot, which helps with the defensive work Ertz used to do however limits the U.S. assault going ahead.



What is the largest concern for the USWNT forward of the World Cup?

Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar clarify the largest query mark going through the USWNT forward of the World Cup.

But now, possibly Andonovski would not want to switch Ertz in spite of everything. To the shock of just about everybody, Ertz abruptly introduced she is returning to soccer and after 611 days, she returned for the U.S. in opposition to Ireland in a 2-0 win on Saturday. She did not appear like the Ertz of 2019, however as Andonovski mentioned lately: “If somebody’s 80% or 90% is still better than somebody else’s best, then too bad.”

The drawback is, we nonetheless do not know if Ertz’s 80% or 90% is healthier than what Andonovski has spent the previous 20 months determining. She nonetheless would not have a membership group, the final worldwide break earlier than the World Cup is ending, and there is not a lot time left for Andonovski to choose his roster. Taking Ertz might be of venture, and it would resolve the USWNT’s World Cup destiny. — Murray

Germany flag No. 2: Germany

Amid a revolving door of gamers, is there an sufficient Plan B?

On a roll because the begin of the 2022 Euros final summer time, Germany have not often put a foot flawed — and but for all their nice kind, the group beneath present coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has constantly struggled with dropping key personnel.

From accidents to Dzsenifer Marozsán on the 2019 World Cup and Alex Popp within the Euro 2022 closing in addition to notable absentee Lena Oberdorf in Germany’s second pleasant in opposition to the USA final November, Voss-Tecklenburg has steadily been with no resolution each time Germany are caught with no key participant. As a lot as it could be a tall ask for any group to play its finest soccer with no cornerstone participant, it is the dearth of a contingency plan that has value Germany on a number of events in the course of the coach’s tenure.

Voss-Tecklenburg has been cussed in making an attempt to maintain enjoying in a approach that works solely with the gamers she would not have obtainable. (Barring accidents, Popp and Oberdorf ought to be current on the World Cup, however Marozsán announced her retirement in March, together with her closing video games occurring this month.) Although there is no such thing as a different participant obtainable to Voss-Tecklenburg who can do what Oberdorf does to the identical normal, the query going into the World Cup for Germany is what occurs in the event that they lose one other key participant forward of the match and even throughout it: how do the coach and full group react? And ought to the worst occur, is there a Plan B in place for the Euro runners-up? — Lawson

Sweden flag No. 3: Sweden

Can the Swedes type their identification for the World Cup and play their finest model?

For a group that dominantly charged by way of to the Olympic closing in 2021, it was unthinkable for Sweden to look so misplaced lower than a 12 months later throughout final summer time’s Euros in England. Yet that was the best way the story performed out for the Scandinavians. Instead of constructing on their Olympic kind, it was as a substitute a case of “Will the real Sweden please stand up?”

Either by leaning right into a extra historically Swedish conservative defensive system or tapping into the attacking model that coach Peter Gerhardsson has preached since taking cost, Sweden are typically a robust match group. But quite than going from energy to energy over the previous few cycles, the power of the group to truly flip up with its finest soccer has been a coin flip.

So, whether or not we are going to see a Sweden which are main with their finest attacking foot as they did in Japan in the course of the Olympics, or struggling to search out one another with easy passes as they did all through the Euros, is the query for Sweden heading into the World Cup. The greatest optimistic for Gerhardsson, which but may tip the scales, is that the group was so subpar in England and appeared to take so many missteps that the supervisor, his teaching workers and the gamers should have discovered from the expertise. But till their first group recreation in Australia this July, we do not know which Sweden will flip up. — Lawson

England flag No. 4: England



Wiegman: Mead wants a miracle to be match for the World Cup

Sarina Wiegman speaks about Beth Mead’s World Cup hopes and previews England’s video games in opposition to Brazil and Australia.

Can the Lionesses stay favourites even with out Beth Mead?

The health of Beth Mead is the key query mark hanging over England’s bid to win the World Cup for the primary time and, based on Lionesses coach Sarina Wiegman, the Arsenal ahead is combating a dropping battle to play in Australia and New Zealand.

Wiegman mentioned on the finish of March that Mead, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament damage in the course of the WSL fixture in opposition to Manchester United in November, shouldn’t be in her ideas for the World Cup as she continues to get better. But Mead has not given up hope of proving her health in time to make Wiegman’s squad, so whereas the coach is planning for the worst-case situation of being with out her, there stays an outdoor prospect of the 27-year-old being match to play: anticipate a closing resolution to be made on the finish of May.

If Mead is match and obtainable, England’s standing as pre-tournament favourites alongside the United States can be justified. Mead emerged from England’s profitable Euro 2022 marketing campaign as Golden Boot winner and the honour of being named as Player of the Tournament because the group received the nation’s first main honour, so her significance to Wiegman’s aspect is apparent. Without Mead’s objectives and all-round means, England’s possibilities of profitable the World Cup would take a serious hit. –Ogden

France flag No. 5: France

Can a brand new coach get gamers get on the identical web page after the sacking of a divisive supervisor?

The previous a number of weeks have been rocky for the French group, to say the least. France captain Wendie Renard introduced she would decide out of enjoying for the French nationwide group so long as coach Corinne Diacre remained on the helm. Two different star gamers, Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani, adopted go well with. The federation sacked Diacre, changing her with Hervé Renard (no relation to Wendie Renard), who can have lower than 4 months to work with the group earlier than the World Cup begins.

Because of the turmoil of the previous few weeks, we are inclined to neglect that France reached the semifinal of the previous Euros only some months in the past. Finally attending to the final 4 of an enormous match was Les Bleues‘ glass ceiling, and so they lastly broke it whereas in England.

For six years, Diacre had a troublesome relationship together with her gamers, however on the pitch, the outcomes had been by no means as unhealthy as that pressure may’ve instructed. Renard has recognised already the expertise and potential of the dressing room. The French squad has youth, expertise, tempo, abilities, depth and physicality — the elements for a possible World Cup winner. Renard is trying to inject power, confidence and a robust bond amongst his new gamers. Through his profession, he is been considered a supervisor who’s inspirational, and he ought to carry the identical degree of motivation to a proficient French group.

What’s extra, he’s ringing within the adjustments. The incontrovertible fact that new mom Amel Majri may carry her child daughter together with her to the Clairefontaine coaching centre for the entire present worldwide break is a big first for France — Diacre by no means allowed it earlier than, regardless of different teams, like the United States, making comparable lodging. Renard is doing every part proper to date and already has his dressing room totally on board. — Laurens

Canada flag No. 6: Canada



Why is the Canadian girls’s soccer group placing forward of the SheBelieves Cup?

Hannah Storm explains why the Canada girls’s group are placing because of price range cuts and equal pay points.

Can the gamers type points with their federation, or will distractions persist?

Canada ought to be getting into this World Cup brimming with confidence. They received the world’s final main match, incomes gold on the Tokyo Olympics, and have been steadily on the rise for years, resulting in a logical conclusion that 2023 might be their breakout World Cup. Instead, nonetheless, a darkish cloud has been hanging over the heads of gamers as they struggle with their federation, the Canada Soccer Association.

The dispute got here to the fore in February when gamers vowed to strike, arguing that the federation hadn’t paid compensation owed to the gamers, and that the federation made unacceptable cuts to the ladies’s program. When CSA threatened to sue in the event that they went on strike, the gamers agreed to report back to the SheBelieves Cup, the place they appeared flat and completed final within the four-team match.

Since then, issues have not improved a lot — the 2 sides agreed final month to a brand new interim contract, however when CSA revealed particulars of these non-public negotiations with out warning, the gamers expressed dismay and “shock” on the tactic. Just final week, Nick Bontis, the person who lately stepped down because the president of CSA over this dispute, publicly apologized to captain Christine Sinclair for labeling her complaints as “bitching.”

It ought to be famous, nonetheless, {that a} nationwide group combating with a federation would not routinely spell doom — simply ask the U.S. girls’s nationwide group, which has plenty of experience fighting with U.S. Soccer, together with after they filed their high-profile equal pay lawsuit months earlier than the 2019 World Cup that they finally received. But it certain would not make issues simpler, and if Canada’s latest outcomes are something to go by — three losses of their previous 4 video games — they higher hope this dispute ends quickly to allow them to give attention to soccer once more. –Murray

Spain flag No. 7: Spain

Will any of the “rebel 15” star gamers settle for call-ups, or will they miss the World Cup?

Save a dramatic late twist, Spain will head to the World Cup with out 15 of their finest gamers, together with six from powerhouse membership Barcelona.

The 15 gamers introduced in September they didn’t wish to be thought of for choice till there have been important adjustments and enhancements made to the make-up of the teaching workers and construction across the group. Yet no such adjustments have been applied and the Royal Spanish Football Federation, or RFEF, has made it clear it would stand by coach Jorge Vilda and his teaching workers (though the gamers by no means explicitly demanded his elimination). So far, there is not any indication that both aspect will relent within the run-up to the World Cup. The match can be poorer for the lack of Barca’s Mapi Leon, Aitana Bonmati and Patri Guijarro, amongst others.

Interestingly, although, Barca defender Irene Paredes did return to the Spain squad for this month’s worldwide friendlies. She was by no means formally a part of the 15 however had fronted a information convention in September asking for change. Pachuca ahead Jenni Hermoso can be concerned once more.

The greatest variable relating to the squad is back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, thought of the most effective participant on the earth earlier than her ACL tear final summer time. The Barca midfielder is again in coaching after eight months recovering and in idea, she can be match for the World Cup. While injured, her assist for the 15 was made clear, however she by no means introduced herself unavailable for choice. Speaking lately, Vilda didn’t shut the door on taking her to the World Cup and mentioned he’ll communicate to her when she returns to motion, doubtlessly later in April. — Marsden

Netherlands flag No. 8: The Netherlands

Can a brand new and inexperienced coach deal with the stakes of the largest match on the earth?

With enigmatic striker Vivianne Miedema dominated out of the World Cup with an ACL damage, there was a right away fear after her damage as to the place the objectives may come for the Netherlands in Australia and New Zealand. However, with six totally different objective scorers within the seven video games since new supervisor Andries Jonker took over final 12 months, the early indicators of others with the ability to chip in with objectives are encouraging.

The wider fear is Jonker’s relative inexperience at this degree. Now in his thirty fifth 12 months as a coach, he is by no means led a senior group at a serious match earlier than, spending the vast majority of his profession both teaching youth and second teams or performing as an assistant to others. Much like his predecessor Mark Parsons, who departed after final summer time’s Euros, Jonker has leaned on a number of the extra skilled gamers in his group. Deferring to the veterans whereas additionally making an attempt to combine a number of the younger and proficient gamers coming by way of — and in addition making an attempt to do this throughout a World Cup — can be a brand new and doubtlessly difficult job for the coach.

The Netherlands are a deeply proficient squad, however one with many unknowns for each coach and gamers alike. — Lawson

Brazil flag No. 9: Brazil

Are Brazil nonetheless an enormous fish in a small pond, or is new coach Pia Sundhage getting them able to make a splash?

The query hanging over Brazil may hardly be clearer: are they something greater than the bosses of a small hill? Hosts Colombia pushed them exhausting within the closing of final 12 months’s Copa América Femenina, however Brazil nonetheless received the match with out conceding a single objective. This is all very nicely on the continent, however Brazil’s sights are set a lot larger.

For a number of years at the beginning of the century, Brazil saved falling brief in main finals, however had a declare to be the most effective aspect on the earth — a feat solely right down to the unplanned, spontaneous look of expertise. The likes of Marta (who is about to seem in her sixth World Cup, a FIFA file) and Debinha have anchored this group for greater than a technology, however by the 2012 London Olympics, it was apparent that in a quickly creating sport, Brazil had fallen behind. More lately there was a belated try and play catch-up — the home league for Brazil’s girls has obtained unprecedented investments, and following the 2019 World Cup, vastly skilled Swedish coach Pia Sundhage was introduced in to take cost of the nationwide group.

Under Sundhage, Brazil received the 2022 Copa America, however misplaced warm-up friendlies in opposition to Sweden and Denmark, and so they lately fell to Canada and USA within the SheBelieves Cup invitational. At this stage, it is exhausting to know if they’ve made actual progress beneath Sundhage. Or, if they’ve developed, how do their efforts examine with these of different continents?

There had been extraordinarily optimistic indicators within the second half in opposition to England in Thursday’s first-ever Finalissima. But in some way, the World Cup will provide some definitive proof. — Vickery

Australia flag No. 10: Australia

Can the Matildas navigate co-hosting stress and at last reside as much as their huge potential?

Based on the Matildas’ present good kind and up to date reentry into FIFA’s top 10 world rankings, making it to the quarterfinals is the move/fail mark for the Aussies at their residence World Cup. If the group would not make it out of the so-called “group of death” — with Nigeria, the Republic of Ireland and Canada — it would rightly be deemed a failure. A round-of-16 exit can be disappointing and lift severe questions about whether or not or not Australian soccer has maximised the skills of this technology, led by probably the greatest strikers on the earth in Sam Kerr.

As such, stress is mounting on supervisor Tony Gustavsson to not solely get essentially the most out of his squad. A fifth journey to the quarterfinals would outdo the group’s run in France and be completely acceptable, but it surely may not satiate the lofty expectations of the followers who noticed the Matildas end fourth on the Olympics or those that imagine, flippantly or genuinely, that they’ll win the entire thing. — Lordanic

Japan flag No. 11: Japan

Can Nadeshiko follow their core identification and construct confidence to evolve right into a extra harmful aspect?

For the primary 12 months of his reign as Japan head coach again in 2021, Futoshi Ikeda appeared like a person out of his depth. Although he inherited a supremely proficient squad from Asako Takakura, who did not ship over 5 years within the function of head coach, the Nadeshiko appeared to be caught in the identical rut of expertise and potential not equating to performances.

However, after extra time within the function, issues lastly gave the impression to be clicking into place for Ikeda and Japan on the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, with slim defeats to the U.S. and Brazil adopted by a powerful 3-0 win over Canada. The query isn’t just whether or not Ikeda can maintain delivering higher performances and optimistic outcomes, but when the group can keep true to his concepts and lean on the passing energy of his gamers.

For Japan, the important thing can be enjoying their trademark possession recreation, which affords one of the dynamic types in world soccer, in addition to retaining their midfield core (Jun Endo, Yui Hasegawa and Hina Sugita) match and wholesome. But to construct past that, Japan should work on retaining perception and starvation in assault, and understanding that generally they must power the difficulty to attain and progress. — Lawson

Norway flag No. 12: Norway



Hayes: England had been relentless in 8-0 thrashing of Norway

Emma Hayes speaks about England’s 8-0 win over Norway on the Women’s European Championship.

Was a training change the reply to all of underperforming Norway’s issues?

Coming in at No. 12 in FIFA’s world rankings, Norway is a darkish horse to win the World Cup, at the very least on paper. First, let’s begin with the truth that ubertalented striker Ada Hegerberg rejoined the Norway squad final 12 months after 5 years of refusing to go well with up for the nationwide group because of what she referred to as a scarcity of assist from the Norwegian federation. Her return was hailed as a game-changer for Norway forward of final summer time’s Euros, however now that she has greater than a full 12 months with the nationwide group, she ought to match extra seamlessly general.

That brings us to the largest purpose for optimism: after years of subpar performances beneath supervisor Martin Sjögren, the Norwegian federation lastly had sufficient as soon as Norway suffered a humiliating Euros final summer time, which included an 8-0 loss to England and a gaggle stage exit. That got here after Sjögren’s different biggest hits: a gaggle stage exit for Norway on the 2017 Euros, and a quarterfinals exit on the 2019 World Cup.

With Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen — two of the most effective gamers on the earth — representing Norway, the prevailing sentiment has been the Norwegians have extra to supply than Sjögren allowed. Now, it is as much as Hege Riise, who took the helm in August. Results since Riise took over — together with a draw to France, a draw to England and a win over the Netherlands — counsel the group might be heading in the right direction because the Norwegian gamers have appeared extra balanced and in sync. Come July, will that also be the case? — Murray


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