One of the biggest events in women's sports starts today. The Women's World Cup 2023!
This is the ninth version of the tournament. It is being held in two countries—Australia and New Zealand.
With 32 countries involved, all representing the best in women's world football (a.k.a. soccer), the stakes are high and the competition is stiff.
One of those 32 teams is Canada. And if you're new to women's soccer, we've got some good news for you. The Canadians are good. Very good.
But the Canadians are far from alone in their dreams of winning it all.
With Canada kicking off in its first match against Nigeria at 10:30pm EST/7:30pm Pacific tonight, let's look at some of the biggest stories in this year's tournament.
Canada is ready
Winning an Olympic gold medal will do a lot for your confidence. But then again, Canada has actually had great success in women's Olympic soccer, also winning bronze in 2012 and 2016.
And yet at the Women's World Cup, they've struggled. Outside of a semifinals appearance in 2003, the best that they've done was a quarterfinals appearance in 2015. And to make things even tougher, this is the first year that there are 32 teams at the WWC (the last few times, it was 24).
But Canada has also gotten better as a team. In the past, it was up to Christine Sinclair (only the greatest international goal scorer of all-time) to carry her team to victory. (Her hat trick against the United States in the 2012 London Olympics is still legendary.) These days though, Canada is a deep, well-rounded squad full of young talent like Julia Grosso, Kadeisha Buchanan, Adriana Leon, and Jordyn Huitema.
The team will miss experienced attacker Janine Beckie, who is out injured. But goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan is an exceptional talent. And then there's Jessie Fleming.
With Sinclair nearing retirement, the 25-year-old midfielder is Canada's best player and new leader. She does everything powering a trophy-winning machine at her club team Chelsea. When she is at her best, the Canadians aren't afraid of any team.
The Group of Death
Canada will need that self-belief. Because as a member of Group B, they are playing in what experts are calling this tournament's Group of Death (this is a group where the teams are all very well matched).
Their first opponent, Nigeria, is the highest-ranked African team at WWC 2023. Asisat Oshoala is maybe the greatest women's soccer player to ever come from Africa. Her teammates and country are on the rise, improving year-to-year. And they might be the least difficult matchup in the group.
Next up is Ireland, who are led by team captain Katie McCabe. Even though this is their first WWC, Ireland has been knocking on the door for a while now (it's not their fault that some of the world's best teams come from Europe!). Underestimate the 'Girls In Green' at your own risk.
But one team Canada will not underestimate is joint host Australia. Their captain, Sam Kerr, is the best player in the world. Period. (Though a sudden calf injury will keep her out of the Aussies' first two matches.) Kind of like Sinclair at Canada, Kerr is so good, she could often carry her teammates almost all by herself. But these days, Australia is a much deeper team. When Canada and Australia face off on July 31, it should be to determine who wins the group.
The best of the rest
Okay, so that's Canada and Group B. But there are seven other groups at the WWC and 28 teams. Among them?
Defending European champs England. Back-to-back defending WWC champs USA. Powerhouse European teams from Germany, France, Netherlands, and Sweden. One of the greatest women's players of all-time, Marta, who leads Brazil in her sixth World Cup.
Any of these teams could win it all.
And then there are a bunch of teams making their debuts at the tournament: Haiti, Morocco, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Vietnam, and Zambia. The excitement will be through the roof. So much so, that the opening match for Australia versus Ireland this morning drew a record crowd of 75,000 people!
We can't wait. Best of luck to whichever team you'll be cheering for and enjoy this amazing event!