The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Australia and New Zealand.


The lead: Germany make major statement

MELBOURNE, Australia — Germany didn’t present the most convincing of sides heading into this World Cup. There was drama over Bayern Munich players being released for duty, they were far from convincing in defeating Vietnam and then losing to Zambia in their final warmup matches, and there were questions over cohesion and fluidity, and they displayed an alarming vulnerability in transition.

There were injury concerns, too, with Marina Hegering and Lena Oberdorf unavailable for the side’s opening game against Morocco on Monday, and when women’s footballing old guard struggled to impose their will in the opening days of the tournament, there even appeared to be the groundwork of an upset by Morocco being laid.

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And so it came to pass. There was no fairy-tale upset, no triumph against the odds for the first Arab nation to compete at a Women’s World Cup. Instead, a controlling, professional and ruthless 6-0 thrashing was served as a reminder of why the Germans are considered among the favourites.

Multiple goals when the game still resembled something of a contest came from their fierce counter-press, first with Alexandra Popp‘s brace in the first half and Klara Buhl effectively killing the game off when she made it 3-0 just 20 seconds after the break.

Though there were some early warning signs when Morocco was able to break in transition, those dried up as the Atlas Lionesses were feeling dissipated. As the game wore on, the cumulative pressure of Germany asserting their will led to two own goals from Morocco before Lea Schuller put a bow on things. Look out world, the Germans are coming. — Joey Lynch


News of the day

  • American fans watching back home may have missed it: After Sophia Smith scored her second goal in the United States‘ win over Vietnam in their opener of the Women’s World Cup, Smith made a “zip your lips” gesture. The television cameras did not catch the celebration in full, but it was a gesture to honor former Stanford teammate Katie Meyer, who died by suicide last year, USWNT defender Naomi Girma said Monday. At the 2019 NCAA College Cup, Meyer made the title-winning save in a penalty shootout and then did the lip-zipping celebration, which went viral and was featured on “SportsCenter.” Smith and Girma were on that team.

    “We said if one of us scored — probably her [Smith] — then we’d do that,” Girma said. “It’s just another way of honoring her.”

    She added: “With a lot of players, us included, speaking out on mental health, we see this as an opportunity to shed light on a lot of things that are important to us. That’s been something that’s been at the core of this team for so long and for us to come in now and carry on that legacy is something that’s really important to us.”

  • The Matildas’ strong collective bargaining agreement is “absolutely an advantage” at the Women’s World Cup, former Australia international and players’ union co-chief Kate Gill told ESPN. Australia’s national teams, represented by players’ union Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), signed a CBA with Football Australia in 2019 that established equal pay between the Socceroos and Matildas, as well as ensuring that Australia’s women would receive maternity support and equal access to the same off-field benefits as Australia’s men. Initially set to expire during the Women’s World Cup, a short-term extension of that agreement was secured earlier this year at the Matildas’ encouragement in order to avoid any potential distraction during a home tournament.

    “There are only a handful of countries that have secured collective agreements that deliver world-class conditions and standards,” Gill told ESPN. “Each of those countries, including Australia, has achieved these standards through players fighting for progress — often over decades and through significant industrial action. Those players who now enjoy these conditions have a world-class high-performance environment in which to prepare for any international tournament, but they also have certainty, which allows them to focus on their tournament performance. There are many interconnected factors which contribute to a successful tournament performance, but players having access to high-performance environments and a high degree of certainty over employment and pay — all of which is delivered by a CBA — is absolutely an advantage.”


Today in USWNT camp

Recovery, the process of regenerating the body in between practices and games, is an opportunity to ease the mind as well as the body. It could include the cryochamber, a solitary activity that’s like an ice bath, but quicker. Going to the training room to get aches and pains taken care of adds a social aspect as well.

“It’s very interesting that even your downtime and your personal time is still tied to performance,” midfielder Andi Sullivan said. “That’s something that we deal with as athletes all the time, but it’s seriously heightened obviously at this time period. So it’s funny, even when you’re like, ‘I need a rest or a mental break,’ it’s still in order to bring your best self on the field.”

— Jeff Carlisle, in Auckland, New Zealand, reports on how the USWNT players spend their downtime on what (they hope) will be a 40-day stay at the World Cup.


Sights and sounds

Brazil post own big score thanks to Borges

Brazil showed their own title credentials with a commanding 4-0 win over Panama on Monday at Hindmarsh Stadium in Australia.

The Selecao had Ary Borges in remarkable form, as she marked her World Cup debut with a hat trick and an assist. She became the fourth player to score a trio of goals in the competition for Brazil while there were also impressive performances from Kerolin.

Pia Sundhage’s side were utterly dominant and started quickly, carving out a clear chance after just 42 seconds as Adriana went through on goal only to take a poor final touch. But they only had to wait 19 minutes for their opener, as Borges converted an unmarked header off a Debinha cross. She then added another after 38 minutes as she saw a header saved but tapped in the rebound.

Brazil then started the second half in similar fashion and scored a brilliant third as Debinha’s cross found Borges, who took a touch and teed up Bia Zaneratto to slot the ball home past Yenith Bailey. Borges added her third and Brazil’s fourth in the 70th minute, as she headed the ball home through Bailey’s legs.

But one of the biggest cheers of the night was reserved for the introduction of Marta after 75 minutes. The Brazil legend is playing in her sixth and final World Cup and replaced the hat-trick star Borges. — Tom Hamilton

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Recapping Italy’s ‘feisty’ late win vs. Argentina

Sophie Lawson reacts to Italy’s 1-0 win over Argentina thanks to Cristiana Girelli’s late winner.

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — For the third time in as many days, a late game-winning goal added a heaping dose of drama to the Women’s World Cup.

This time it was Italy who found the breakthrough after 87 minutes of scoreless deadlock to win 1-0, and heartbreak for an Argentina side that had good spells but couldn’t match Italy’s scoring chances. Three minutes from full-time, Italian full-back Lisa Boattin launched a long ball into the box, finding the head of Cristiana Girelli, who had been subbed in only four minutes earlier. That came after two other would-be Italy goals had been disallowed in the first half.

When Girelli was asked postmatch if she had done enough to earn a starting spot in Italy’s next match against Sweden on Wednesday, she laughed: “You don’t need to ask me, you need to ask my coach.” The question certainly adds some intrigue going forward.

Despite the lengthy stalemate, this match wasn’t short on entertainment, even though on paper it seemed like this might be one of the more subdued fixtures here. After all, hosts New Zealand already came through, along with the U.S. women’s national team, which has the largest traveling fan base in this tournament.

But the traveling Argentina fans made it a party Monday night, even as Italy outshot their opponents 12-5. With drums beating and fans jumping and chanting, the sound of the Argentine fans filled the stadium, which saw an attendance of 30,889.

“It was crazy, it was crazy,” Argentina forward Paulina Gramaglia said. “It was playing a home game on the other side of the world.” — Caitlin Murray

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Ferns, USWNT kick-start World Cup in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The city of Wellington could provide the base for a World Cup relaunch in New Zealand this week with the co-hosts and the United States both in town. The Football Ferns meet the Philippines on Tuesday, with the USWNT taking on Netherlands on Thursday.

The uptake in the city has so far been relatively low. Aside from a fairly cool fan zone on the waterfront, as well as “Beyond Greatness” branding around the city, there is not yet much of a buzz around the tournament. The games played here so far, Spain vs. Costa Rica and Sweden vs. South Africa, drew crowds of 22,966 and 18,317 respectively at the 34,500-capacity Wellington Regional Stadium — although the swirling wind and rain which provided the backdrop to both fixtures may have put some undecided fans off attending.

That could have perhaps been predicted, given the way FIFA president Gianni Infantino pleaded with New Zealand fans “to do the right thing” amid slowing ticket sales in the country pre-tournament. In Australia, where ticket sales have been better, there have been complaints from some fans about splitting the group-stage 50/50 with New Zealand, although they come with an acceptance that a joint bid was what was needed to win hosting rights.

There is still time for New Zealand to stand up, though. The co-host’s opening win over Norway has lifted expectations. Tickets for Tuesday’s game against the Philippines sold out after that surprise victory, while FIFA announced on Monday that Argentina’s match against Italy at Auckland’s Eden Park saw the 1,500,000th ticket of the tournament sold.

The USWNT’s presence in Wellington on Thursday is also likely to see an influx of supporters. A FIFA source told ESPN the U.S. is responsible for the most ticket sales from fans outside of the host nations. Thursday’s clash with the Netherlands, a re-run of the 2019 final, could therefore help kick-start that World Cup feeling in Wellington. — Sam Marsden

NZ celebrity life is ‘pretty chill’

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s players are at least enjoying their newfound fame after shocking Norway in the tournament’s opening game last week.

“It has been great,” Ferns midfielder Malia Steinmetz said in a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Philippines. “If we go out for a coffee now, someone comes up and says congrats, which we don’t usually get. It has been nice.

“It is one of the main reasons why we have been trying to push so hard. It is also for the younger generation. We want to inspire the country and I think you can see parts of that. We want to keep the ball rolling and keep inspiring more if we can.”

Steinmetz says the players have “regrouped and come back to earth” after that win in preparation for their next game, insisting that the celebrations, including a visit to the locker room from New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, have not knocked their focus.

“It has been interesting, but being Kiwis in New Zealand, like, it’s pretty chill,” she added. “No matter what you throw at us, we just take it in our stride, stay grounded and stay humble. It is part of who we are. It has been fun but we know at end of the day we deserve what we got, so now we have to keep performing.” — Sam Marsden

Norwegian woe

Norway’s players seethed as they made their way through the mixed zone after their loss to New Zealand last Thursday, for as placid as they had been on the pitch, there was no mistaking the emotion coming off of them in waves. None of them were under the illusion they had played well but it wasn’t a new story, but rather the next chapter in an ongoing saga of missed opportunities and unfathomably poor performances.

The 8-0 loss to England at last year’s Euros had had a deeper impact that led incoming coach Hege Riise to address the defence that could never match the strength of the Norwegian attack. But in trying to fix a leaky back line, Riise — once a great attacker herself — had thrown a damp towel across the whole team, extinguishing the fire in her stacked attack.

When talking to ESPN earlier in the year, Riise had fallen on an old argument that Norway couldn’t play like her LSK team — a side that boasted Guro Reiten and Ingrid Syrstad Engen readying themselves for blockbuster moves — or like Ada Hegerberg (Lyon) or Caroline Graham Hansen‘s (Barcelona) club teams as they lacked the players. And true enough, Norway’s defence is a sizable way behind the world-class midfield and attack they boast, but that’s the very reason Riise should be setting her team up to harness that breathtaking attack.

Coming off strong seasons with Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, Frida Maanum and Reiten are reduced to bit players when pushed into the role of dual-No. 8s. Indeed, what was so striking about the New Zealand game was just how flimsy and porous the midfield was despite the strength of its individuals.

When asked by ESPN ahead of their opening match about the disconnect between individual talent and group performance, Graham Hansen said: “The quality is there, but maybe the expectation is also too high because of what we as individuals have achieved with our clubs. It is not always given that you put that straight into the national team.”

Yet, Norway aren’t a one-trick pony, they don’t only have a Hegerberg or a Graham Hansen and should be delivering so much more than they have.

Ahead of their crunch group game against Switzerland, there is little time to employ a new system but they are a team without identity, sleepwalking through tournament after tournament. Against the Ferns, the team looked like strangers with no idea about how they should be playing. The sullen faces afterward clearly suggested that, however it was, it was not the way they wanted to play. For as foolhardy as all-out attack may be, it would at least, at long last, show some fight and bite from the Football Girls. — Sophie Lawson

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Should Daly start over Russo for England in the World Cup?

Sam Marsden and Marissa Lordanic share who they think should start for England going forward after their win over Haiti.

Life on standby

SYDNEY — The day after England’s opener against Haiti, two players left the camp. The life of an injury standby player is a strange existence: you’re in a role where you know you’ll only get a shot at being in the World Cup squad because of a teammate’s misfortune. You also know that if the call doesn’t come, then you’ve flown halfway around the world to be standing on the outside of the tent looking in.

But Lucy Staniforth never once considered turning down the invite, even though it meant she had to cancel her holiday to Ibiza. Sandra, Lucy’s mum, ended up going anyway, so while she was relaxing on the White Isle, Staniforth was down in Brisbane preparing to leave the England camp just as things were getting going.

“It is funny when the squad came out,” Staniforth said. “My mum and I were having a text back and forth, obviously there was disappointment at the time and while I didn’t feel that I had let her down, I felt like it was something that I really wanted to achieve and give her the memories like we had in France four years ago.”

Staniforth, 30, challenged herself to make the most of the opportunity. “I didn’t want to come into an environment and leave it and no one notice that you have gone. You always want to try and make a mark. Whether that is on the training pitch or being a good teammate and I am obviously happy that Sarina has noticed that I have managed to do both.”

Maya Le Tissier, 21, was the other standby player. “You have to prepare yourself that you will be packing your bags but also know that you have to make sure you do everything you can in a short space of time to help the team prepare,” she said. “It has been enjoyable really.”

Staniforth left the camp with an overriding feeling of “sadness and pride,” but both players have headed to Sydney to be tourists, with climbing the Harbour Bridge top of their list. “The staff have booked for us to be able to do that as a ‘thank you.’ I was like ‘Oh, wow!’ But I am scared of heights, so I don’t know what I have let myself in for … I am just going to smile and be brave. We are going to do it together. Maya can go first and I will just look at her!”

And then it’s back to the UK to prepare for the next WSL season with Aston Villa. It wasn’t the summer Staniforth planned — ideally she’d have been part of the 23-player squad — but when England comes calling, she dropped anything on the off chance that she’d still have a chance of achieving her World Cup dream.

“I won’t be heading to Ibiza; that ship has sailed. But there is always next year,” she said. “I never pictured being in Australia, but the fact I made it here is so special.” — Tom Hamilton

A whole new ballgame

SYDNEY — All Blacks coach Ian Foster has a vested interest in the Women’s World Cup; his daughter Michaela Foster is part of the Football Ferns’ side. On Sunday he met with FIFA president Gianni Infantino to present him with a signed jersey from one of the world’s best rugby teams.

The New Zealand rugby team are preparing the men’s Rugby World Cup later this year, but Ian Foster has been keeping a close eye on the football World Cup in New Zealand. He met with Infantino and ex-France international Youri Djorkaeff, who is a senior football adviser to FIFA.

“It was great to meet Ian Foster, All Blacks coach in Auckland,” Infantino said. “Rugby is such a huge sport in this beautiful country, and it was really interesting to compare notes with football.”

Foster will be keeping up to date with all things Football Ferns from Melbourne this week as he takes his All Blacks side there to face Australia, the latest instalment of the trans-Tasman rivalry. But he was there in Eden Park last week to see the team get off to a winning start against Norway.

“I think it’s special, firstly, I guess, for this country to have such a major event here and, I guess, to celebrate, first of all, sport played at the highest level. It’s great to see the women participate at such a high level,” Foster said. “For me, personally I’ve got a daughter involved in the Football Ferns so I’m deeply engaged in their progress and I have been for the last six months. It was so exciting to be at Eden Park the other night and watch that performance.”

Foster said he was also taken with how special the occasion was. “It’s like people are going along and actually want to experience something a little bit new,” Foster said. “Maybe many of our public haven’t watched top football the way they’re watching it now. They go along with the mindset of enjoying it, and now they’re also seeing the high skill and the energy, and it’s the same commitment that goes into any other sport. So, I think you’ve got a mix of those two emotions.” — Tom Hamilton

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Alyssa Thompson shares thoughts on huge Netherlands clash

Alyssa Thompson and Naomi Girma share the USWNT’s expectations ahead of their massive game vs. the Netherlands.

Match previews

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook.

Group H: Colombia vs. South Korea (Football Stadium, Sydney; 12 p.m. local / 10 p.m. ET / 3 a.m. BST)

Odds: Colombia +190, Draw +19, South Korea +155

With Germany the favourites to sweep Group H even before Monday’s 6-0 thrashing of Morocco, Colombia and South Korea will both head into their opening match with points on their mind. A loss in their opening game could spell disaster for either side’s campaign.

One of the tightest games to predict in the opening round, expect a cagey affair with both sides likely playing to avoid a loss rather than looking for a win.

South Korea, competing in their third consecutive World Cup, enter the match with the better recent record after winning their last three games. They will be aiming to replicate their best performance at the tournament, when they reached the round of 16 in 2015.

Colombia, meanwhile, make their return to the Women’s World Cup after failing to qualify in 2019 and will be looking to produce their best results yet. But with just one win, two draws and four losses in their last seven internationals they’ll need to produce some big performances to reach the knockouts and will be relying heavily on highly rated Real Madrid winger Linda Caicedo. — Brittany Mitchell

Group A: New Zealand vs. Philippines (Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, 5.30 p.m. local / 1.30 a.m. ET / 6.30 a.m. BST)

Odds: New Zealand -325, Draw +370, Philippines +900

When the World Cup groups were drawn, both New Zealand and the Philippines would have looked at this second group-stage match as the one they could win. The assumption was that both sides would fall to their European opponents first up.

But the Football Ferns defeated Norway to earn their first-ever World Cup win and will now feel even more confident about bagging another three points — and potentially moving to the knockouts for the first time.

The Philippines will look to spoil the party and, despite their opening loss to Switzerland, will feel confident they can do so after only losing to the Ferns 2-1 back in September. With the two sides at a similar level, expect an entertaining match. — Marissa Lordanic

Group F: Switzerland vs. Norway (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, 8 p.m. local/ 4 a.m. ET / 9 a.m. BST)

Odds: Switzerland +230 Draw +235, Norway +110

Norway’s loss to the Football Ferns on Thursday’s tournament opener will have been a boost for Switzerland, who got up and running against the Philippines on Friday. Having seen their next opponents’ weaknesses laid bare in Auckland, the Swiss will feel they can scoop all three points in Hamilton.

If Norway are to take anything from the game, or indeed, this tournament, coach Hege Riise will have to abandon her failed plans to strengthen the defence and lean into the might of attack at her disposal. It’s a match that is likely to be won and lost in the midfield, and one that Norway certainly can’t afford to lose. — Sophie Lawson


Features of the day

Horan may be USWNT’s MVP in World Cup of transition
The U.S. midfield has been in a state of flux, but one constant has been Lindsey Horan, who is poised to prove worthy of being named co-captain.

Mexico‘s Liga MX Femenil having impact at Women’s World Cup
Despite Mexico not qualifying, no league whose home country didn’t make the World Cup sent more players to the tournament than Liga MX Femenil.


And finally …

For the players on the U.S. women’s national team, being at camp for a tournament as big as the Women’s World Cup means having their every need covered so they can focus on one task: winning.

For the more than a month the players will spend in Auckland, New Zealand, during the World Cup, U.S. Soccer is handling all the details, and anything that can give the players an edge come game time is provided. A part big of that? Food, and lots of it.

Caitlin Murray has more on the Americans’ meal plans for the tournament.



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