While the footballing world’s eyes are on Qatar this winter, next summer they will be heading down under to Australia and New Zealand as the 2023 Women’s World Cup will begin play! So far, 29 of the 32 teams have booked their spots in next year’s tournament with the final three spots to be decided via intercontinental playoffs next year (see sidebar).
To see where we stand with qualification Soccer 360 Magazine’s Sean Maslin has a breakdown from each Confederation!
Confederation of African Football (CAF)
Qualified: Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia
Qualified for Intercontinental Playoff: Cameroon and Senegal
Overview: South Africa followed up their first World Cup appearance with a strong run in the African Cup of Nations, earning their first title and booking their ticket for Australia/New Zealand. The Banyana Banyana are looking to improve upon their 2018 performance, which saw the side go winless and the group stage and score just one goal.
Also, looking to improve upon past performances is Nigeria, who will be making their ninth appearance in the tournament. The Super Falcons feature an array of players who are playing professionally in England, Spain, and the United States, including Ifeoma Onumonu, who was named to the National Women’s Soccer League’s 2011 Best XI Second team.
Rounding out those that have qualified are two first-time qualifiers: Morocco and Zambia. Both sides inexperience will be tested next year. Although Morocco placed second in the African Cup of Nations, they had not qualified for the tournament since 1996. Forward Rosella Ayane, who plays her club football for Tottenham Hotspur, is a player to keep an eye on as the tournament unfolds.
As for Zambia, they are an interesting side because although most of their players are based within the country they have been steadily developing a solid national team. The Copper Queens just won the COSAFA Championship, an international competition for teams from Southern Africa, defeating South Africa’s B team in the final. Forward Barbara Banda, who plays her club football for Shanghai Shengii, is their captain and will be heavily relied upon against more experienced sides.
Africa’s two representatives in the intercontinental playoff will be Cameroon and Senegal. Cameroon have qualified for the previous two World Cups while Senegal would be making their first appearance.
Asia Football Confederation (AFC)
Qualified for World Cup 2023: Australia (host), China, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam
Qualified for Intercontinental Playoffs: Taiwan and Thailand
Overview: One of the major beneficiaries of the expanded tournament is the Asian Football Confederation, which will see two World Cup debutantes in the Philippines and Vietnam (potentially more depending upon Taiwan fares in the playoffs).
China finished first at the 2022 AFC Asian Cup, while South Korea placed second, and Japan and the Philippines qualified by making the semifinals of the tournament. Qualification for the final automatic spot was a little bit tricky as it depended upon Australia, who participated in the tournament but were not eligible for a World Cup spot as they had qualified through being a host country. Since Australia was eliminated in the Quarterfinals of the Asian Cup, the final spot would be determined by Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Vietnam won the round-robin sub-tournament defeating both sides 2-1 and 2-0 respectively to earn the final automatic bid.
While Australia, China, and Japan are all perennial contenders and should have strong tournaments, keep an eye on South Korea. The Taeguk Ladies just narrowly lost to China in the AFC Asian Cup finals and drew against defending Olympics Champion Canada back in June. Midfielder Cho So-hyun has emerged as one of the top midfielders in world football, excelling with South Korea and with her club side Tottenham Hotspur.
Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)
Qualified for World Cup 2023: Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and the United States
Qualified for Intercontinental Playoffs: Haiti and Panama
Overview: Qualification for CONCACAF’s four automatic spots took place at this Women’s Championship in July. The finals saw Alex Morgan of the United States earn her side the narrow 1-0 win over Canada, getting a measure of revenge for their defeat at the Tokyo Olympics. Jamaica and Costa Rica rounded out the top four with the Reggae Girlz earning their second consecutive World Cup appearance and the Lady Ticas earning their first appearance in the tournament since 2015.
What will be interesting to see is how Haiti and Panama fare in the intercontinental playoffs. Haiti largely booked their spot into the playoffs by stunning Mexico 3-0 during the qualification group stage. Although their roster is stacked with players who play professionally in Europe and the United States, there have been questions as to whether their Football Association will have the resources to help the side. The country is currently embroiled in civil conflict after the assasination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021. Should they qualify for the World Cup it would be a tremendous testament to the players and coaching staff as well as perhaps provide a rallying point for a country in chaos.
As for Panama, they came very, very close to qualifying in 2018. Despite fielding a side largely made up of teenagers, they made it to the semifinals. Although they lost 4-2 in penalties to Jamaica semifinals. They qualified for the intercontinental playoffs, but were outmatched against a more experienced Argentina With four years of experience under their belts, The Canal Girls may finally break through.
South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL)
Qualified for World Cup 2023: Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia
Qualified for Intercontinental Playoffs: Chile and Paraguay
Overview: Brazil defeated Copa America Femenina hosts Colombia to earn top honors and to book their spot in Australia/New Zealand. Although Marta will be 37 at the start of the tournament, she is still Brazil’s best player and one of the top strikers in the World Cup. The question is now can the likes of Debinha (North Carolina Courage) and Ludmila (Atletico Madrid) step up and provide her support during big matches?
Colombia is one of the rising stars in women’s world football, having significantly invested over the last decade in youth soccer and in the development of their professional club system. The dividends are starting to pay off. After leading her side through some pretty dark times, captain Daniela Montoya should be primed for a breakout tournament.
Argentina are the third automatic qualifier, having defeated Paraguay 3-1 to place third in the Copa America Femenina. They will be looking to build off of a 2019 World Cup which saw the side draw twice and just miss a spot in the knockout round.
Chile and Panama will participate in the intercontinental playoffs after Paraguay finished fourth and Chile defeated Venezuela to place fifth.
Oceania Football Confederation (OFC)
Qualified for World Cup: New Zealand
Qualified for Intercontinental Playoffs: Papua New Guinea
New Zealand qualified as hosts for the 2023 World Cup and have made five consecutive tournaments. However, they have struggled mightily at the tournament. In their seven appearances all-time, they have never made it out of the Group Stage and have a record of zero wins, three draws, and fifteen losses. Since they are the hosts they will be in the first pot. This may be their best chance to actually make an impact.
With the Kiwis hosting, that opened up a spot for another OCEANIA to perhaps make it to the next stage. Papua New Guinea defeated Fiji 2-1 to earn the playoff spot. The Lakatois have never made the World Cup and their roster is made up of players who play their football domestically. A World Cup berth would be an amazing story for the island nation of just 9 million, but it will be a major challenge.
Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
Qualified for World Cup; Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland
Still In The Hunt: Portugal
World Cup favorites England, France, and Germany all won their groups handily while Italy and Spain both had to overcome a couple of speed bumps to finish top of their group. Netherlands also had a strong group run and are looking to improve upon their second place showing at World Cup 2019. Don’t sleep on Denmark who just narrowly lost to Spain 1-0 at the European Championships and made short work of their opponents in World Cup qualifying. This will be their first World Cup appearance since 2007
The two final automatic qualification spots went to Republic of Ireland and Switzerland, who had to make it out of a nine team playoff consisting of teams who finished second in their groups. The Irish squeaked by Scotland 1-0 to earn their first-ever World Cup berth while the Swiss held off Wales 2-1 in extratime. Portugal also won their second round group, defeating Iceland 4-1 in extratime. However, they were unable to overcome Ireland’s superior point total across all legs of qualification (20 to 19).The good news is that they will have a second crack at qualifying through the intercontinental playoff as Europe’s lone representative.