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Stars of the 2023 Women’s World Cup

Victory for Spain in the 2023 Women’s World Cup was won with superior gameplay, squad-depth and the rising stars of world soccer.
Stars+of+the+2023+Women%E2%80%99s+World+Cup
Mariyam Syed

The 2023 Women’s World Cup comes to a close with Spain’s well-deserved victory and a series of surprise defeats, and fans can look forward to many bright stars in the future of women’s international soccer. While there were many highs and lows, one of the most inspiring things to see was the widespread attention to the game with over 1,500,00 record ticket sales made in just the first few days. It was also amazing to see really young players and new countries make their way onto the world stage for the first time.

The competition was not without upsets, like the defeat of the two-time champion U.S. National Team in the Round of 16 matches, which is the second round of the tournament involving 16 teams playing on knockout stakes. Most disappointingly for me was seeing Australia’s Sam Kerr injured and miss game time. Despite that, she still managed to score one amazing, long-distance goal before Australia’s defeat on home soil as hosts of the World Cup. And lastly, in the final game, England’s failure to bring it home left many fans grieving. 

The eventual champions themselves, Spain, even lost 4-0 against Japan in the first game, but they fought hard for their place in the Round of 16. They played very satisfyingly, with a cohesive team and fast-paced soccer, and each player was very well-rounded and clinical in their position. It was midfielder Aitana Bonmati who won the Golden Ball award for best player in the tournament with three goals and two assists. Though others did score more goals, the young midfielder’s impact on the field was undeniable as a starting player.

It was also a testament to how Spain has some of the best youth soccer infrastructure, with training academies and competitive youth teams for clubs. Most of the Spanish national team women are players of Spain’s top two soccer teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona Femení, marking them elite players. 

Their victory is also shows how much squad depth Spain holds. Young players debuted for their first World Cup after 15 of the original first-team players quit the national team due to management disagreements. Spain’s under-17 and under-20 teams also won their respective World Cup competitions last year, meaning there is still a long lineage of talented women who will break onto the international scene and uphold the legacy of Spain’s first-ever World Cup win. 

While Spain’s victory is a credit to their own skill, I was shocked by the failure of England’s Lionesses to make any sort of breakthrough in the final. They did have a few near goals, but by the second half, they ran out of steam, and one of their last chances was Lauren James’ shot that went way over the net. I had expected more creativity from the players, especially since they seemed so in control of the game in their win against Australia. Many England players were injured before the tournament, and maybe this lack of leadership led to their downfall.

Both teams were closely matched in skill, but Spain ultimately put up more shots on goal and had much more fast-paced direct plays. They made for an exciting game and definitely would have had at least two more goals in just the first 20 minutes, if not for the fast reflexes of English goalie Mary Earps, who ultimately won the Golden Glove goalkeeper trophy.

It was a similar story to Sweden’s team, where goalkeeper Zecira Musovic blocked a huge total of 11 shots on goal to defeat the U.S. in the round of 16, then Japan in the quarterfinal.

So though fans may be upset that long-time favorites and past winners like the United States and Japan lost this time, there is joy to be found in the fact that many new countries showed their resilience and provided new faces to the world of international soccer.

Some nations were qualifying for their first-ever World Cup, yet put out some strong performances, like the Philippines, Zambia, Nigeria and Morrocco. The latter two made it to the Round of 16. There were still some very skewed scorelines because teams from smaller countries with limited sports resources struggled to keep up with countries that have established players and better squad depth. 

The group stage matches gave us crazy results like the 7-0 between Switzerland and Vietnam, Morocco’s five-down defeat to Germany, and Japan’s 4 goals against a scoreless Spain. Yet, Germany did not make it out of the group stage while Morrocco did. And Spain’s first game loss was their only stumble on the path to victory.

These results surprised many, but I think it shows us that there is a lot more potential and skill in the smaller, underdog teams. Unlike years past, the same handful of teams like the United States, Germany, and England are not always going to come out on top. Also, the youth teams of many countries are getting stronger too, ensuring that there will be a strong lineage of teenage girls rising onto the world stage in the coming years. Woman’s soccer is only getting better, with more competitive players across all teams, and small countries making their debut in the World Cup. 

The youngest-ever Women’s World Cup player, 16-year-old Casey Phair, represented Vietnam. Though Vietnam did not win any games, the participation of players like Phair is a great sign for the Philippines in games going forward. Other young players like Colombia’s 18-year-old Linda Caicedo also made her mark by scoring a showstopping goal. Caicedo played in all three World Cups for different age groups in 2022 and 2023. She was in the under-17, then the under-20, before also being called up to the national team for her talent. She has come a long way from her start as a young girl enrolled in a boys-only soccer academy in Colombia. 

It’s very inspiring seeing world-class players who are practically the same age as me and doing wonders on the world stage. It’s also important for young talent to rise up while many past MVPs like Brazil’s Marta and the U.S.’s Megan Rapinoe plan to enter retirement.

These young women are finally being given attention for their talent to be trained from a young age. They are being scouted by large clubs, and they are proving themselves in the most intense tournaments. Those are signs of hope for athletes, women and fans of soccer worldwide. The increased inclusivity at the professional level also proves the world of women’s soccer is growing. This is a victory in itself, compounded by the Spain championship of the 2023 World Cup.

To view the highlights of the World Cup final between Spain and England, fans can go to the FOX Soccer YouTube channel.

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About the Contributor
Mariyam Syed, Managing Editor