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Lessons Learned from the Women’s World Cup Group Stages

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2023 Women's World Cup Group Stage

The group stages of the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup have provided an intense spectacle.

Forty-eight matches, 126 goals, and a plethora of unexpected results have characterized the electrifying 15-day stretch.

Pre-tournament favorites were left reeling in the wake of early departures, while the less-anticipated teams have shone, promising an intriguing knockout stage.

What crucial takeaways have we drawn from this initial phase of the tournament?

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The absence of a clear favorite…

The standout revelation of this competition has been the failure of expected leading teams to meet predictions. None appear poised to dominate the tournament.

The reigning champions, the USA, which topped world rankings and claimed a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the 2019 final, have disappointed with lackluster performances, barely making it to the last 16 after a draw against newcomers Portugal.

Spain and France have also underperformed, while two-time winners Germany, along with Olympic champions Canada and Brazil, exited earlier than expected.

Just three teams – Japan, England, and Sweden – achieved 100% win records to reach the knockout stages.

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Even Sarina Wiegman’s team, Euro 2022 winners, did not impress much despite an easy win against China in their final group stage game, eking out slim 1-0 victories over Haiti and Denmark.

In fact, only Japan has seemed invincible. The 2011 World Cup victors, along with Jamaica and Switzerland, remain the only teams without a conceded goal. Their unexpected 4-0 triumph over Spain highlights their potent offense.

The rise of the next generation…

As Brazil’s Marta and Canada’s Christine Sinclair retire from their sixth and final World Cups without making a significant impact, the emerging generation has claimed the spotlight.

England’s number seven, Lauren James, stands out with six goal involvements – three goals and three assists – the highest of any player.

The 21-year-old Chelsea forward, who started England’s opener against Haiti from the bench, has quickly proven herself an indispensable member of Wiegman’s first team.

Despite their World Cup debut ending without a point, Haiti’s 19-year-old Melchie Dumornay made her presence felt, demonstrating why Lyon, the eight-time Champions League winners, sought her signature as she led Haiti’s offense in all group stage matches.

Meanwhile, Linda Caicedo, the standout player for Colombia, shone as her team topped Group H to reach the last-16. The 18-year-old Real Madrid forward had no difficulty scoring, notching Colombia’s second against South Korea and delivering a superb goal in their dramatic 2-1 win over Germany.

Other young stars who have made their mark include 20-year-old Netherlands midfielder Esmee Brugts and Sophia Smith, who each scored twice against Vietnam.

Fan turnout increases…
Thousands of Colombian fans were present to witness their team’s 2-1 triumph over Germany

According to Fifa, 1,222,839 spectators have attended the matches in Australia and New Zealand – a 29% uptick from the attendance figures after 48 games in France four years ago.

The average crowd size during the group stages was 25,476, a noticeable increase from 18,495 in 2019.

Australia’s opening match against the Republic of Ireland attracted the most spectators, with 75,784 fans turning out to see the co-hosts clinch a 1-0 victory.

Fifa women’s football chief Sarai Bareman exclaimed: “The tournament has been nothing short of incredible so far, surpassing our expectations on many fronts.”

Strengthening defences…

The 2023 tournament, expanded to 32 teams from the previous 24, raised concerns that the lower-ranked teams might struggle to compete and that lopsided scorelines would become the norm.

However, the average goals per game dropped from 2.94 in 2019 to 2.63, and the number of successful defensive blocks decreased by 28%.

“An increased emphasis on defensive organization is evident during the tournament,” observed Jill Ellis, the former US manager who led her team to their last two World Cup titles.

The contest for the Golden Boot remains unpredictable…
The USA’s Megan Rapinoe, who claimed both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards in 2019.

Germany’s early departure ended captain Alexandra Popp’s Golden Boot ambitions, despite her four goals. Hinata Miyazawa of Japan, also with four goals but leading in assists, took the front-runner position.

Many others, including James, France’s Kadidiatou Diani, Norway’s Sophie Haug, Sweden’s Amanda Ilestedt, and the Netherlands’ Jill Roord, with three goals each, are hot on Miyazawa’s heels.

Additionally, 14 players who have scored twice still stand a chance to claim the Golden Boot.

What else can we take away?
More red cards: Five red cards have already been issued, tying the previous tournament record from 1999. Three of these were direct dismissals.
Fewer yellow cards: Although red cards have increased, the rate of yellow cards per game has fallen to 1.85, the lowest since the inaugural World Cup in 1991.
More goalless draws: So far, seven 0-0 draws have occurred – compared to a total of eight between 1991 and 2019.
Longer matches: The average game duration has grown from 97 minutes and 48 seconds in 2019 to 103 minutes in 2023.
Key statistics
Player and team stats from the group stage
Most GoalsAlexandra Popp (Germany) & Hinata Miyazawa (Japan)4Japan11
Most shotsAlexandra Popp (Germany) & Jill Roord (Netherlands)15Spain78
Most assistsMina Tanaka (Japan) & Lauren James (England)3–
Most touchesAlex Greenwood (England)410Spain2951
Most touches in opposition boxAlex Morgan (USA)32Spain172
Most successful passesAlex Greenwood (England)305Spain1919
Most crossesTeresa Abelleira (Spain)29Spain109
Most successful dribblesSalma Paralluelo (Spain)17Spain54
Most tacklesChristy Ucheibe (Nigeria)18South Korea85
Most interceptionsAndi Sullivan (USA)10USA46
Most savesDaniela Solera (Costa Rica)25Costa Rica25
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about 2023 Women’s World Cup Group Stage

Who were the teams with a 100% win record in the group stages of the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

The teams that managed to reach the knockout rounds with a perfect winning record were Japan, England, and Sweden.

What has been one of the biggest surprises of the tournament so far?

One of the biggest surprises of the tournament has been the underwhelming performance of the teams that were anticipated to excel. This includes reigning champions the USA, as well as highly-ranked teams such as Spain, France, Germany, Canada, and Brazil, all of whom have had less than stellar performances or suffered early exits.

Who are some of the standout young players from the tournament?

Several young players have emerged as stars during the tournament. This includes England’s Lauren James, Haiti’s Melchie Dumornay, Colombia’s Linda Caicedo, Netherlands’ Esmee Brugts, and USA’s Sophia Smith.

How have the attendance numbers compared to previous tournaments?

The attendance numbers have shown a considerable increase compared to the last tournament. With 1,222,839 fans having attended the games in Australia and New Zealand, this represents a 29% increase compared to after 48 matches in France four years ago.

What has been the trend in defensive play in the tournament?

There has been a notable shift towards more compact and organized defensive play during the tournament. The number of goals per game has decreased from 2.94 in 2019 to 2.63, and the number of successful defensive blocks has also decreased by 28%.

Who are the leading contenders for the Golden Boot award?

With Alexandra Popp’s early exit, the race for the Golden Boot is wide open. As of the end of the group stage, Hinata Miyazawa leads with four goals and more assists, but several other players, including Lauren James, Kadidiatou Diani, Sophie Haug, Amanda Ilestedt, and Jill Roord, are close behind with three goals each.

More about 2023 Women’s World Cup Group Stage

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SuperKeeper August 4, 2023 - 5:57 pm

Hats off to the defences. It’s not all about scoring goals, keeping them out is just as important. Lower goals per game stats prove that!

GoalGetter August 5, 2023 - 2:02 am

Lauren James is absolutely smashing it! Such an asset for the Lionesses, reckon she’s a key player for the knockouts.

SoccerFan123 August 5, 2023 - 2:55 am

Wow, this World Cup is turning out to be a real thriller! Can’t believe USA and Brazil aren’t performing as expected, who’d have thought?

FootyFanatic August 5, 2023 - 3:54 am

Great to see attendance numbers up! Shows women’s football is getting the recognition it deserves. Long may it continue!

KicknRunKaren August 5, 2023 - 6:27 am

always rootin for the underdogs. Surprises at every corner in this tournament, makes it all the more exciting to watch!

RedCardRoger August 5, 2023 - 11:46 am

whats with the increase in red cards? are the refs being too harsh or players too aggressive, either way gotta keep the game clean.


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