The 2023 FIFA women’s World Cup will mark a number of firsts as the tournament will be hosted by two nations in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, the global spectacle has been expanded to 32 teams for the first time in its history, and the action will begin in earnest as New Zealand takes on Norway on Thursday, July 20.
As a staple in every World Cup competition, this year’s tournament once again boasts the infamous “Group of Death” in the opening stage. But which assortment of teams holds that title this year, and why does the name stand in the first place?
The Group of Death is a popular term coined ever since the 1970 men’s World Cup in Mexico, and its title describes a multi-stage tournament group that is unusually competitive because the number of strong competitors in the group is greater than the number of qualifying places available for the next phase of the tournament.
Simply put, with a group of teams all skilled and worthy of advancing to the next round, there will be at least one that is unfairly eliminated due to the strength of the overall competition.
2023 World Cup: Group of Death candidates
Group F: Brazil, France, Panama, Jamaica
Brazil and France headline as the clear two best teams in this group, but Jamaica could give either a run for their money with Khadija “Bunny” Shaw coming off the best year of her career with Manchester City. Jamaica’s best chance to advance out of the group stage likely hinges on a win against Brazil, but the latter have rebuilt their program with younger stars alongside experienced veterans like Marta.
Additionally, Panama has a knack for battling until the final whistle, so any matchup with them will be one for the books.
Group B: Canada, Australia, Ireland, Nigeria
You could realistically say that all four of these teams have a case to be made for advancing past the group stage and not one person could argue with that point. Canada and Australia will likely be the favorites to make it out of Group B, but don’t overlook a possible Ireland upset here or there given how they fared against the USWNT. Additionally, Nigeria has one of the best players in the world in Asisat Oshoala, and so long as she has a solid supporting cast around her you can never overlook the threat that Nigeria poses.
Group C: Spain, Japan, Costa Rica, Zambia
Spain and Japan are the top two teams in the group here, but Costa Rica can realistically slip in to upset either of those two and advance to the knockout stages. The Costa Ricans are solid defensively and have ample experience in CONCACAF versus great opponents like the US and Canada. Zambia enters as the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, however, given that they are making their first-ever World Cup appearance, they could ride the momentum en route to a possible upset in the group stage.
It’s a neck-and-neck battle between Group F and Group B, but in my eyes, I think Group F features stiffer competition. Panama and Jamaica have a case to be made for making noise in this year’s tournament, but France and Brazil are established contenders that should advance out of the group stage, with the latter arguably being built for a run at the final.