2023 World Cup Preview: Group A Guide & Schedule
Visionhaus/Getty. Pictured: Ada Hegerberg.
The 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is set to get underway, and our soccer experts are here to provide you with a full preview.
Read on for analysis of Group A in the tournament, featuring New Zealand, Norway, Philippines and Switzerland.
2023 World Cup Preview: Group A
One of the host nations, New Zealand comes into this tournament without qualifying, and they have the painful record of being winless in all 15 of their matches in World Cup history. The lead-up to this World Cup has not gone well for them. They played two friendlies against the USA, one against Portugal, two against Argentina, one against Iceland and one against Nigeria. They were outscored 21 to 1 in those matches. They did notch a 2-0 win over Vietnam in their final tune-up, so you could give them some hope when they play the Philippines, but they’re most likely going to get run over by Norway and Switzerland.
The friendly results leading up to this World Cup epitomize what New Zealand struggle with, which is chance creation. They will typically line up in a 4-4-2 shape and rely on transition or set piece opportunities to be their main method of trying to score. Their main ball progressors and chance creators are Betsy Hassett and Celtic’s Olivia Chance. Basically everything runs through them in the midfield, and they are the main ones doing all of the supplying of the front line.
When New Zealand do get set in their defensive shape, they don’t like to come out and press, ranking very high among Women’s World Cup teams in PPDA. The problem is their defensive shape is fairly predictable, and when you are pressing at the rate they are it leaves them pretty vulnerable when they play teams that can easily play through pressure and break down low blocks, which is why they struggled so much in friendlies against USA, Portugal and Argentina.
New Zealand do have some decent experience in their backline. Their captain Ali Riley plays for Angel City in the NWSL and is in the 94th percentile for tackles per 90 in the top eight women's leagues worldwide, but the Angel City defense this season is second to last in expected goals (xG) allowed.
Their only hope of getting out of this group is beating Philippines and pulling off a stunner over Switzerland, because they have no shot against a team as talented as Norway.
Norway are one of the best teams in the world and possess loads of talent to make a deep run in this World Cup. However, they had a pretty shockingly bad display at the 2022 Women’s Euros, failing to make it out of a group with England and Austria, while also having a -4.5 xGD. They got embarrassed when losing 8-0 to England in that group stage, so it is a major cause for concern to try and include them as one of the favorites to win this tournament.
They breezed through World Cup Qualifying without much of a sweat, but then Norway were pretty thoroughly dominated in a friendly against Spain 4-2 and lost on xG 2.3 to 0.8. These types of high-scoring losses are not really surprising when you dig into Norway’s tactics and philosophy. Norway are not a slow build-up team. They are very aggressive and direct with their attacking, trying to break the opponent's defensive lines.
This means there are not a lot of short passes and a lot of long balls or line-breaking passes to the front line where they have one of the best strikers in the Women’s game, Ada Hegerberg, who plays for Lyon and has won the Ballon D'or before. She was injured most of this past season, but in the years prior she was a 0.90 xG striker in France.
Out of possession, Norway are a very intense pressing team that make the game very uncomfortable for whoever they are facing, which makes them very effective against teams that aren’t great in the build-up phase.
When they are facing a team that is great in build-up phase like an England or a Spain, they can sit in a low to mid-block, but the problem is that recent results have shown they are not really effective in doing so.
Norway will be a fun over team with how aggressive their approach is, and having Hegerberg healthy makes them that much more fun.
Philippines are making their debut in the World Cup after having qualified via making the semifinals of the Asian Cup. There is not much talent across this squad to compete with the top teams in this group. They have a lot of college players playing in the United States, but nobody is really playing in one of the top leagues around the world.
They are another team that is going to be very aggressive. When Philippines have the ball they push forward and play transitional football, and they do offer some pace going forward to possibly give opposing defenses some problems.
Philippines played a friendly against New Zealand in September of 2022. They took the lead right before halftime and ended up losing the match 2-1.
There really isn’t much hope for the Philippines, and the only way I would be betting them is against New Zealand. Other than that, they’ll probably be beaten pretty badly by Norway and Switzerland.
The Swiss come into this World Cup in a state of flux. They had a poor showing at the Euros in 2022, although they were in a very difficult group with Sweden, the Netherlands and Portugal. Switzerland then came in second in World Cup Qualifying in a group with Italy and Croatia before beating a decent Welsh side to get to the World Cup.
When the new manager came in ahead of this cycle, Switzerland switched from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-4-2, but they kept a diamond concept in the middle of the field. The Swiss are a slow build-up type of squad. They tend to control a lot of possession, but it usually doesn’t translate into high-quality chances. In the Euros, they only created 2.8 xG over their three matches against high-quality competition. In their most recent friendly with Morocco, who are one of the longshots in this tournament, they held over 60% possession but failed to create over 1 xG.
Out of possession you would think they would be a high-pressing team trying to win the ball back to keep possession, but they’re actually quite passive with their PPDA over the past year, sitting at 10.43.
Switzerland really should breeze to a second place finish in this group, but considering the state of flux they’re in, their passive nature and poor defensive numbers, a surprise exit isn't out of the picture.
Group A Schedule
|July 20||3 a.m. ET||New Zealand vs. Norway|
|July 21||1 a.m. ET||Philippines vs. Switzerland|
|July 25||1:30 a.m. ET||New Zealand vs. Philippines|
|July 25||4 a.m. ET||Switzerland vs. Norway|
|July 30||3 a.m. ET||Norway vs. Philippines|
|July 30||3 a.m. ET||Switzerland vs. New Zealand|