2023 World Cup Preview: Group B Guide

2023 World Cup Preview: Group B Guide article feature image

Aurelien Meunier/Getty. Pictured: Jordyn Huitema.

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 B in the tournament, featuring Australia, Canada, Nigeria and Republic of Ireland.


Australia enter the World Cup on the back of two excellent results in friendlies against two of the top competitors to lift the entire trophy. The Aussies beat England 2-0 to snap the Lionesses' 30-match unbeaten streak, and they followed it up with a 1-0 victory against Hervé Renard's France in the immediate lead up to the tournament. Australia are a -170 favorite to top Group B, which is one of the more balanced at the top because of Canada.

The Australians are led by Chelsea's Sam Kerr — widely considered one of the best strikers in the world. She has 54 goals in her last 67 matches in the Women's Super League and scored five in the last World Cup despite Australia losing in the round of 16.

Australia are 10th in the FIFA World rankings and 11th in the Elo ratings. Tony Gustavsson has been their manager since 2020 and tried to improve their depth. Defensively, the Matildas are good in the air and like to press high to try to win the ball. Offensively, the attack will run through Kerr, who can carry any team.

The home field advantage has lifted their chances of winning this group and pushed them into the top tier of contenders. But even with Kerr, home field and recent wins against England/France, the path will be difficult. A runner-up finish in this group would leave them paired off against England in a potential round of 16. Winning the group would set up a potential quarterfinal clash with France.

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Canada are the top ranked team in this group in terms of Elo (seventh overall), but are the second favorite to win the group because of home field. The Canadians won Olympic gold in 2021 in Tokyo, the highlight of their history as a women's footballing nation.

Any discussion of the Canadian national team begins with 40-year-old Christine Sinclair, who is still putting up excellent numbers with the Portland Thorns in the NWSL. Sinclair operates in an attacking midfielder role, specializing in Zone 14 just outside the opposition penalty area. While she doesn't offer the same defensive output at this stage in her career, her chance creation is as good as any attacking midfielder in this competition.

Canada and Australia have met twice in the last year, and Canada won both matches by a single goal scoreline. Although the underlying numbers would tilt toward the Aussies being the better side in those matches, there's not much of a gap in this case. Given that both matches were played in Australia, Canada have plenty of experience in a potentially hostile environment.

Their midfield duo of Juventus’ Julia Grosso and Chelsea’s Jessie Fleming really held its own against the United States in the CONCACAF final last year. It was an eventual 1-0 loss to the USWNT, but the Canadians were highly competitive throughout.

Since both Canada and Australia are heavy favorites over the two teams in the group, there's a very good chance both teams have six points headed into their matchup on the final day of group play. The difference between winning the group and finishing second is likely to be massive in deciding the quality of round of 16 opponent.

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Nigeria's defense is a major question mark coming into this tournament, but they have two players that are absolutely must watch. Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala is one of the most exciting attacking players in this competition after she led the club to a Champions League title this season and created the third-most xG in that competition. She added 21 goals in Liga F this season in only 16.6 90s and had the highest xG per 90 of any player in the top eight leagues in the world. 

Her scoring output combines well with Atletico Madrid's Rasheedat Ajibade. Ajibade plays next to Oshoala in an attacking midfielder role and the two of them will test the inconsistent defenses of the top two teams in the group.

The problem for Nigeria comes in trying to stop other teams from scoring and managing off the field issues. There's a standoff between the players and the NFF (Nigerian Football Federation) over the payment of bonuses. In fact, there's no guarantee that Nigeria's first game against Australia will even happen given this dispute. A boycott remains unlikely, but possible.

Nigeria are consistently in the World Cup and have dominated Africa for a long while, but the nation's grip on AFCON may be slipping. The Super Falcons lost to Morocco and South Africa and then lost the third-place playoff to Zambia.

Success in Africa hasn't translated to success in the World Cup for the Super Falcons in the past, and this iteration of Nigeria have less overall talent and depth than past teams. Even though Oshoala and Ajibade can carry them to some great goals, their record playing up against top 10 world teams is spotty.

It's hard to draw the path to advancing, but I'd look to bet them in the final match as an underdog to Ireland if the motivation is still there on the final match day.

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Republic of Ireland

Ireland are one of the eight debutants in the Women's World Cup. The Irish beat Scotland 1-0 to clinch their spot in the 32 and now they face an uphill battle to get out of a group with two top 10 teams in the Elo ratings. Ireland enters this tournament 33rd in the overall ratings, but recent results in the lead-up to the tournament have helped to generate some buzz about them as a potential dark horse.

They've played five friendlies since clinching their spot in the World Cup: A goalless draw with China, two defeats to the USWNT by respectable 1-0 and 2-0 scorelines, a 3-2 win against Zambia and a 3-0 defeat to France. There's not any one area on the pitch where Ireland really excel to cause problems for superiorly-talented teams, though.

Ireland are a possession-averse side — they had just 31% of the ball in their first loss to the USWNT. They play a deep 5-4-1 mid to low block and don't build out from the back. 16% of their passes are long balls and it's a quite direct approach to get the ball up into the opposition penalty area.

Their best chance to score might come via set pieces, an area where Ireland rank well above average in efficiency. For as much as they commit to defending with numbers behind the ball, Sweden and the USWNT have had no problems creating quality chances and xG. In a different group with a weaker second team, Ireland might have been live to advance. Given the quality of Canada and Australia, though, it's likely three and done for this Ireland side.

Group B Schedule

July 206 a.m. ETAustralia vs. Republic of Ireland
July 2010:30 p.m. ETNigeria vs. Canada
July 268 a.m. ETCanada vs. Republic of Ireland
July 274 a.m. ETAustralia vs. Nigeria
July 316 a.m. ETRepublic of Ireland vs. Nigeria
July 316 a.m. ETCanada vs. Australia

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