Women’s World Cup Preview: Group D Guide
Naomi Baker/Getty. Pictured: Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway.
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 F in the tournament, featuring China, Denmark, England and Haiti.
The East Asian nation hosted the first-ever World Cup in 1991 and out of the gate were a very strong power in the game. The Steel Roses went to the semifinals in 1995 and then went one better in 1999, when they lost to the USA in a penalty shootout at the Rose Bowl.
Although the program lost its way a bit over the years, there’s been some significant improvements since former national team player Shui Qingxia took over as head coach in 2021. She is also the first female head coach of the Chinese women’s national team.
In 2022, China were the surprise winners of the Asia Cup, which is also how they sealed qualification for the 2023 Women's World Cup. It was the first time the Steel Roses had won the continental championship since 2006.
In that tournament you saw different sides of China. Dominant and professional clean sheet wins over more beatable opposition were present as well as topsy-turvy, high-scoring games where they had to battle through adversity.
Wan Shuang scored five goals in five games and won the MVP award at the 2022 Asia Cup. She will likely be the most important attacking player for China this summer. A slick and skillful attacking midfielder who can play multiple positions, she has a penchant for popping up in the half-spaces.
Shuang plays her club soccer for Racing Louisville in the NWSL. This season, she ranks second on the team for key passes (22) and, more impressively, first in chances created (57). That is seven more chances than U.S. women’s national team player Savannah DeMelo, who also plays for Racing.
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from Denmark. In theory, this is a talented squad with a good mix of youth and experience. But the Danes also have had a disappointing track record at World Cups. That is, when they can qualify.
Astonishingly, the 2023 World Cup will be Denmark’s first since 2007. Only once in the nation’s history have they made it out of the group stage, and that was in 1995 when neighbors Norway knocked them out in the quarters.
Head coach Lars Søndergaard has been in the job since 2017. He oversaw the failure to qualify for the 2019 World Cup and the surprisingly passive group stage exit at last summer’s Euros. The pressure is on Søndergaard to finally make an impact at a tournament.
The Red and White will be buoyed by the return of captain Pernille Harder, who missed a hefty chunk of the 2022-23 season with injury. The good news is that when the forward did return to action with club side Chelsea FC, she didn’t miss a beat.
Harder had seven goal contributions (five goals, two assists) in the final six matches of the English Women’s Super League season. Despite playing only 10 matches all season, she still finished 10th in the goal charts with eight and seventh for non-penalty xG per shot with 0.14.
The Dane is a thrilling mix of energy and technique. Harder is an elite presser of the ball with a rocket of a shot from inside or outside the box. For the national team, though, the problem has been getting her help. Too often, she’s been isolated as a center forward with Denmark.
It has been quite a two-year spell for the Lionesses. Ever since replacing former head coach Phil Neville with Sarina Wiegman in April 2021, England have gone from strength to strength.
The Dutchwoman, who won Euro 2017 and went to the 2019 World Cup final with the Netherlands, was brought in to emulate her success with the Oranje. And she has.
It didn’t take long for Wiegman’s style of play to click. She is known for her honesty and consistency, and England started the same 11 players in a 4-3-3 for every single match at Euro 2022. There, England lifted the trophy at home at Wembley Stadium. They became the first English national team to do so since 1966. Ah yes, football came home.
But can they keep the good times rolling? Due to injuries and one retirement, four of those 11 starters from the 2022 Euro triumph will not be at the 2023 World Cup. Furthermore, 16 out of the 23 players that Wiegman has selected have never been to a World Cup before.
After going 30 matches unbeaten since Wiegman took over as coach, England also recently lost their first match under the Dutchwoman 2-0 to co-hosts Australia. After back-to-back 0-0s in their latest warm-up matches, it has now been 292 minutes of play since the Lionesses scored a goal.
Metronomic midfielder Kiera Walsh will be essential for the Lionesses down under. The FC Barcelona player recently won a league and Champions League double, and she boasts some of the highest statistics in Europe for touches (79) and passing accuracy (90%) per match.
Even though Haiti will want to be successful in Australia & New Zealand, one can’t overlook their achievement of qualifying for the World Cup. This will be a first-ever World Cup for the Haiti women’s national team and the first of any kind since the men’s team went to Germany in 1974.
Les Bleu and Rouges, as they are affectionately known, got here against the odds. Due to ongoing political instability, violence, cracking infrastructure and poverty, Haiti don't play home matches. Instead they train and conduct games in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
During the 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, Haiti played some of their best soccer. In the first round, they won all four of their matches by an aggregate score of 44-0. Then in the eight-team Championship phase, the Haitians gave the USA an early scare but ultimately lost 3-0. However, Haiti then shocked Mexico by the same scoreline to seal a place at the World Cup Playoffs.
In February 2023 at the playoffs, a confident 4-0 win against Senegal and a 2-1 nail-biter against Chile booked their spot down under.
Those results were spearheaded by young superstar Melchie Durmornary, who recently signed for French champions Olympique Lyonnais. The attacking midfielder is the heartbeat of this young group and a dazzling dribbler on the counterattack. She can create her own chances with the ball at her feet.
When Haiti take the pitch in Brisbane to face England and make their women’s World Cup debut, it will be the biggest match of their lives. The Carribeans are a wild card that must not be underestimated at this World Cup.
Group D Schedule
|July 22||5:30 a.m. ET||England vs. Haiti|
|July 22||8 a.m. ET||China vs. Denmark|
|July 28||4:30 a.m. ET||England vs. Denmark|
|July 28||7 a.m. ET||China vs. Haiti|
|Aug. 1||7 a.m. ET||China vs. England|
|Aug. 1||7 a.m. ET||Haiti vs. Denmark|