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Women’s World Cup Daily: New Zealand crash, Norway power in

The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Australia and New Zealand.


The lead: New Zealand’s World Cup ends early as Norway thrash Philippines

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Despite a 0-0 draw with Switzerland adding to what has been their best tournament showing, New Zealand has been eliminated from the Women’s World Cup. Heartbreak, despair and thoughts of what could have been now rule the thoughts of the Football Ferns and Aotearoa as a footballing nation, accompanied by the tears that were shed on the surface in Dunedin following the final whistle.

And what will haunt even more is that those what-ifs don’t require far-fetched twists of fate to produce widely different outcomes, just the bounce of a ball or one delayed step to forever alter the trajectory of women’s football in New Zealand. What if Jacqui Hand’s effort against the Philippines hadn’t struck the post and bounced out, for instance? Or if her effort minutes later hadn’t been denied by a VAR review that ruled it out for offside? What if Hand’s looping effort over the head of Gaelle Thalmann against the Swiss had found the right side of the post and glanced in, rather than moved back into play? We will never know.

As soon as Norway took a two-goal lead over the Philippines in Group A’s simultaneous kickoff on Sunday evening, one that eventually ended up as a six-goal rout, the Kiwis knew they had to win to claw their way back into the group’s top two. Their desperation as the game wore on was obvious. They hurtled themselves forward with increasing fervour with every passing missed opportunity, and goalkeeper Victoria Esson abandoned all sense of caution as she repeatedly came up to contest long balls wafted into the penalty area hoping that chaos would result in a goal.

But there was to be no breakthrough, no hero that emerged. As harsh as it feels to bestow them with the label, given they are arguably the most unheralded women’s footballing nation to stage it, the Football Ferns are now the first host nation in World Cup history to be eliminated in the group stages — albeit they could very well be joined by Australia on Monday evening. Of course, once the dust settles, it will most likely not be considered a disaster. That famous opening night at Eden Park, where Hannah Wilkinson dispatched Norway to hand her nation a first-ever World Cup win, will go some way toward providing a memory to soothe the pain.

The Swiss, meanwhile, are moving on as group winners. They hardly did it in the most impressive manner, recording two 0-0 draws after downing the Philippines 2-0 in their opening game, but in tournament football, that hardly matters. And most importantly, they will get to dodge whoever emerges victorious between Spain and Japan atop Group C, even if the loser will hardly represent an easy foe. — Joey Lynch

– Women’s World Cup: Landing page | Schedule | Rosters | News
– How teams can qualify for the round of 16

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — After two games filled with frustration, Norway delivered a resounding 6-0 victory over the Philippines to advance to the knockout rounds of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Sophie Roman Haug recorded a hat trick, including an early pair of goals that settled Norway’s nerves. Caroline Graham Hansen delivered a goal of her own in the 31st minute to give the Norwegians a 3-0 half-time lead. Norway then added to its lead in the second half through an own goal from the Philippines’ Alicia Barker, a Guro Reiten penalty, and then a stoppage-time header from Haug to complete her treble. A 67th-minute red card to substitute Sofia Harrison added to the Philippines’ misery.

Norway had looked well short of their best in losing to hosts New Zealand 1-0 and then tying Switzerland 0-0. There was dissension in the camp as well, with Hansen voicing her frustration at starting the Switzerland game on the bench, though she later apologized.

On this night the Philippines enjoyed a sizable edge in crowd support, but not on the field. With Hansen restored to the lineup, Norway looked dangerous from the outset, even without former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, who missed her second straight match with a groin injury. The Philippines couldn’t cope with Norway’s edge in speed and height and soon found themselves under immense pressure.

Haug scored her first just six minutes into the match, connecting on a spectacular volley from Thea Bjelde’s cross. Haug’s second arrived just 11 minutes later, as she nodded home Vilde Boe Risa’s delivery from the right flank. Hansen then got in on the act, scoring from long range. Throughout the match, Philippines keeper Olivia McDaniel did her best to keep the scoreline down, delivering several outstanding saves.

As Norway continued to hunt goals in a bid to pad their goal differential, all eyes turned to New Zealand’s match with Switzerland to see who would win the group. Ultimately the Swiss hung on to claim the top spot. Norway finished second in Group A and will face either Spain or Japan in the round of 16 in Wellington on Aug. 5. — Jeff Carlisle

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Carlisle: Philippines will exit World Cup with good feelings

Jeff Carlisle reacts to Norway’s 6-0 thrashing of Philippines which saw them join Switzerland in the knockout stage of the Women’s World Cup.


News of the day

Nouhaila Benzina has made history as the first player to play in a senior Women’s World Cup while wearing an Islamic headscarf. Starting at the heart of the backline in Morocco’s historic 1-0 win over South Korea, the 25-year-old defender took to the field in a head covering almost a decade after FIFA rescinded its ban on headscarves in 2014.

The prohibition was first instituted after a referee barred an 11-year-old Canadian girl from wearing a hijab during a club match in 2007, with the global edict being made once the various appeals and deliberations finally worked their way to FIFA decision-makers. FIFA granted the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) a two-year trial period wherein players would be allowed to wear the coverings in 2012, which was followed by the complete reversal of the prohibition two years later.

Players have featured in junior internationals at both AFC and worldwide level, but Benzina, who plays her club football with Moroccan and African club champions AS FAR, is the first to do so at a senior World Cup.

Benzina hasn’t spoken to the media in Australia but has posted several images of herself in her World Cup kit on her social media during the build-up to the tournament, including a July 18 post that she captioned “If Allah helps you, no one can overcome you.”

Her appearance at the WWC comes a month after France’s highest administrative court upheld a ban on headscarves by the French Football Federation (FFF), who retained their own prohibition on the coverings independently of FIFA’s ruling — Joey Lynch

United States veteran Megan Rapinoe said her role as a super-sub at the Women’s World Cup has been “rewarding” but that she “could have helped” by getting on the field in Thursday’s draw against the Netherlands.

Rapinoe played a starring role in helping the U.S. win the 2019 Women’s World Cup, winning the Golden Boot and Golden Ball at the tournament in France. But she has been limited to 27 minutes over the first two games in 2023, and was an unused sub in the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands — a result that leaves the U.S. needing at least a draw against Portugal on Tuesday to guarantee passage to the knockout stages.

“I think I could have helped,” Rapinoe told reporters about the Netherlands match. “But I think Lynn (Williams) could have helped, and I think Trinity (Rodman) was helping and I think (Sophia Smith) was helping, and we had chances. It was right there for us. I don’t think that it was like all the players on the field didn’t do their job. I think that they were giving everything and still creating chances up ’till the very end and just wasn’t able to get that last goal.” — Jeff Carlisle

England goalkeeper Mary Earps said the team will continue battling on despite their growing injury list and has called for more research to be done on the spate of ACL injuries in women’s football.

England’s 1-0 win over Denmark on Friday was overshadowed by an injury in the first half to star midfielder Keira Walsh. The Barcelona player injured her right knee in the 35th minute and was stretchered off.

The FA has since confirmed Walsh avoided an ACL injury, but she will miss their next group stage match against China on Tuesday, with the rest of her World Cup in doubt.

Walsh’s injury is the latest setback for England with the Lionesses battling a growing injury list. They came into this tournament without Fran Kirby, Leah Williamson and Beth Mead — all three sidelined with knee injuries. Despite the growing list of star absentees, Earps is adamant the team will battle on.

“We are a resilient group,” Earps said. “We’re going to keep going and fighting and put our best foot forward as we always do.” — Tom Hamilton


Today in USWNT camp

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Megan Rapinoe: USWNT in a good place ahead of Portugal match

Megan Rapinoe previews the United States women’s final group stage match against Portugal on Tuesday.

Follow any of the players on the U.S. women’s national team on your social media platform of choice, and you’re bound to see it: coffee, and lots of it.

The USWNT players have been asked repeatedly during the Women’s World Cup how they spend their downtime and socialize, and the No. 1 answer by far is getting coffee.

Touristy excursions like trips to Hobbiton or ferry rides to the nearby islands here in New Zealand? Not so much. This team is here to do work, and it’s a coffee culture in camp.

“Sometimes I think it’s a sickness but like, listen, we got to get our coffee intake,” defender Crystal Dunn said of the team’s obsession.

“The mornings have been really great — everything set up and having a coffee machine and a barista in our own hotel has been absolutely amazing to not go out of our hotel unless we absolutely have to.”

Caitlin Murray reports on how the U.S. players are making themselves at home in camp.


Sights and sounds

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Laurens: Colombia’s win vs. Germany one of greatest moments in World Cup history

Julien Laurens reacts to Colombia’s incredible win vs. Germany at the Women’s World Cup.

Caicedo and Colombia’s magic sink Germany

This is what World Cup football is all about! Moments of genius, twists, upsets, emotions, tears of joy and drama. This is what Colombia offered on Sunday in Sydney in an incandescent stadium full of 35,000 fans dressed in yellow. The whole place exploded when Manuela Vanegas scored the winner in the 97th minute with a powerful header in the most dramatic way. The scenes on the pitch and in the stands were incredible.

Germany had equalised seven minutes earlier, and it seemed that Colombia’s dream of a shock victory over one of the tournament favourites was over. The finalists of last Copa America, where they lost against Brazil, had fought so hard and had played with so much heart and determination that they deserved better than just a point. But Alexandra Popp scored her penalty to make it 1-1 and to respond to Linda Caicedo’s moment of magic. Remember the name, if you didn’t know it already. The Real Madrid winger, who felt unwell at training and collapsed a few days ago, is a prodigy and the star of the future. She is only 18 but her 52nd-minute, world-class goal — the drop of the shoulder, cutting inside to curl in the opposite top corner — displayed all her incredible talent.

It’s not just the goal of the tournament so far, it’s more than that. It is, like this game, one of the greatest moments in World Cup history. Everyone who was in this stadium, watching on TV or listening on the radio anywhere in the world will always remember where they were when Las Cafeteras, ranked 25th in the world, beat second-ranked Germany.

It also means that Colombia are pretty much through to the round of 16 before their last game against Morocco, as they would have to lose by at least four goals, and are now in a very strong position to top the group, too.

For Germany, this is their first defeat in a World Cup group-stage match in 20 years, and it will hurt a lot. Still, they remain in a strong position and, due to their superior goal difference, are guaranteed to qualify if they beat South Korea. — Julian Laurens

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Morocco coach on first World Cup win: A huge source of pride for us

Morocco’s Ghizlane Chhiri and head coach Reynald Pedros talk about the team’s first win ever in a World Cup after winning 1-0 vs. Korea.

Morocco make history with win over South Korea

After Morocco lost 6-0 to a clinical Germany side in a debut to forget, the Atlas Lionesses claimed a 1-0 victory over South Korea, tapping into the form that saw them shock and delight at the WAFCON to qualify for this tournament.

After six straight games without a goal, the relief finally came for Morocco just six minutes in, when Ibtissam Jraidi’s flicked header sailed beyond the reach of Kim Jung-Mi and into the far corner. A goal to the good, Morocco relaxed into the game, holding a firm defensive shape while offering a clear threat with balls in behind, as the World Cup debutantes showed plenty of poise against a far more experienced team.

South Korea, for their part, continued to labour, failing to find connections between players and looking rather rudderless with the ball, yet the sharp intakes of breath from the crowd when the Taegeuk Ladies got forward served as a reminder that Morocco had no safety net in the match.

Digging into their own desperation, South Korea found a bit of late shine, moving the Moroccan defence around and creating more, yet the Asian side consistently failed to find the target with any of their efforts. Morocco stayed the course in Adelaide to claim the biggest upset of the tournament, besting a team ranked 55 places above them, to set them up for a group-deciding final game against Colombia. — Sophie Lawson

New Zealand bow out early, but leave a lasting impact

It started with history, with that long-awaited World Cup win thanks to the inside of Hannah Wilkinson’s right foot. It was easy for Kiwis to get swept up in the potential for this Ferns team, from the veterans who had felt the sting of successive failed World Cup campaigns, to the young guns who held the promise for the future.

Before the final whistle had gone at Eden Park on July 20, New Zealand’s next match in Wellington had sold out, and the country that had been accused of apathy toward hosting were suddenly sat up, paying attention. That opening night in the cool winter night air in Auckland had seen history made, not just that first World Cup win, but it happened in front of a record crowd at the spiritual home of Kiwi sport.

A bitter and frustrating loss to tournament debutantes Philippines followed with the Ferns unlucky not to have found the back of the net in a second straight match, and the mood had been flattened — well, maybe not for always-optimistic co-captain Ali Riley. It was a comedown that felt like all too many previous World Cup campaigns for New Zealand, but there was still hope going into their third group game, one that would require that same breathless hunger the Ferns displayed in Auckland but again, they felt flat. As Norway dismantled the Philippines in Auckland, it left New Zealand needing a win over Switzerland in Dunedin, but it wasn’t to be for the Ferns on the South Island.

In the women’s game, the talk is still so often of legacy and inspiring the next generation; in New Zealand, the task was also about rallying support for women’s football in a country that gave its heart to rugby. Although the journey ended sooner than the co-hosts would have wanted, and though it’s unlikely the participation numbers in women’s football in New Zealand will skyrocket, there is the clear sense that the Ferns’ participation will have a lasting impact, and indeed has changed minds (and broken hearts) in Aotearoa.

Australia must go all-out for victory

One of the biggest conundrums facing Australia coach Tony Gustavsson heading into his side’s win-and-you’re-in meeting with Canada on Monday evening, obviously, is the ambiguous status of Sam Kerr’s ability to contribute. A close second, however, might just be that the circumstances of the game would appear to play exactly into the strengths of his opponents.

Realistically, Australia needs to win to ensure they would avoid the “failure” — Gustavsson’s words — of a group-stage exit, whereas the reigning Olympic champions only need a draw. So the onus will be on the Matildas to attack at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Monday evening, to take the game on and ride the back of a partisan home crowd to a dominant performance.

However, the hosts have long struggled to create high-quality efforts on goal when acting as the ball-dominant side in games, a trend that held in their World Cup fixtures. In addition, Canada, despite their struggles for three of the four halves they’ve played so far, have a well-earned reputation as one of the most defensively sound teams in the tournament — bolstered by their gold-medal-winning form at the Tokyo Olympics, in which they won both the semifinal and final after scoring a penalty and defending a 1-0 lead.

“If you look at Canada historically, when teams do come out at us is when we find a way,” coach Bev Priestman said. “If you look at that second half where Ireland did have to come out, it brought out the best of us.”

Gustavsson, for his part, acknowledged that his side needed to be wary of being picked apart on the counter as they try to push for a vital win.

“That’s something we need to be aware of and if that’s the game plan they come out with, we need to handle that … in different ways,” he said. “(One,) we need to be good enough for the ball to not get dispossessed in areas where they want to win it because we’re normally good in transition. Two, that we’re well balanced behind the ball, so we can stop those positions.” — Joey Lynch

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Priestman: Australia aren’t just Sam Kerr

Canada head coach Bev Priestman looks ahead to their huge clash with Australia at the Women’s World Cup.

Final places in knockout rounds up for grabs

The final round of the group stage got off and running on Sunday, and five teams have booked their spots in the knockouts. Just three managed it with a round to spare with Spain, Japan and Sweden achieving that feat while Norway and Switzerland booked their spots in their final group matches on Sunday.

Spain and Japan led the way in terms of securing a knockout spot as they went two from two in Group C to stretch away from the chasing pack of Costa Rica and Zambia. Spain and Japan’s matchup on Monday will be one of the games of the group stage as they battle for the top spot. With a round to go, they were joined by Sweden on Saturday as they smashed Italy 5-0 to secure their place, making it a case of two games played, seven goals scored, one conceded.

Germany couldn’t qualify on Sunday after Morocco’s win against South Korea, and they then suffered one of the shocks of the tournament as Colombia edged past them 2-1 in a classic in Sydney. The slightly jarring overlapping nature of the tournament meant a third round of group stage matches kicked off while Germany were still waiting to play their second match, but Group A is now finished off with Switzerland and Norway progressing at the expense of hosts New Zealand. Norway had it all to do, but their 5-0 win over the Philippines cemented their spot.

– How teams can qualify for the round of 16

Over the coming days there are three teams from Group B who can progress with Nigeria, Canada and Australia vying for two spots, while Group D is also nicely poised. England have one foot in the knockout stages and know a point will be enough to secure the top spot, but Denmark, China and Haiti are still in the mix.

In Group E, the U.S., Netherlands and Portugal are all in with a shout of making the knockouts, with the U.S. and the Dutch favourites to progress.

Group F is tantalisingly poised with France and Jamaica on four points and Brazil on three. Brazil face Jamaica in the final match of the pool stages, with France overwhelming favourites against Panama. And in Group G, one of Italy, South Africa and Argentina will hope to join Sweden in the round of 16, while in Group H, it’s Colombia who are in charge with Germany the favourites to join them, but Morocco and South Korea still have a say. — Tom Hamilton


Match previews for July 31

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook.

Group A: Japan vs. Spain (Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington; 7 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. BST)

Odds: Japan +625, Draw +320, Spain -220

Spain and Japan contest the top spot in Group C at Wellington Regional Stadium. While both teams are safely through to the round of 16 already, both coaches have stressed the need to play well ahead of the knockout rounds. After comfortable wins against Costa Rica and Zambia, the teams are viewing this game as a chance to test themselves against a higher caliber of opponent.

Spain will also look to give more minutes to Alexia Putellas as she continues her return to full fitness from a long-term injury, but captain Ivana Andres is a doubt after sitting out training on Sunday. Japan coach Ikeda Futoshi, meanwhile, is well known in Spain. His Japan under-20 side beat a La Roja team including Aitana Bonmati and four other members of the current senior squad in the 2018 Under-20 World Cup. — Sam Marsden

Group A: Costa Rica vs. Zambia (Waikato Stadium, Hamilton; 7 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. BST)

Odds: Costa Rica +220, Draw +245, Zambia +111

Playing for little more than pride after two respective bruising defeats against Spain and Japan. Despite the losses, Costa Rica have looked better in their two games and have clearly, as a young and inexperienced team, grown through the tournament whereas Zambia have repeatedly struggled to play their game against two possession-dominant sides. Expect both teams to show up with their best football of the tournament in a transitional game that will be about getting forward. — Sophie Lawson

Group B: Canada vs. Australia (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Melbourne; 8 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET / 11 a.m. BST)

Odds: Canada +205, Draw +225, Australia +130

It all comes down to this for the Matildas at their home World Cup. Win over Canada and they’re in. Lose and they’ll crash out at the group stage for the first time in 20 years and ensure the join co-hosts New Zealand in being the first to fail to make it out. More succinctly, in the words of Australia coach Tony Gustavsson, it will be a failure.

Sam Kerr declared herself available for selection on Saturday but Gustavsson was less forthright when grilled about what exactly available means for the Aussie skipper, who has yet to set foot on the pitch due to a calf injury.

For Canada, the equation is a little less daunting. A draw will be enough to get them through to the round of 16, while a win will make the race for top spot between Canada and Nigeria interesting. The Olympic champions will be able to call on Christine Sinclair and Kadeisha Buchanan, while Jessie Fleming is feeling good following a calf problem.

Australia can’t take a backwards step in this match and Canada won’t want to rest on their laurels ensuring a tasty clash for the neutrals and diehard fans alike. — Marissa Lordanic

Group B: Republic of Ireland vs. Nigeria (Lang Park, Brisbane; 8 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET / 11 a.m. BST)

While the eyes of host nation Australia will be on the contest playing out in Melbourne, there’ll be just as much interest in the result in other Group B match-up between Nigeria and Republic of Ireland.

“Underestimated and underappreciated” for much of the World Cup, according to Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum, his team head into Monday’s match determined to prove their critics wrong once again after they stunned the Matildas 3-2 last week — after securing a draw against Olympic gold medalists Canada in their opening match.

Despite already taking on two of the world’s best nations, Waldrum believes Monday’s clash will be his side’s hardest yet with Ireland proving they’re no easy beats in their tough 1-0 and 2-1 losses to Australia and Canada respectively. While Ireland’s fate is already sealed and they will be packing their bags for home after the match, they won’t be taking this game lightly with pride and history on the line as they hunt for their first-ever World Cup victory and look to spoil Nigeria’s party. — Brittany Mitchell


Features of the day

France’s Renard leads by example in World Cup win vs. Brazil
It was unclear whether Wendie Renard would be fit enough to face Brazil until minutes before the team was announced. And yet she delivered an MVP performance.

Filipinas will take plenty away from their Women’s World Cup debut
Their FIFA Women’s World Cup adventure may have come to an end, but the Filipinas can still take away plenty from their debut tournament.

Stott’s remarkable journey, from cancer diagnosis to World Cup
A lot can change in two years, just ask Rebekah Stott. The Football Ferns defender is now on a mission to help others who have experienced a cancer diagnosis, having overcome Hodgkin’s lymphoma to make it to a home World Cup, writes Joey Lynch.


And, finally …

Few gave the Philippines any hope of making an impact at this World Cup, drawn into an exceptionally difficult group.

While they ultimately finished bottom of the group after their 6-0 loss to Norway, their 1-0 win over co-hosts New Zealand will long be remembered.

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