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Women’s World Cup Preview

As we count down the days to the first ever World Cup on home soil, we assess how the Aussies are shaping up and who’s set to star Down Under and in New Zealand

How are the Matildas shaping up?

If the Aussies can hold the World Cup trophy aloft, there’s an argument to say it would be the nation’s greatest ever sporting achievement on home soil. While in the past, the Matildas ($13 outright winners) sides have perhaps left too much to too few, this squad is not only deeper than previous iterations, but stacked with experience. Eight members of Tony Gustavsson’s 23-player squad boast over 100 caps. It goes without saying, but home crowds have the potential to act as a 12th player in the next month. They will look to replicate how the Lionesses used it to their advantage to claim European Championship glory last year. There’s huge pressure on skipper and global superstar Sam Kerr to deliver this World Cup. But as she’s proven time and time again, she thrives off it – something she showed this season in big games for Chelsea.

Make no mistake, though, the Matildas have their work cut out in what is a tricky Group B. Reigning Olympic champions Canada, for instance — who defeated the Matildas twice in Australia in 2022 — are set to be a handful. Gustavsson’s side will have little time to settle in the group, with Thursday’s opener against Ireland looming as crucial to progressing. They start $1.28 favourites in that clash at Accor Stadium.

How about the main contenders?

Unsurprisingly, reigning champions the USA ($3.50) start as World Cup favourites after lifting the trophy at the 2015 and 2019 tournaments. But this is a different US side. They’ve not only suffered a host of injuries (including to captain Becky Sauerbrunn), but are a side in transition. Many squad members will be playing at their first World Cup. Nevertheless, expectations won’t budge for the four-time winners. England ($5.00) will be hot on the heels of the US, coming off European championship glory last year. The Lionesses have never made the World Cup final, but are $2.88 hopes to break their duck Down Under.

Spain ($6.00), boasting perhaps the best squad this World Cup, are third-favourites. However off-field issues threaten to derail their campaign. Many players have criticised Jorge Vilda’s managerial style, leading to a rift within the setup. Two-time winners Germany ($8.00) round out the favourites. Unlike many of the highest-fancied teams, the Germans have largely avoided injuries to key players. And, coming off extra-time defeat to England in last year’s Euros final, will be hungrier than ever for success.

Which players are set to star?

Provided she gets consistent delivery and Australia can go deep, Kerr is set for a potentially huge World Cup. She comes in off the back of another stellar campaign for Chelsea in the 2022-23 season. The star striker netted 29 times in 38 appearances across all competitions. As it stands, the West Australian is a $13 fifth-favourite to take home the Golden Boot this tournament. Star US striker Alex Morgan, who finished with the equal-most (six) goals at the 2019 World Cup, starts as the Golden Boot favourite at $6.00. Teammate Sophia Smith — who bagged six goals in her last four games for Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League — starts as second-favourite at $7.50.

What about a dark horse?

Considering they’ve never progressed past the quarter-finals, and aren’t considered in the top-five favourites, Australia are *almost* in dark horse territory. But given the quality of their squad it seems unfair to have them in that camp. As such, it’s the Matildas’ group opponents in Canada ($34 outright winner) that could cause the most damage as an outsider this World Cup. Keep in mind, it’s less than two years ago that Canada defeated Sweden to take home gold at the Tokyo Olympics. They know tournament football, and shouldn’t be underestimated.



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