In case you’ve been living under a rock, the FIFA Women’s World Cup (for soccer/football) hosted by Australia and New Zealand starts this week, with our Matildas kicking things off on Thursday night.
Sam Kerr and the Matildas take on the Republic of Ireland in their opening game at a sold-out Stadium Australia in Sydney from 6pm WST Thursday, with all of Australia’s games to be broadcast live by Channel Seven.
Perth will also host five group games (sadly, none involving the Matildas), with the first one on Saturday night at Rectangular Stadium (HBF Park). Tickets to all the Perth games are still available via this link.
To mark the occasion in Perth you can also get amongst the action for free at the FIFA Fan Festival at Forrest Place from around midday to late every gameday of the tournament (July 20-August 20) – check the full schedule here.
What is the Women’s World Cup?
The Women’s World Cup is a massive event, drawing global interest, big broadcast numbers and creating strong tourism numbers to the host nations. This World Cup is set to be the highest-attended women’s sports event ever, with more than one million tickets sold so far!
To quickly sum it up, the Women’s World Cup sees the 32 best women’s teams from across the globe (six from Asia, four from Africa, six from Central/North America, three from South America, one from Oceania/New Zealand and 12 from Europe) compete in eight groups of four, with the top two in each group progressing to the knockout stages, where it’ll get whittled down to two for the decider to be played at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Sunday August 20.
And to amplify the excitement, Australia are genuine contenders to be in that final, ranked 10th in the world, buoyed by home support and familiar surroundings, and having knocked off top 10 nations France (rank 5), England (4), Spain (6) and Sweden (3) in the past 12 months. The Matildas beat France last Friday 1-0 in front of more than 50,000 fans in Melbourne.
Who are the Matildas?
The Matildas is the nickname of Australia’s women’s football team, led by WA product Sam Kerr who is among the world’s best female footballers. Make no mistake, she’s a global superstar, appearing on the front cover of the famous FIFA 23 video game last year.
Kerr, who plays her club football in England with London club Chelsea, has won an exhaustive list of individual awards, including the 2022-23 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year after netting 29 goals in all competitions and leading the Blues to the Women’s Super League and FA Cup titles.
The Matildas are coached by Swedish boss Tony Gustavsson, while some of the other stars include Arsenal duo Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord, along with winger Hayley Raso who last week transferred to Spanish giants Real Madrid. France-based full-back Ellie Carpenter recently returned from a long-term ACL injury and is one to keep an eye on down the flanks, Man City’s 20-year-old forward Mary Fowler is the emerging talent of the side, while there’s more WA flavour with Katanning-born veteran goalkeeper Lydia Williams, although she may be an understudy to Mackenzie Arnold.
The Matildas have never gone further than the quarter-finals at a World Cup, which they did in 2007, 2011 and 2015, but they made the Tokyo Olympics semi-finals and expectations are for a deep run at this tournament on home soil.
Who will the Matildas play?
Australia is in Group B alongside Republic of Ireland (rank 22), Canada (7) and Nigeria (40). Each team plays each other once (thus three games each overall) and the top two advance to the knockout stages. If you top the group, you play second from another group in the knockout stages, so there’s an advantage to be gained by finishing first. Reigning Olympic gold medalists Canada loom as Australia’s main threat to that goal of topping the group.
Tokyo Olympics winners Canada, who Australia plays in their second group game, boast 40-year-old forward Christine Sinclair who has scored 190 international goals, which is the most by any male or female ever. Worryingly, Canada beat the Matildas twice last year in Australia. The Canadians have never gone further than the World Cup quarters (achieved at their home tournament in 2015).
Australia’s first opposition Republic of Ireland are on their World Cup debut and are captained by Catley and Foord’s Arsenal teammate Katie McCabe. The Girls in Green earlier this month lost 3-0 to France (who Australia beat last week) in Dublin. The Matildas will fancy beating the Irish but most of their team plays in England, so they have quality and it’ll be far from easy.
Australia’s third opposition Nigeria are the top-ranked African team and 11-time continental champions, but that’s never quite translated on the world stage despite regularly qualifying for the World Cup. Their best result was making the quarters in 1999. They’re led by captain Onome Ebi who has more than 100 caps, while the brilliantly named Gift Monday is among their strikers.
Australia v Republic of Ireland – Stadium Australia, Sydney, Thursday 20 July 6pm WST
Australia v Nigeria – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Thursday July 27 6pm WST
Australia v Canada – AAMI Park, Melbourne, Monday July 31 6pm WST
Who are the main title contenders?
Depending on who you ask, Australia are among the top six or seven contenders to lift the World Cup trophy on August 20, although the clear favourites are four-time winners USA, who are led by the iconic Megan Rapinoe, who will retire from international football immediately after the event.
World number one USA won the last two World Cups, although they only managed third at the Tokyo Olympics, beating Australia 4-3 in the bronze medal match. England are the current European champions, going on a dream run on home soil 12 months ago to lift that trophy and they made the World Cup semi-finals four years ago too. The Lionesses, however, are missing three key players in Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and captain Leah Williamson.
Second-ranked Germany and sixth-ranked Spain will be firmly in contention, with the latter boasting
2021 and 2022 Best FIFA Women’s Player Alexia Putellas. France, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and Brazil – with 37-year-old superstar Marta – are among the next contenders. The Dutch were runners-up at the 2019 World Cup but are missing star forward Vivianne Miedema due to an ACL injury.
Who’s playing in Perth and when?
HBF Park, or Perth Rectangular Stadium as FIFA calls it for sponsorship reasons, on Pier Street will be the venue for our five World Cup group games, starting with Saturday July 22’s clash between 13th-ranked Denmark and 14th-ranked China PR, which looks like a ripping contest between two good sides. Kerr’s Chelsea teammate Pernille Harder is the star of the Danish side.
Both Denmark and Haiti will be based in Perth during the group stage, training at Kingsway Reserve and Percy Doyle Reserve respectively, with both to play two games at HBF Park each. World number seven Canada will be the highest ranked team to play in Perth, coming up against the Irish in Australia’s group on Wednesday July 26, while first-time qualifiers Panama, Haiti and Morocco will all play here for some unique flavour – tickets here.
Denmark v People’s Republic of China – Saturday 22 July 8pm WST
Canada v Republic of Ireland – Wednesday 26 July 8pm WST
Panama v Jamaica – Saturday 29 July, 8:30pm WST
Haiti v Denmark – Tuesday 1 August, 7pm WST
Morocco v Colombia – Thursday 3 August, 6pm WST
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