MOTD Live: FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off
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Since Sarina Wiegman took over as manager of England’s women’s football side in September 2021, the Lionesses have enjoyed incredible success.
And when they famously beat Germany at Wembley to become European champions last summer, it looked like they would be among the favourites for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
But of late, there have been a few bumps in the road for Wiegman and her squad.
Captain Leah Williamson and midfielder Fran Kirby have both been ruled out of the World Cup because of knee injuries, while Euros Golden Boot winner Beth Mead also misses out.
Recent results have been mixed as well – Wiegman’s side were underwhelming in a 0-0 draw against Portugal in Milton Keynes at the beginning of the month before flying Down Under.
Although they may not be as heavily tipped to lift the trophy as they were a few months ago, Wiegman’s squad is still one of the strongest in the world, and she has exciting talent like Lauren James, Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp at her disposal, as well as the Women’s Super League player of the year Alessia Russo.
Nevertheless, it won’t be easy for the Lionesses, who get their group campaign under way on Saturday against Haiti in Brisbane, before matches against Denmark and China.
The Lionesses are in the same half of the draw as a strong-looking Germany, a resurgent France, co-hosts Australia, Olympic champions Canada and South American champions Brazil.
Defending champions the United States are in the other half.
Although FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, briefly threatened a television blackout in much of Europe due to broadcast rights, the good news for football fans is that all 64 World Cup matches, up until the final on August 20, will be available either to view in the UK on the BBC or ITV.
The festival of football gets under way this morning with co-hosts New Zealand taking on 1995 world champions Norway in front of what is set to be a raucous crowd at Eden Park.
Although the Norwegians, who reached the quarter-finals four years ago, will go in favourites, Group A may be one of the most competitive, and the race for second place could go down to the wire between Jitka Klimkova’s Football Ferns and tournament debutants Philippines and Switzerland.
New Zealand haven’t won in 10 games, with their last victory coming against Philippines last September, and they have never triumphed at the World Cup – is this the year they finally break their duck?
Later today, the action continues with the tournament’s other co-hosts Australia taking on the Republic of Ireland.
Ranked No.10 in the world, the Matildas have Chelsea striker and poster girl Sam Kerr leading the line and wearing the captain’s armband, and will be looking to make history on home soil.
Like England, the Irish have had their fair share of injury setbacks ahead of their first-ever World Cup finals.
The influential Aoife Mannion and Megan Campbell are both missing, and in their absence manager Vera Pauw will be looking to the likes of captain Katie McCabe and Amber Barrett, whose goal against Scotland sealed qualification, to do the Girls in Green proud.