The Thunder Down Under: 2023 Women’s World Cup News & Discussion (no spoilers)

67YAZ

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We're just a few months and one international window out from the Aussie-Kiwi World Cup (July 20-August 20) and it seems right to bring the USWNT and Women's Soccer threads into a new one focused on the big event.

Massive news today - France captain and legend Wendie Renard says she won't play for the national team again while Corine Diacre remains manager. Renard is still one of the very best CBs in the world and the single best set piece target. It's a huge loss for Les Bleus and illustrative of what holds them back - one of the most talented and dysfunctonal teams in the world.
 

Joe D Reid

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The French men's team has been weirdly happy-clappy recently, so it's reassuring to see the women's team carry on the men's tradition of vingt-trois joueurs, vingt-trois voitures.
 

67YAZ

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The Athletic breaks down Mal Pugh's improvements that have led to her white-hot form.

They did gloss her 2020 injury that wiped out that full season and derailed the first half of 2021. For some young players (e.g., Gio), coming back from their first major, long-term injury can be a massive hurdle. Watching Pugh in early-2021 it was clear that she wasn't trusting her ankle and hesitating where she used to go all out. But she pushed through and come out of it stronger.
 

67YAZ

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Canada WNT agrees with Canada Soccer on (a temporary resolution to) their funding disputes.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/canada-canw/story/4890729/canada-soccer-reaches-interim-funding-deal-with-womens-team

...which happened after Canada Soccer's president - a dude, obviously - resigned earlier this week.
That is excellent news. I hope their squad can now focus on kicking ass in Oz and gaining ever more leverage to revisit this post-WC.

The bigger issue is that Canada Soccer needs to get out of or entirely redo its broadcast deal. Bad, borderline corrupt leadership has put both men’s and women’s teams way behind.
 

67YAZ

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Diacre gets the sack-re. Will be interesting to see who France installs to bring the squad to the WC. They have the talent to win the damn thing, and the new manager bump might push them over the top.

Now do your manager, Spain.
 
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InstaFace

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My god, the Total Soccer Show episode on "what's going on with the French women's national team?" last week was so brutal to Diacre. To say she ran the team like a sadistic little fiefdom would not be an exaggeration. It's worth listening to but stuff like telling World Best XI players that they're not being selected, and having 15-second conversations with them about it to just say "you know why, it's because your form hasn't been good", like with Le Sommer and Amandine Henry. Abusive locker room environments. Lazy practices where they don't even work on set pieces and had no focus to the sessions. Sexual harassment or even assault ignored by both Diacre and the all-white-male higher-ups. Taylor and Joe just kept going on and on with the reports of epic mis-management, and what it meant for Wendi Renard and co to try to force change by refusing to play. It made our complaints about Berhalter or Klinsmann or Vlatko look like trivialities.

So, this is great news for les bleus (-ues?). They made the Euro semis basically in spite of Diacre, and everyone agrees they have the talent to be a top-3 team in the world. Their domestic league is kind of a joke beyond the big 2 teams, so any progress for French women's football would be huge for the game at large.
 

67YAZ

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FIFA backs down on Visit Saudi Arabia sponsorship for the World Cup. But Infantino is still willfully obtuse.

Infantino also pointed out that while there had been a backlash to the mooted Visit Saudi deal, very little was being said about the $1.5bn worth of trade between Australia and Saudi Arabia every year. “This doesn’t seem to be a problem,” he said. “But between a global organisation like Fifa and Visit Saudi this would have been an issue. There is a double standard here, which I really don’t understand.

“There is no issue and no contract. There are discussions and, of course, we want to see how we can involve Saudi sponsors in women’s football generally, how we can involve Saudi sponsors in men football, or we can involve Qatari sponsors in women’s football and men’s football, and all other sponsors from all over the world.”
 

67YAZ

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The NWSL kicked off this weekend. Sure, Chicago lost 3-2 at San Diego, but the match was a banger with goals from Swanson and Morgan.

Everyone is hopeful that this will be a BIG season for the league - the worst owners are on the way out, the World Cup should generate a lot of interest in the season’s stretch run, and expansion is coming. The optimism is palpable.

over in England, the WSL is coming in hot. With 6 matches to go, United lead the table on point differential and Chelsea sits in 3rd a point behind City. City climbed into 2nd by beating Chelsea 2-0 this weekend.

In a lot of ways, United is the counterpart to the EPL’s Arsenal - preseason, the pundits all said they were too young and too inexperienced to win the leagues. Welp.

FWIW, Liverpool have a nice cushion (8pts & 3 clubs) between themselves and relegation. They reinforced the midfield in January and looked poised to continue building next season.
 

67YAZ

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Renard quits the Saudi men's job to take over France. Quite the hire. He's got a long international track record of success, but never managed a women's side before. There's some huge potential here.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Renard quits the Saudi men's job to take over France. Quite the hire. He's got a long international track record of success, but never managed a women's side before. There's some huge potential here.
Seems like big upside in just not alienating a huge chunk of the best players, even before you take any game management into account.
 

InstaFace

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Speaks to a lot of optimism for the scenario of women's football writ large, if someone who just beat Argentina at a world cup is prepared to quit a Saudi paycheck in order to take on a dysfunctional but brilliantly talented women's national team.
 

Eastchop

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Really good article about Becky Sauerbrunn frames as a letter to the author’s daughter.
Great article. Just bought my 5 yr old a new jersey last week in preparation for the World Cup. I thought she’d go Smith or Morgan but she picked Becky. Thank you for sharing.
 

67YAZ

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Well well - the Aussies beat England to end the Lioness’ 30 game unbeaten streak. All streaks end, and this might be a powerful motivator for the English squad.

But it’s a huge statement of intent from the Aussies to play in England and wallop the home side.
 

67YAZ

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Erzt to Angel City on a one-year deal. The count-down is on for arguably the USWNT's key cog to get into top form. Let's Go!!!
 

67YAZ

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Initial agreements to bid for the 2027 WC are due soon. Looks like the US + Mexico are going in together. South Africa. Brazil, and Germany + Netherlands + Belgium are also tipped to bid.
 

67YAZ

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Huge blow for England, their captain Leah Williamson did her ACL. Feels like there’s 6 team that would win ethos WC now, a historic level of parity.
 

67YAZ

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Holy hell - Arsenal have lost their 3 best players to ACL tears his season and yesterday their plane caught fire on the runway while returning from their Champions League tie in Wolfsburg. What an abysmally cursed season.
 

Eastchop

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What a rough turn. The knee injuries seem to be piling up especially quickly lately all around though. Yikes.
 

OCST

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The evidence is overwhelming that female athletes are at greater risk of ACL injuries than males. It's the architecture of the skeleton and the musculature. The usual prescription is better conditioning and strength training. There's usually room on the upside there for even elite high school, college, and recreational players, but these are the best footballers in the world and they are (presumably) trained and coached as such - although I'm not naive enough to think that even at the best clubs and national programs the sports science is as well-funded or developed as the mens'.

I really hope that some progress is made on addressing this issue. So much has been made on the surgical side of treating the ACL injury generally - it's now not an automatic career-ender as it once was. My dad blew out his (chasing my brother after he dumped Dad's hammock over while he was napping) when he was in his 30's, had a 150-stitch scar, spent 2 years rehabbing, and can now barely walk at 80. Today he'd be scoped, his rehab time would be cut by 75%, and he'd get close to pre-injury form. I'd like to think that if the full weight of the medical-scientific-sports equipment industrial complex is brought to bear on the problem, maybe something could be done with shoe design, cleat placement, etc. to minimize the risk since sports gear has almost never been properly designed for the female body to begin with.
 
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67YAZ

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ACL tears are such a scourge on the women’s game (basketball, too). I really hope the trainers, doctors, and researchers can find ways to prevent more of these. It’s so disruptive to the sport and careers.

Putellas, Katoto, and Macario should be back for the WC, though form will probably be an issue for each. But Mead, Miedema, and and Williamson are all out. Plus the gruesome kneecap injury to Swanson…just a shame that we’ll be missing so many great players on the biggest stage.
 

InstaFace

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I blame artificial turf.

I don't know if there are studies or not, but I play and organize a field sport very similar to soccer in its athletic demands and injury profile. And I'm convinced - after 10+ years of watching my friends get ACL tears - that a grass field even with mediocre maintenance that's a bit bumpy is still less likely to yield an injury than a pristine and modern field-turf field. Not to mention rug burn, and trip-and-falls on seams.
 

Hendu for Kutch

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So I'll happen to be in Sydney in late July and figured I'd catch a match. While I'd have loved to see the US women, they're playing their matches in New Zealand, so I got tickets to England vs Denmark. From what I understand, England is the favorite in the tournament. How is Denmark? Should this be a good match, or am I watching a formality for the UK team?
 

67YAZ

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So I'll happen to be in Sydney in late July and figured I'd catch a match. While I'd have loved to see the US women, they're playing their matches in New Zealand, so I got tickets to England vs Denmark. From what I understand, England is the favorite in the tournament. How is Denmark? Should this be a good match, or am I watching a formality for the UK team?
That’s rad! Have a blast!

England will be a heavy favorite and an upset would be fairly shocking. But England are so good that they should entertain still.

Edit: the state of the women’s is so uneven that there are very, very few group stage matches that project to be even battles between high quality squads. I think US-Netherlands looks the best here. But the action will really take off in the knockouts.
 
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InstaFace

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Denmark is a good but not great team, and the stratification of women's NTs is much more noticeable than in the men's game, so it should be a fairly decisive England win. For example, at women's Euro 2022, Denmark was ranked 15th coming in, beat Finland (25th) 1-0, but lost to #3 Germany 4-0 and #10 Spain (1-0 in the 90', just tragic) and that was all she wrote. Denmark did beat Japan 1-0 in a home friendly a few weeks ago, but since Euro 2022 they have lost every match against top-10 competition that they've played: France 1-0, Netherlands 2-0, Australia 3-1. The game will be well-played, but any result for Denmark would be a shocker.

The teams in the top 10 are just on another level. The good news is, that statement used to be true for the top-5 even as recently as the 2015 WWC, but I think the number of teams that could give the USWNT a real game now is at least 10 deep. It's kinda like Women's College Basketball, where even 10 years ago it was UConn, Notre Dame, Stanford, and one or two other teams per year, but the true title contenders basically had a bye to the Elite 8 and only then did it become a real contest. Whereas now there are at least 10-15 very strong programs and nobody at that level fully outclasses anyone else in the group.
 

67YAZ

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The hits just keep coming - Fran Kirby ruled out for the WC with a knee injury.

Kirby has been England's linchpin at the 10, the one who very effectively connects the midfield to the single striker and then provides goal-scoring from a slightly deeper position. Another massive loss for England.
 

67YAZ

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Christ almighty - the Red Stars fire GM Michelle Lomnicki after 5 months on the job for failure to disclose that a youth club she works with hired Craig Harrington. Harrington was suspended by the NWSL for 2 years after the league's investigation into sexual harassment and abuse detailed a long history of harassment by Harrington as an assistant and manager in the league.

Lomnicki was a technical advisor for and her husband is a co-founder and sporting director of a youth organization here, Chicago Empire FC. Empire is an affiliate youth club for the Red Stars.

Harrington was suspended from the NWSL for 2 years this past January. Within a couple weeks, he was hired by Empire FC as the director of coaching. A week ago, Illinois Youth Soccer sent a notice to Empire saying that Harrington's credentials were suspended based on the NWSL reports. This caught the attention of The Athletic, who contacted the Red Stars for comment given the close ties between organizations. This cratered the Red Stars' confidence in Lemnicki and led to her firing this morning.

What the fuck people. A coach gets suspended for sexually harassing professional athletes so you hire him into a youth organization? Idiots.
 

InstaFace

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At the very least, the people who made those decisions shouldn't be trusted to run anything fancier than a lemonade stand.
 

67YAZ

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Revs fans get ready - the NWSL is already engaging investors to add 2 more teams in 2026, and Boston looks likely to be one of them. This and a bunch more interesting news from league president Jessica Berman in an interview with the Post today.
 

67YAZ

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Big news day in women’s soccer land:

Michele Kang is starting up a global women’s soccer holding company that starts with the Washington Spirit and OL Feminin. It’s a complicated deal - Kang will own 52% of the org and be it’s CEO; Eagle Football Holdings, which owns a variety of clubs including OL and 40% of Crystal Palace, have the rest.

So OL Feminin is being spun off from the OL umbrella. And OL Reign in the NWSL was put up for sale last month, so that will resolve the conflict with the Spirit.

Kang is now THE prime mover and shaker in women’s football. And it’s awesome. She’s already scouting clubs to add in South America and other European markets.

Also, Cat Macario is moving to Chelsea. That’s a big deal, too. Macario hasn’t played this season after tearing her ACL last May. Fingers crossed she’s ready for the WC - she was a legit balon d’or candidate in ‘21-22. The US attack is stacked even without Swanson, but Macario has an all around hybrid 9/10 skill set that’s unique for our squad.

Edit - here’s a good write up in the Athletic abut Kang’s vision and strategy. This isn’t the City/Red Bill vision of a central club networked with feeder subsidiaries around the world. Kang sees a network of clubs, each retaining their unique nature, but sharing infrastructure like scouting and some administration. It’s exciting that someone is advancing the women’s game like this.
 
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67YAZ

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Four official bidders for the 2027 WC:

Brazil, South Africa, a joint bid from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, and a joint bid from the United States and Mexico.

Decision day is May 17, 2024.

CONCACAF and UEFA have each host 3 times, CAF and CONMEBOL have never hosted. (AFC has hosted 3, too).

For the development of the women’s game, Brazil or South Africa make more sense - if would hopefully spur the r host county and region to invest more into the sport.

But the US is where the money is, and the growing strength of the women’s game in Europe puts them not too far behind in potential revenue.

It’s going to come down to the US revenue projection vs the shady/honest graft/state-partner-sponsorship money that Brazil will throw towards the event.
 

67YAZ

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Cat Macario says she won’t be fit for the WC. Huge bummer that we won’t see one of our very best on the pitch this summer. Not sure that she would have been a difference maker since she has missed the entire club season, but she was a 22yo balon d’or shirt list player a year ago. She’s incredible.

 

67YAZ

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The WSL season wrapped over the weekend. In an eerie parallel to the EPL, United were Arsenal men’s twin - both were younger squads that most figured were a year away from contending, came out gangbusters, led the league for the large majority of the season, but got out kicked down the stretch by probably the best team in the world. Tough one for ManU, but the future looks very bright.

Arsenal’s women had a nightmare season with 5 season ending injuries to key players, including ACL tears to their best 3. It’s hard to say what next season will look like with so many players trying to recover from major injuries. But they did qualify for the Champions League.

Chelsea lost to Barca in the UCL semi’s, but they tied up their 4th consecutive league title and 7th in the past 9 years. Train kept a rolling.

Liverpool stayed up comfortably, largely by playing stingy defense and do their job at home. There’s 7 players confirmed departing this summer, so recruitment is the focus. Fuka Nagano joined in January and immediately become the best player on the club and the midfield fulcrum for everything. Building around her is the key, especially finding attackers who can run in behind to take advantage of Nagano’s ability to thread through balls.

World Cup squad announcements are starting up. England’s dropped today, the USWNT should be soon.
 

67YAZ

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And this is cool - Liverpool are buying back Melwood as a base for the women’s side. The club sold the facility for £10m when Kirkby opened, but the plans to develop a youth academy as well as housing never came together through the pandemic. Liverpool will pay more than they sold for, but it’s a fantastic investment for the women’s side. I’m so glad FSG are stepping up their commitment here.
 

67YAZ

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New nominee for worst club name - the NWSL expansion team is named Bay FC. Woof! Do like the color scheme, tho.

 
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dirtynine

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The “FC” in the wordmark is comically small. Round logo is pretty good. Like the name, though. Simple is good sometimes. They are making an entire identity out of 5 letters. I dig that.
 

67YAZ

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Barca just won the UCL, storming back from 2 down at half time to win 3-2. Wolfsburg pressed hard in the first half, completely smothered Barca. But then the German side ran out of gas & the Catalans ripped them up. Incredible stuff.
 

Eastchop

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New nominee for worst club name - the NWSL expansion team is named Bay FC. Woof! Do like the color scheme, tho.

Ughhh. Agree with you on the name. So much to use in the Bay Area and this is what they came up with? Not a fan at all.

Interested to learn more about the Boston group. I’ve been keeping an eye out, but not much out there to read on this yet
 
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InstaFace

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Barca just won the UCL, storming back from 2 down at half time to win 3-2. Wolfsburg pressed hard in the first half, completely smothered Barca. But then the German side ran out of gas & the Catalans ripped them up. Incredible stuff.
Those first few goals, by Wolfsburg and then the first by Barca, were ones any men's player would've been proud of. Absolute bangers. I'm sure Michele Kang saw that opener by Pajor and thought about getting out her checkbook.

...but then there was the decider. And, good lord, what a way to lose a major final.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8_l9OShHLg


I saw they subbed Putellas in at the very end, so she could be on the field for it. Thoughtful of them. She's only made it back onto the field for Barca over the last month or so, all in sub appearances.
 

67YAZ

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Putellas has put in like ~120 minutes so far. She could be a WC match changer even if she gets to super-sub fitness.

This Spain side is the biggest question mark going into the tournament. The national team is mostly Barca players - they can win this thing just to spite their manager and the FA. Or if could all implode.

If the USWNT win their group, they’ll likely see Spain in the semis.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Did they resolve the thing where a huge chunk of the team was protesting the manager and the fed just dumped those players, or is that still an issue?
 

67YAZ

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Did they resolve the thing where a huge chunk of the team was protesting the manager and the fed just dumped those players, or is that still an issue?
This article quotes Barca’s Bonmatí as saying nothing has been resolved for her as of a few days ago. There was a piece in the Athletic from about a month ago that said the 15 protesting players met with the manager and FA to seek a resolution, but there was no public announcement of a resolution.

Edit; just came across an article that says Spain will release a long squad list on June 12 then the final roster on June 30. So this could drag out all month.
 
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candylandriots

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I’m in Barcelona for a concert and just walked out of my hotel to see streets blocked off and people in Barca gear. It was to congratulate the women’s team on the UCL victory. I was chatting with a woman there with her 5-6 year old daughter who is crazy for the sport now that she’s women playing. Nice to see.

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