Today, the Edge of the Crowd FIFA Women's World Cup content team make their bold predictions on what we should expect in the coming weeks. Each of our team will give their take on the following key areas:
Team to Watch: Which team is most likely to surprise us this time around?
Golden Boot: Who will be the tournament's top scorer?
Golden Ball: Which player will stand above the rest?
Breakout Star: Who will make their name on the world stage?
Women's World Cup Winner: And finally, the million-dollar question: Who will lift the trophy?
So, without further ado, here is the Edge of the Crowd writer's predictions...
Team to Watch: Australia
Over the past few years, head coach Tony Gustavsson has been piecing together a team good enough to win the whole tournament, and recent results against European Champions England, and world number five France suggest he might have got the formula right.
Whether they win the whole thing or not, the journey is sure to be something the likes of which we have never seen. With an Australian public a captive audience, any Matildas match is going to be an event that you just can't miss.
Golden Boot: Sophia Smith
22-year-old Sophia Smith is primed for this tournament. The Portland Thorns number nine is set to step out of the shadows of her more highly fancied teammates and stamp herself as one of the best in the world at what she does.
Her club form is second to none, and if she can bring that to Australia and New Zealand, this prediction is a deadset certainty. She has come off of a 2022 NWSL campaign that saw her crowned the league MVP, and has retained her heat in front of goal this season scoring an incredible 10 goals in 13 league appearances to date, she is a player we will be talking about for years to come.
Golden Ball: Ingrid Engen
As I explained on the latest episode of the Australian World Cup Podcast, it is not always the most talented player in a squad that wins the Golden Ball at the FIFA World Cup, and I have a feeling that Barcelona midfielder Ingrid Engen is going to have the tournament of her life as her Norway side makes a deep run in the competition.
Sure, she has more highly fancied teammates, and I can't really put my finger on why I think she will win the Golden Ball, it's just a feeling I have got. Call it hope, call it some kind of intuition from covering the competition build-up in the last ten weeks, call it whatever you want. You can call me right when she receives the award at the end of the tournament.
Breakout Star: Sophie Smith
I'll keep this short and sweet because I have already waxed lyrical about Smith in this article. Although she is already highly regarded by those in the know, I believe this will be the tournament when the Colorado native cements her place as one of the best ballers in the world.
Women's World Cup Winner: USA
I really wanted to say that the Matildas would win the whole thing, but I just can't. Not only do I think the USWNT will win their third straight trophy, I believe they will do it comfortably.
There is some discussion about certain quarters of this USA squad being yet to prove themselves at the highest level, and I do agree with that. However, I just think you just can't deny what is the unparalleled production line of superstars the United States have provided over the past three decades, and there is nothing that suggests to me that this current crop won't match the achievements of their predecessors.
Team to Watch: Brazil
Brazil could win the tournament this year, and players and staff alike will probably be doing everything they can to send the World Cup's top-scorer Marta out on a high, after the 37-year-old announced the 2023 event - her sixth tournament - would be her last for the national side. Inspired by Argentina at the FIFA Men's World Cup last year with Lionel Messi, Brazil is hoping to achieve the same for Marta.
Regardless, Brazil will be playing some exciting and enticing football this month, with talent galore to match their heightened ambitions for glory. Under Pia Sundhage's leadership, players have been able to unlock their full potential in the lead-up to this tournament, with Brazil's form coming into this tournament as strong as ever, and getting results against fellow top sides that's all about setting the pace early, maintaining it, and not slowing down.
Golden Boot: Esther Gonzalez
Esther Gonzalez will be leading the line up forward for Spain in her debut FIFA Women's World Cup tournament. The 30-year-old striker has an impressive rate of scoring for both club and country. In Brazil colours, Gonzalez has found the back of the net 23 times in 35 appearances. For Real Madrid, she's scored 30 goals in 54 games. With reigning Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas feeding her the ball into the box, Gonzalez should put plenty of scoring chances away.
Golden Ball: Alex Morgan
The USA should go deep into this year's tournament, with sights set on doing what no other nation has been able to achieve at a FIFA Women's World Cup before: a three-peat. To have much of a chance of getting to that point however, the USA will need to bank on Alex Morgan's contributions.
The San Diego Wave striker will be entering her fourth Women's World Cup and has been threatening ever since making her mark on the international stage. She was named to the 2015 and 2019 Women's World Cup Dream Teams and was awarded the Silver Boot at the latter tournament. Overall, she's scored 121 goals in 207 games for the national team, and even at 34 years of age, Morgan has proven she can be a difference-maker and should showcase her talents and skills to an even greater degree on the world stage this upcoming month.
Breakout Star: Jule Brand
Germany's Jule Brand can seemingly do it all already, at just 20 years of age. Since getting her chance in the national team in 2021 after coming up through the youth team ranks, Brand has been used in every single one of Germany's games since (for 32 caps so far).
Brand's versatility - whether for VfL Wolfsburg or Germany - as a defender, midfielder, and winger will be important to Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's side. Her importance in all areas of the pitch has been proven in the past (whether a substitute or starting player), with her possession, ability to take on opposition players with her run and dribble, and defensive work integral parts to her game, Brand is an emerging talent and will build chemistry going forward as a result of this tournament.
Women's World Cup Winner: Sweden
This is the time for Sweden. After being so close at various international tournaments - most recently the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, finishing runners-up to Canada -, it's now or never for Peter Gerhardsson's side.
Even though nine of Sweden's squad are aged 30-plus, including captain Caroline Seger, the squad depth is strong, from defence to attack, and there are playmakers and difference-makers all around. Barcelona star forward Fridolina Rolfö is such a player, being able to find the back of the net with relative ease, which she's been able to prove can be translated on the international stage.
The experienced heads will need to give it their all to contest for the trophy at the end of the tournament. If achieved, it'll also allow for the younger squad members to be invested in continuing the charge to more accolades for the team.
Team to Watch: Zambia
On debut at the World Cup, Zambia is a side that have already shown won't shrink in the bright lights of the tournament. For those who have forgotten, take a look back to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where Zambia didn't pull off a medal, but made a name for themselves.
Led by Barbra Banda, Zambia played an attacking style that troubled many of the more-fancied European sides, including Banda, who scored back-to-back hat-tricks against the Netherlands and China. Banda finished the Olympics with the record for the most goals in a single Olympics, and has only grown since then.
With attackers like Racheal Kundananji and Grace Chanda alongside Banda, the Copper Queens will play an aggressive and attacking style that will be great to watch at every opportunity.
Golden Boot: Sam Kerr
The captain of the Matildas, at home, and with the country behind her, will be the one to find the back of the net with regularity for the Matildas. She already has more goals than anyone else in the history of Australian football on the international stage, and this tournament will cement her legacy.
She has already shown an ability to score big in the World Cup, with five goals at the 2019 edition, finishing just shy of the top three goalscorers at the tournament. This time, with the Matildas poised to make a deeper run, Kerr will likely end up with more goals to her name, as she leads her team towards glory on home soil.
Golden Ball: Sophia Smith
Already crowned the MVP of the 2022 NWSL, Smith is poised to become the next great superstar for Team USA. The Colorado native is in scintillating domestic form, and with players like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan in the twilight of their careers, the stage is primed for Smith.
Watch for her to become a central part of Team USA's movement and attack, as she stamps her authority on the competition.
Breakout Star: Lauren James
The Chelsea winger is already a player with a big name on the domestic scene, but has yet to make a splash on the international scene. After only making her Lionesses debut in October last year, James has found her feet quickly on the world stage.
In a side missing Beth Mead and Leah Williamson, she will take on a big role and responsibility for incisive attack, and looking to find the back of the net. Despite her young age and her limited caps, this is the tournament where James breaks out and makes a name for herself, preparing to rejoin Kerr at Chelsea as the next superstar in that attacking group.
Women's World Cup Winner: England
Before a blip against the Matildas, the Lionesses had a 30-match unbeaten streak, and have already shown that they can go against any team in the world and play their way, controlling the game and finding the back of the net.
Plus, this is a side that knows how to win in big tournaments, including the European championships last year, as they set themselves up to bring it home. With a nation that will get well and truly behind them, if Sarah Wiegman can get her team firing after their loss to the Matildas, the world is truly their oyster.
This is, in fact, the time that "football is coming home". It's coming home.
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Team to Watch: South Africa
South Africa has the chance to make a real impact in this year's Women's World Cup. With stars like Refiloe Jane and coming off the back of their first-ever international tournament win, Banyana Banyana will be a force to be reckoned with, even against higher-ranked teams that they face in the group stage.
At the nation's second World Cup, South Africa has nothing to lose and everything to gain. That kind of attitude against the three other teams that have something to prove in the group stage could prove beneficial for the spirited side who are looking to have a tremendous impact in the international game moving forward.
Golden Boot: Marta
Someone who may have a stronger case than Sam Kerr for best-ever women's footballer is the timeless Marta from Brazil. Marta arrives as the marquee player in what's a very talented Brazilian side heading into the tournament. The fact that one of the greatest ever may not be playing every match is a credit to how that team has grown and developed over the past several years.
As we've discussed on the podcast many a time, class is permanent in football and the 37-year-old will once again prove that in this World Cup. Marta is the type of player who could score a goal a game regardless of how long she plays, and if she's able to produce that output on this team, there's every chance that she finishes top of the goal charts.
Golden Ball: Fridolina Rolfö
The superstar in a team jam-packed with stars has been the story for Fridolina Rolfö for the last few years of her professional footballing career. The winger/forward we have come to know as a superstar that can't stop winning has gone from strength to strength at the club level to go alongside her already extremely accomplished international career.
The best player on a team that's likely to go far, Fridolina Rolfö needs to be in the conversation for the Golden Ball if she is to have the massive impact we already know she's capable of having.
Breakout Star: Trinity Rodman
The second-overall pick in the 2021 NWSL College Draft and quite possibly the best athlete in the whole tournament, Trinity Rodman has the chance to be one of the biggest players on the planet with a big performance in this tournament.
The 21-year-old phenom is a record-breaker in terms of salary and endorsements with a huge rookie season earning her a contract with a value greater than $1 million. While having only made 18 appearances at a senior level for team USA, Rodman has already earned a nomination for the Women's Ballon D'Or.
The best is yet to come for this phenomenal talent, but we just may see a glimpse of that in this tournament depending on how the USA lines up.
Women's World Cup Winner: Australia
Australia has an exciting team full of talent from Mackenzie Arnold in goal up to Sam Kerr at the front. With the likes of Ellie Carpenter, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Katrina Gorry hitting their stride with their games at the highest level, the Matildas could take their momentum both collectively and individually into a huge performance for the ages.
The home crowd advantage would have some influence especially if the team can string a few positive results and that train of momentum could ride to a maiden World Cup triumph. And that would be the perfect way to cap off a major sporting event in Australia, one that seems to be the last for a little while at least.
Team to Watch: Spain
It's been a complicated 12 months for La Roja with 15 players removing themselves from national team contention but in a moment when Jorge Vilda's side could crumple, they flourished.
Only losing to England and Australia in the past year, Vilda has taken the opportunity to inject youth into the side and with the return of two-time Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Alexia Putellas, Spain could be genuine contenders this year.
Where La Roja may be open to criticism is their preparation for the World Cup only playing one top-10 team in 2023, when they lost to the Matildas in the Cup of Nations tournament. Vilda's side could be accused of playing it safe, seeking confidence-building, dominant wins rather than testing La Roja's current side against some of the other contenders who they'll need to get through to claim the World Cup.
Golden Boot: Sophia Smith
Heading into a World Cup, it's easy to pin Golden Boot to a player from the favourites, and this year is no exception as 22-year-old striker Sophia Smith enter's the event in incredible form.
Starting the tournament in New Zealand, the USA could put several big scores on the board and if Smith's late NWSL form for the Portland Thorns has anything to say about it, the ball will go into the back of the net on more than a few occasions off of her boot.
Golden Ball: Marta
Women's football has many legends existing and emerging but one name that is unforgettable is Marta and in her sixth and final World Cup expect her to do everything in her power to push Brazil to go the distance.
She might not have the same explosive power over Brazil that she once had but expect her to step up and bring a touch of magic in her quest to finally win a major tournament for Brazil.
Breakout Star: Mary Fowler
With a recent breakthrough against France in the Matildas' friendly last week, scoring her first international goal for 2023, all eyes will be on Mary Fowler during the World Cup to see if the 20-year-old Australian will handle the pressure of a tournament like she showed at the 2020 Olympics.
Since her move to Manchester City earlier this year Fowler has shown incredible growth developing a stronger game sense and finding a stronger rhythm in the midfield as well as the forward line. Expect Fowler to provide a solid scoring option for the Matildas' deep into the tournament with her past three international goals coming against top 10 sides.
Women's World Cup Winner: USA
Chasing a never before seen World Cup threepeat, the United States is in for the fight of its life with countries like England, Spain and Australia seizing on opportunities in the past four years.
However, expect experience to make all the difference late in the tournament when the World Cup favourite will undoubtedly show their class and prove why they've been so strong in tournament football for the past decade.
Team to Watch: Norway
Norway are consistent qualifiers for the Women’s World Cup, and this current side has some of the best players in the world. But, after a disastrous Euro 2022, the question remains if that was a reveal or just a blip. If new coach Hege Riise can get the most out of a fearsome attack, and harness the talents of Guro Reiten, Caroline Graham-Hanse and Ada Hegerberg, then Norway is a team that others will want to avoid.
Switzerland will be the side's only familiar opponent in the group stage, and the likelihood of anybody repeating the 8-0 thrashing that Norway suffered at the hands of England is low. But, Gresshoppene will want to put that tournament behind them and make a statement at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Golden Ball: Marta
Never write off a legend. Marta is considered by many to be the finest player to have ever graced the sport. She has scored in five World Cups with her eyes on a sixth, but that is not the record that will interest her - it'll be delivering a winner's medal for the team in her final appearance.
As with every edition, Brazil has the talent to deliver for its icon. Whether Brazil wins it or not, Marta will be eager to make an impact in her swansong tournament. She may no longer command the attention of the entire defence the way she once did, or even feature in every minute of play, but she will be dangerous, and fairytales are more common than one might think in football. This could be Marta’s tournament one last time.
Golden Boot: Sam Kerr
This may be a cliché, it may be biased, but Sam Kerr is a good chance of winning the Golden Boot. Australia is expected to go deep into this tournament, and if they are to navigate a potentially tricky group stage and win at least two knockout games, Kerr will need to be firing.
Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has been prepared to use his captain as a decoy, and Kerr is willing to open up space for Australia’s pacy wingers, but Kerr has a hunger for goal and has become more clinical since joining Chelsea. She loves the big occasion, and they come no bigger than a World Cup on home soil.
Breakout Star: Lauren James
She is already a big name but has not had the chance to show what she can do at a major tournament. The Chelsea winger is blessed with rare pace and has hypnotic footwork when at her best.
James is both mesmerising and fast-moving, she can produce a powerful shot and is an unpredictable dribbler. International football can often be decided by moments, and James can produce some spectacular ones.
Women's World Cup Winner: USA
Although the team looks very different and the defending champions will have many inexperienced players, it still feels hard to ignore their chances. The USA‘s identity in women’s football is built entirely around winning World Cups. Anything else is seen as a failure. Not only have they consistently delivered under this pressure over the years, but they continue to unearth new talent.
Depth and momentum will be important factors in this World Cup. There are more games, and bigger distances to travel. The USWNT will be able to rest players when needed and can rely on both the experience of their veterans and the exuberance of their youth. They have weaknesses and can be beaten, but importantly, they can also win when below their best. But when it comes to knockout football, there is none better than the USWNT.