Join us on this journey as we dish out the inside scoop on each squad's strengths, weaknesses, players to keep an eye on and what a pass mark might be for each nation.
Next up, we look at Group G team, South Africa.
FIFA Women's World Cup Appearances: 1 (2019)
Best performance at a FIFA Women's World Cup: Group Stage (2019)
Players to watch
South Africa has a host of players entering their physical prime heading into this tournament and perhaps none are more well-known than former W-League midfielder Refiloe Jane.'Fifinho' has scored 12 goals in 109 caps for South Africa making her one of the longest tenured international players in the whole tournament. Previously of Canberra United, Jane has played her last few seasons in Italy, and will be looking to make her mark in the very same group as her domestic side.
Oftentimes when we think of football, we think of international stars, so many of which are exciting wingers. South Africa is blessed with one of those in 24-year-old Linda Motlhalo. A player who's been compared to the legendary Ronaldinho, Motlhalo has scored 16 goals in 52 appearances for the South Africa national team. She plays in Scotland domestically and just this month, played a pivotal role in the goal that won Glasgow City the SWPL title.
South Africa come into the tournament with some mixed form this year including a recent friendly loss to Serbia 3-2. However, that has been South Africa's only loss so far this year, with a draw against Slovenia and a win against Uzbekistan marking its three fixtures in up to this point in 2023.
Last year, South Africa proved that they're a force to be reckoned with in tournament play. South Africa will be heading into the tournament with momentum on its side coming off a recent CAF Women's Africa Cup of Nations win, the team's first in its footballing history. Looking to carry that mentality into the World Cup, head coach Desiree Ellis said that "expectations are going to be even higher now" heading into the team's second consecutive World Cup.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: South Africa has some of the most impressive athletes in the World Cup this year and that could be a huge difference maker going down the line of the tournament. The aforementioned game-winner Motlhalo was involved in a goal at the 92nd minute to take Glasgow City to a Scottish Women's Premier League victory, and South Africa possess a great number of strong athletes at all positions who could end up making a huge impact against teams who may go in unprepared.
Weaknesses: South Africa has one of the most challenging groups to face in the tournament and confidence is going to be something the entire team will need if it's to get results in the group. In 2019, the team failed to even register one point in their group so remaining poised and mentally prepared will be critical to their success this year.
South Africa will have high hopes heading into this tournament, especially considering their form in 2022. A passing grade for this tournament will be to get at least 3 points from their 3 games in the group stage. They have the quality and determination and if they get a positive result in their first fixture against Sweden, then the sky's the limit for how far they can go.