As we step boldly into Day 29 of Edge of the Crowd's electrifying 70-day countdown to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, anticipation is at a fever pitch.
Now, it's time to dive headlong into the gritty, thrilling details of each group. Prepare to be enchanted by tactful manoeuvres and enchanted by top-tier athletes. Each group promises a dramatic blend of the supreme contenders and the underdogs with nothing to lose.
From group to group, we're dissecting the exciting prospects, starting with Group Cand Group F.
Group C sees a couple of women's football heavyweights in the third-ranked Spain and 11th-ranked 2011 World Champions Japan, with Costa Rica, and debutants (and the lowest-ranked team at this year's event) Zambia also joining the fold.
Spain is going into this year's FIFA Women's World Cup with a cloud over its head due to the future of the Las 15 - players on a self-imposed exile against coach Jorge Vilda. It would be a shame for La Roja who have improved in each of the previous tournaments they've been involved in. Spain is a good team that has form on its side, but the possible looming effects of Las 15 hanging over the team's heads may hamper the side this time around from playing its best, though the side will probably still do well enough to progress out of the group and into the latter stages.
Las Ticas come into this year's tournament as a large unknown, with an ability to take control of a match, but also lose it easily too. Only having qualified for the second time in its history, Costa Rica has not won a game at a Women's World Cup just yet, but may have a chance to against an unknown Zambia, which will be a win for the side.
Zambia enters into its maiden Women's World Cup,but has created history just by qualifying and heading to New Zealand this July. In a way, the Copper Queens have nothing to prove - with a likelihood of three losses -, except to be competitive, which they have been in the lead-up, with more games against fellow Women's World Cup finalists to come before the tournament proper to test their position on the world stage.
The 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Champions and 2015 Runners-Up, Japan came crashing back down to Earth four years ago. However, なでしこジャパン is still a competitive team and will still have that drive to go deep into the tournament. Japan should do enough to get out of the group with a clash against Costa Rica being the determining factor.
PREDICTED GROUP C STANDINGS
Costa Rica 3pts
Group F combines two very different sides of the rankings, with seasoned campaigners France and Brazil - who have both made it to the final four before - both inside the top 10, and Jamaica (ranked 43) and Women's World Cup debutants Panama (52) at the higher end of the rankings.
Since finishing in fourth place in 2011, it's been consecutive quarter-final exits for France, having improved in terms of overall matches won at the World Cup, but not when it mattered in the latter stages to finally claim some type of silverware - even in previous Olympics or UEFA Women's Championships. Les Bleues have the makings to go deep and will do enough to be in the top two of Group F, but afterwards, will have to change their fate to have a shot at the trophy.
Jamaica suffered some heavy defeats at its debut World Cup in 2019, and it's hard to see the team getting on the end of a victory this time around too. The Reggae Girlz scored just one goal in 2019, but has proved recently they can find the back of the net and not give up, which will be handy in determining some results to favour them this time around, with the previous experience.
Similar to France, Brazil is a team that has got to the top, but never claimed the elusive trophy, finishing runners-up in 2007 and in third place in 1999. However, at each Women's World Cup since 1999, Brazil has progressed out of the group stage and should do the same this year, with the only danger game coming in the fixture against France.
Panama was the final team to qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, which will be the team's first tournament. The debutants, Las Canaleras, have been in pressure situations before, but a World Cup is entirely different. That said, if they can handle their nerves on the biggest stage, the side could surprise a few teams to get a point and put a real challenge to the others in the group.
PREDICTED GROUP F STANDINGS