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 another World Cup debutant, Group E's Portugal.
FIFA Women's World Cup Appearances: 0
Best performance at a FIFA Women's World Cup: N/A
Players to watch
At 28 years of age, inside forward Jessica Silva will be a potent force in the Portuguese attack at this year's World Cup. She has participated in some of the world's premier club leagues and currently represents SL Benfica at the club level. With 100 caps for her country, she's a vital component of the national team setup, eager to add to her tally of 14 international goals in July and August.
Originating from Madeira Island, Fatima Pinto made history at the 2017 UEFA European Women's Championship, becoming the first woman to represent her country at a major senior-level tournament. Her career has consistently improved since her international debut at just 17 years of age, and she'll be crucial to the midfield configuration of Francisco Neto’s team. She's proven her versatility by performing well in the middle as well as on the right-hand side of the pitch.
Carole Costa, the hero of the inter-confederation playoff win against Cameroon, is an experienced centre back with over 150 caps for her native country. A fellow Benfica alumna, her leadership will be key to Portugal's potential success in the tournament.
Portugal, while not the strongest European team in this year's competition, has shown considerable form in 2023. Unlike many of the other teams, Portugal has a track record this year in one of the host countries.
In two matches in New Zealand, Portugal has demonstrated solid performance, winning an intense inter-confederation playoff game against Cameroon. An 89th-minute equalizer for Cameroon seemed to push the game into extra time, but a last-minute penalty for A Selecção das Quinas secured a 2-1 victory and a place in the World Cup. The Portuguese women's side also held a convincing 5-0 win over New Zealand just before that match.
Despite suffering a 2-1 loss to Japan this year and a draw against Wales, all of Portugal's games having been played in New Zealand should give the World Cup newcomers confidence entering the competition.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: Coach Neto mentioned in 2018 that he had solidified the team, though not entirely. He has been consistent in selecting from the same pool of players over the past five or so years, and these players have demonstrated steady progress together. This might be the team at the FIFA Women's World Cup that has played together the most, which could be a key factor in a successful tournament for this team.
Weaknesses: Their record at top-tier competitions isn't impressive. Despite their Euros campaign being considered a success last year, they still ended up at the bottom of their group, failing to secure a win. It will require a significant change in mindset from the players and coaching staff to advance in this tournament.
Having been dealt a challenging group in its World Cup debut, Portugal should comfortably beat Vietnam but is expected to lose against the USA. Therefore, the match against the Netherlands will be crucial for Portugal when it comes to progressing to the knockout stage. Reaching the round of 16 is likely the pass mark, but a strong performance in the group stage would also be considered satisfactory.
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