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Beginner's guide to the Women's World Cup: 5 things you need to know

The 2023 Women's World Cup is here, bringing emotions too strong for words. But not to worry, the article doesn't end now with a profound case of writer's block — here are two videos to get you immediately hyped for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, beginning with the official song of the World Cup: "DO IT AGAIN" by BENEE feat. Mallrat. 

It's an instant classic. 

And now it's time for my favorite Nike World Cup commercial of all time, featuring Sophia Smith and elements of the recent horror film Smile. Again, another instant classic.

Ready now? The tournament begins with the opening ceremony on Thursday, July 20 at 1 a.m. ET. That's followed by New Zealand vs. Norway at 3 a.m. on FOX. So let's go then. 

Beginner's guide to the World Cup: 5 things you need to know

#1. Who are the favorites?

USWNT squad photo

The USWNT, going for a historic three-peat, are the current favorites with DraftKings putting their odds at +250. England, winners of last summer's European Championship, are their clearest rivals at +350. If both nations top their respective groups as expected, then they couldn't possibly meet until the final. 

No team has ever entered the Women's World Cup ranked outside the FIFA top four and gone on to win it, so the other two nations considered legitimate contenders are currently Spain (comprised largely of players from Champions League winning Barcelona) and Germany (the only nation besides the USA to have won the competition more than once). 

The dark horses are France and an Australia team riding a wave of optimism as the co-host. New Zealand, on the other hand, is simply targeting their first win at the World Cup with an all time record of 15 matches played, 12 defeats and three draws.

Check out more odds here.  

#2. Who are the best players?

Alexia Putellas

Spain's Alexia Putellas is the reigning two-time Ballon d'Or winner because of her inspired play with Barça, but she's still only recently returned from an ACL injury.

Australia's hopes and dreams are invested in Sam Kerr, who's become the face of the women's game by scoring goals at an incredible clip for both Chelsea and the Matildas while gracing the cover of FIFA. 

For the USWNT, Alex Morgan remains the starting striker and needs no introduction, while Megan Rapinoe, who'll retire later this year, is guaranteed to make history when she steps out on the pitch because it'll be her 200th appearance for the States.

The next generation of talent includes 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith, age 22, and Trinity Rodman, the 21-year-old daughter of Dennis and winner of the 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year award. 

#3. The group stage matches worth watching 

5 with "good" viewing hours

  1. Australia vs. Ireland | Thursday, July 20 at 6 a.m. ET on FOX 
  2. USWNT vs. Vietnam | Friday, July 21 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX
  3. USWNT vs. Netherlands | Wednesday, July 26 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX 
  4. France vs. Brazil | Saturday, July 29 at 6 a.m. ET on FOX
  5. Canada vs. Australia | Monday, July 31 at 6 a.m. ET on FOX 

3 to wake up for 

  1. England vs. Denmark | Friday, July 28 at 4:30 a.m. ET on FS1
  2. Japan vs. Spain | Monday, July 31 at 3 a.m. ET on FOX 
  3. USWNT vs. Portugal | Tuesday, August 1 at 3 a.m. ET on FOX

#4. What are our USWNT worries?

Primarily health and fitness. Before the World Cup even began the USWNT had to rule out Catarina Macario (the most talented next-gen player), Mallory Swanson (the most in-form attacker on the team) and Becky Sauerbrunn (the captain). The injuries to Swanson and Sauerbrunn call for big performances from their young replacements at left wing and center back, respectively.

Then there's the midfield, where Julie Ertz has made a surprising but entirely necessary comeback and Rose Lavelle hasn't gone 90 minutes in months. The 28-year-old Lavelle was key during the 2019 run with six starts, three goals and Bronze Ball recognition, and the U.S. needs her attacking influence in the midfield. 

Ultimately, this is still a squad you could break into two teams and they'd both make a run for the final. 

#5. Where and when is the final? 

Stadium Australia

Photo: Shutterstock

The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Final is set for Stadium Australia (82,000 seats) in Sydney on Sunday, August 20. Kick-off is at 6 a.m. ET on FOX and Telemundo.

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