Heading into the final round of group stage games - who will qualify for the knockouts?
The final round of group stage games at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 are underway. Whilst 16 teams will be qualifying for the next round, we will also be seeing 16 teams exit the competition. With 38 games already played, there have been so many memories created and records broken within the host countries of Australia and New Zealand. Here’s what we can look forward to as the final group games are played.
Group A has been decided. Switzerland have qualified for the round of 16 as group winners, confirmed by a goalless draw with New Zealand on Sunday, alongside Norway who sit in second place following a sensational 6-0 victory over the Philippines. This sees co-hosts New Zealand, and Women’s World Cup debutants, Philippines, bow out of the competition, but they can do so with their heads held high as both teams have created history at this tournament. New Zealand and Philippines were both able to secure their nations’ first ever World Cup wins and they have made their respective countries proud.
Nigeria, Canada and Australia were all in a position to be able to qualify from Group B heading into today’s games - there is a reason it has been called the ‘toughest group’. Unfortunately, there was no way out of the group for Ireland who have been unable to retrieve a point from their first two games, but they too have done their nation proud. This was their first World Cup and they have put on quite the show with an impressive first game against Australia, and a narrow defeat to Olympic gold medalists, Canada, in which skipper, Katie McCabe, scored Ireland’s first WWC goal. They have made history. Canada needed just a point from their game against Australia to book their place in the round of 16, but the co-hosts were looking to impress on home soil and get their second win of the tournament, even if it had to be done without their star player, Sam Kerr, and that they did. The Matildas achieved their biggest ever World Cup win as they beat the Olympians 4-0 at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. It was such an incredible game to watch with pure elation oozing from the Australian players, staff and fans as the full time whistle was blown. Australia top Group B, followed by Nigeria who have also qualified for the round of 16 after picking up a point against Ireland. Group C is done and dusted without the final round of group stage games needing to be played. Spain and Japan have qualified for the round of 16, with Japan’s 4-0 victory over the Spanish seeing them take first place, and Spain second. World Cup debutants, Zambia, are out of the competition, alongside Costa Rica who have both failed to pick up points in their two games played.
In Group D, all teams can still qualify - which is a scary thought for England fans. Tuesday will determine the fate of England, Denmark, China and Haiti. It’s confusing to think about all of the possible outcomes within this group, but here’s how England can make it out. If Denmark beat Haiti, they will go level with England on six points, and if they win by a greater goal difference that England currently have (or the goal difference that comes as a result of England’s game against China), Denmark could go on to top Group D. However, if England beat China, then they will top the group on nine points, regardless of Denmark’s results. If China beat England, they too will be level on six points. If they win by a greater goal difference than Denmark (providing they beat Haiti), they could top the group with Denmark coming in second, meaning England will miss out on qualification on goal difference.
Three teams can qualify from Group E: USA, Netherlands and World Cup debutants, Portugal, can all progress to the round of 16. Portugal may be currently sat in third, but a win over the USA could see them top the group, dependent on the result of Netherlands vs Vietnam. Sadly, Vietnam’s World Cup journey is coming to an end in the group stage as they have failed to pick up any points in the tournament with a 3-0 defeat to USA, and a 2-0 defeat to Portugal.
A further three teams have the potential to qualify from Group F with France and Jamaica currently occupying the top two spots, but Brazil only a point behind.
There is only one spot to play for in Group G as Sweden have already qualified for the knockouts, but either of the three remaining teams could make the cut, joining Sweden in progression to the next round. Argentina and South Africa currently have a point each, but a win for either team could see them knock Italy out of second position.
All four teams can qualify from Group H, although it will be difficult for South Korea to make it through to the round of 16 having picked up zero points in the competition so far, and with needing to beat Germany in the final round of group stage games, and have Colombia beat Morocco; and even then, it would go down to goal difference with qualification dependent on the score lines of other games. Victory over Germany in the second group stage games sees Colombia in a very comfortable position heading into their game against Morocco where only a draw is needed to qualify - this only be their second time in history qualifying for the round of 16. Even if they were to lose to Morocco, there is still a chance they can progress to the round of 16 if Germany lose or draw. There are too many scenarios to name, but it will go down to the last day of fixtures in Group H to decide who will face the winners and runners up of Group F in the knockouts.
And there you have it, that is how each team can (or sadly cannot) make it out of the groups. The first two ties in the round of 16 will be played on Saturday 5th August between Switzerland and Spain (6am kick off UK time), and Japan and Norway (9am kick off UK time).