The 2023 Women’s World Cup is almost over, and what a tournament it is has been in Australia and New Zealand.
After a month of twists and turns – big-hitters’ exits and the “underdogs” showing why they are not really underdogs – the stage has now been set: England or Spain will become World Cup champions on Sunday.
It’s been an unforgettable tournament and one that has shone women’s football in its best light. The last month has been a celebration of what our game is.
More than 1.8 million people have already walked through the gates of the numerous stadiums in Australia and New Zealand, while so many different countries have smashed their respective broadcast figures.
The Matildas’ semi-final against England is now the most watched television event in Australian history, with 42% of the population tuning in.
A legacy has been left Down Under and it’s a lesson that so many other nations can learn from.
For so long women’s football has not been a sport that has been at the forefront of people’s passions, while those working in the game have felt like we have had to kick down so many doors to be given the chance to show what we can really do.
To display the talent, the athleticism and the quality of football on the biggest of stages is something women’s football hasn’t always been allowed to do.
The demographic of the fan bases is something else that has stood out to me.
Women’s football can often be pigeonholed into being a game for young girls and their dads, as if it’s only a softer version of the men’s game which can be enjoyed by kids – and, of course, we want to inspire the next generation, but our game is for everyone.
And you have seen that over the last month in Australia and New Zealand. In the crowds there have been groups of men, women, boys and girls.
There has not been any focus on a smaller portion of fans.
Everyone has been captivated by what has been delivered on the pitch over the last month and that is what will happen when you give women’s football the platform it deserves.
Spain v England set to be a great final
The final is set to be such a good game of football.
England and Spain are undoubtedly two of the best teams in the world, for different reasons, and will be battling to secure the trophy which prove their status as the best.
It is a complex situation with Spain and their manager Jorge Vilda, and that situation is very much still evident. There are key players still missing from the national team, while others who had decided to step away have come back – and that won’t have been an easy decision to make.
The root of the issues won’t have been revolved. I don’t believe it has been a case of those players just sucking it up and thinking things are fine.
They have been made to chose whether they want to play at the World Cup or do they want to stand up for what’s morally right, and no player should ever be put in that position.
Meanwhile, England have backed up their European Championship performance.
Before the tournament last summer some people were unsure of what they might see from Sarina Weigman’s England or how well they might do.
The fact they went and won it meant there was some pressure on them coming into this World Cup, but they have shown they can handle that. To reach back-to-back major tournaments finals is an incredible achievement.
With Spain and England being in the final, it reflects the strides those nations’ domestic leagues have made.
The top half of the Spanish league is a very good standard, and while they do have a bit of work to do compared to the FA WSL in England, there is definitely a positive trajectory there.
Third place match a difficult game to be involved in
After being knocked out in their respective semi-finals Australia and Sweden will contest the bronze medal match on Saturday.
It’s a match which is difficult to approach.
It’s not the game you that you really want to be playing in, the one you were so close to reaching, but it’s also a reminder of how far you’ve gotten – whereas others had fallen – and a chance to pick up a medal while representing your country.
To finish fourth in a World Cup is already an amazing achievement, but I’m sure both nations would rather go one better and finish third.
Aberdeen off the mark in the SWPL
It was great to see Aberdeen Women start the SWPL season with a 3-2 win over Motherwell last weekend.
They have got a win on the board early and that is so valuable, especially ahead of Sunday’s clash with Rangers which will be a very challenging game at Broadwood Stadium.
Bayley Hutchison scoring an opening day brace will do her the world of good. I know she found it difficult last season and this will give her an early boost.
Her career is in a period of transition now she has aged out the youth national team.
She’s a talented young prospect, but she will have gone from being the best of her age to now having to stake her claim at senior level – which is an incredible jump in standards.
Rangers will be a tough ask for Aberdeen. They started the season well with a 6-1 win over Spartans and the players will still be out to impress their new manager Jo Potter, who demands a lot from her squad.