The 2023 Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and these daily files will give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads. Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Australia and New Zealand.
The lead: Nigeria stun hosts Australia
Emily van Egmond’s inclusion paid dividends for the Matildas in the first half, with the midfielder lurking at the top of the box to slot home a Caitlin Foord cross. But Australia’s injury-time lead lasted all of four minutes, with Uchenna Kanu able to poke home a deflected cross to draw Nigeria level.
The Super Falcons came out of the blocks racing after sitting back and allowing the Matildas to attack without threatening in the first half. And in the space of seven minutes, they took control. Rasheedat Ajibade‘s cross from the far post found Osinachi Ohale, who forced the ball over the net despite taking Alanna Kennedy‘s leg in her stomach.
Then Asisat Oshoala made it three after an error from Kennedy. The defender attempted to head the ball back to goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold only to nod it into the path of Oshoala, who made her finish from an acute angle look easy.
The Matildas made late changes and threw everything at Nigeria in the 11 minutes of injury time, including using Kennedy up top which saw her score a header in 100th minute. But the damage had been done. — Marissa Lordanic
News of the day
Lindsey Horan reflected on her crucial goal for the USWNT in the 1-1 draw with Netherlands and attributed her scoring to the anger she felt about Danielle van de Donk’s heavy tackle moments before she scored. “I don’t think you ever want to get me mad because I don’t react in a good way,” she said. “Usually I just go and I want something more: I want to win more, I want to score more, I want to do more for my team.”
England goalkeeper Mary Earps spoke before the Haiti match about Nike’s “hurtful” call not to have her kit available to purchase and then put in a fine performance in the game. Teammate Lucy Bronze was asked about Earps’ displeasure ahead of the Denmark match and said the whole squad was behind her. “It’s something that as a group we have spoken about and everybody’s fully in support of Mary and what she’s had to say,” she said. “I think we’re all disappointed as a team, not just for our team and for Mary and for Hannah [Hampton] and for Ellie [Roebuck], but all the little girls and boys around the world who want to grow up and want to idolise these role models. It is disappointing and absolutely every single girl, every single England player is in support of Mary and the things that she’s had to say, and hopefully changes can be made in the future so things like this don’t happen anymore.”
As it basks in the reflected glow of record crowds across the country, Football Australia said it remains on track to introduce a men’s national second tier (NST) competition in 2024 as it looks to capitalise on this momentum. Social media rumours swirled Thursday that it had been derailed, but the federation said “underground” efforts continue. “The interest, support, and active participation remain strong as we aim to kick off this ground-breaking venture by 2024,” a spokesperson told ESPN. “The request for proposal process (RFP) remains in full swing with clubs currently preparing their proposals for submission in the upcoming weeks. However, if any club wishes to withdraw from the RFP process at any stage, they are at full liberty to do so. At this time, FA will not comment on individual withdrawals while the RFP process is still underway.” — Joey Lynch
Today in USWNT camp
Alex Morgan not happy with USA’s 1-1 draw with the Netherlands
Lindsey Horan and Alex Morgan give their thoughts following USA’s 1-1 draw at the Women’s World Cup.
Some of the big questions surrounding the USWNT heading into the World Cup revolved around its relative inexperience. Could the team, with 14 players performing in their first World Cup, deal with the pressure cooker environment? Could they handle moments when things weren’t going their way, especially against the best teams in the world?
The final answers to those queries won’t come until later, but one question was answered in the affirmative in the Americans’ 1-1 draw with Netherlands. Can the U.S. take a punch? You betcha. Shoulder charges, too.
Jeff Carlisle reports from Wellington on an impressive result for a U.S. team still finding its feet.
Sights and sounds
USWNT fight back to draw vs. Netherlands
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The rematch of the 2019 World Cup final didn’t disappoint as the United States rallied from a goal down to draw 1-1 against Netherlands. Losing isn’t something that happens often to the USWNT: this was their first time trailing in a World Cup game since the 2011 quarterfinal against Brazil, breaking a tournament record 17-game streak without conceding first.
How did they respond? Well, after Jill Roord coolly fired the Dutch in front after poor defending allowed Victoria Pelova to tee up the Manchester City midfielder, the U.S. really struggled to get back into the game until Rose Lavelle entered as a half-time substitute. Gone was the poor pressing in the final third and lack of composure in possession; Lavelle’s entrance flipped the game upside down as the U.S. quickly seized control of the game.
It was also Lavelle who set up the equalizer, curling a dangerous corner into the box for Lindsey Horan to attack and nod beyond a helpless Daphne van Domselaar. Horan later admitted it was a tackle from Danielle van de Donk — who ended the game wearing a swim cap to stem the flow of blood after a clash of heads with Lavelle — that had fired her up.
But despite a slew of chances to grab the win in the final 20 minutes — including Alex Morgan‘s disallowed goal, when replays showed she was clearly behind the last defender when Sophia Smith played the pass into the box — the U.S. and Dutch would settle for a hard-earned draw.
Group E is now shaping up nicely, and the final round of matches on Aug. 1 will have plenty at stake. Winning the group does yield a more gentle side of the knockout bracket, but the electrifying clash at Wellington Regional Stadium was one we’ll be talking about for a while, no matter who moves on to the round of 16. — Jeff Carlisle
Van de Donk’s swimming cap grabs attention
Van de Donk: I heard “Swim Cap! Swim Cap!” and cried “No!”
Netherlands midfielder Danielle van de Donk jokes about the swim cap she had to wear after sustaining a head injury in the game vs. USA.
In the 94th minute between the U.S. and Netherlands, there was a nasty head clash between Lavelle and Van de Donk.
After staying down for treatment, Van de Donk returned to the pitch wearing a black swimming cap, presumably to help stem the flow of blood.
While she was the focus of some jokes on social media, such a thing has happened before. In the men’s game last season, the Champions League round-of-16 match between Benfica and Ajax saw defender Nicolas Otamendi wear one as well.
Expect some more questions to be raised about concussion protocol at the tournament, though.
Portugal cruise past Vietnam
Portugal have their first women’s World Cup goal, first win and, as they prepare to launch what looks close to being mission impossible in attempting to advance from their group at the expense of the United States next week, an important confidence booster after comfortably defeating Vietnam in with a 2-0 in Hamilton.
Any attempt to apply transitive analysis based upon a common opponent before that game, however, would probably be unhelpful. Whereas the Golden Star Women Warriors were disciplined and organised as they frustrated the USWNT last Saturday, they were at sixes and sevens as their World Cup exit was confirmed on Thursday.
With Portugal pulling apart Vietnam’s five-player defensive line at will, Telma Encarnacao had them ahead after just seven minutes when she got on the end of a cross by Lucia Alves at the top of the box. The advantage was doubled 13 minutes later when Encarnacao turned provider and slipped Francisca Nazareth through for a tidy finish. Winger Jessica Silva, meanwhile, felt like she was everywhere at times, tormenting her opponents until she was substituted in the 69th minute.
The scoreline could have morphed into something similar to the nine-goal margin that Portugal’s Iberian neighbours, Spain, put past Vietnam in an unofficial World Cup warmup fixture if they had their shooting boots on. In total, Portugal produced 26 shots, but blazed them wide or were denied by a valiant and battling performance from keeper Tran Thi Kim Thanh in their search for a third. — Joey Lynch
Colombia’s Caicedo OK after training session scare
Colombia suffered a scare on Thursday, when star player Linda Caicedo keeled over in training and needed treatment from the medical team. During the part of the session open to media, Caicedo was seen grabbing her chest and breathing deeply before lying on the ground. She was quickly attended to; sources inside the Colombia camp told ESPN “everything was OK,” and that she was able to complete the training session.
Caicedo, 18, has been one of the standout performers at the World Cup so far, impressing with her performance and scoring a goal in Las Cafeteras’ 2-0 win over South Korea. The Real Madrid forward has now scored in three World Cups in the last year, having also featured in the U20 and U17 tournaments for her country. She was also voted the player of the tournament at last summer’s Copa America, helping Colombia to the final, where they lost to Brazil.
Colombia’s second game at the tournament is not until Sunday, when they take on Germany in Sydney. — Sam Marsden
Would starting Rachel Daly solve England’s lack of goals?
Tom Hamilton debates how Sarina Wiegman could look to increase England’s attacking threat vs. Denmark.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook.
Odds: Argentina +102, Draw +210, South Africa +285
After an 87th-minute goal from Cristiana Girelli condemned them to a 1-0 defeat against Italy in their opening fixture, the short-term mission remains the same for Argentina heading into their clash with South Africa: get their first win at a World Cup and keep their hopes alive of progressing to the round of 16.
La Albiceleste had their moments against the Italians — coach German Portanova stated postmatch that he believed a draw would have been a fair reflection of the game — but were haunted by an inability to create high-quality looks on goal once they got into the final third. Florencia Bonsegundo went close in stoppage time as the Argentines pushed for a draw, but that also represented their first shot on target. And it was from a free kick, not open play.
However, improvements will be easier said than done against a Banyana Banyana unit that pushed powerhouses Sweden all the way in their opening game. Coach Desiree Ellis’ side doggedly kept their foes at bay in the first half, took a shock lead early in the second and even though Fridolina Rolfo restored parity 20 minutes later, they looked like they were set to record a well-earned point until Amanda Ilestedt headed home from a corner — again, not open play — in the 90th minute to steal a win.
They will look to do the same against Argentina, but how will it play out? — Joey Lynch
Odds: England -250, Draw +305, Denmark +750
Ruthlessness was by far the most uttered word in Sarina Wiegman’s prematch news conference as she looked ahead to the Denmark match. England’s last goal from open play was back in April and top of Wiegman’s to-do list this week was fine-tuning the Lionesses’ attack. Wiegman doesn’t change the team much, but there’s a chance she might shake things up for Friday’s match with Rachel Daly and Lauren James both pressing their claims to start.
Denmark will look to Pernille Harder to cause England all sorts of trouble, with their manager Lars Sondergaard calling the Lionesses a “superpower.” Both teams have fully fit squads to pick from with the winner booking their spot in the knockouts. — Tom Hamilton
Odds: China -155, Draw +250, Haiti +440
Coming into their second group game off the back of 1-0 losses, Haiti will at least be happier with how they performed last time out, giving England a game in their World Cup debut. On the flip side, China were needlessly tentative against a sloppy Denmark team. Both will feel that not only should they have taken something from their first game, but that they can take maximum points in Adelaide.
For Les Grenadières, the job will be more of the same, with the team looking to get teen sensation Melchie Dumornay onto the ball wherever possible. China may look to change things up in order to impose themselves more, with Wang Shuang a necessary starter for the Steel Roses. — Sophie Lawson
Features of the day
A look around the England base camp
Tom Hamilton got the scoop on the Lionesses’ World Cup digs in Terrigal, about 50 miles north of Sydney. It’s where “relaxation meets motivation,” according to those in charge.
How will the Matildas manage mounting injuries at WWC?
A mounting injury toll for the Matildas has coach Tony Gustavsson looking for answers as he looks to replace both Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler up top.
And finally …
Zach Ertz repping a familiar kit… pic.twitter.com/Q4St05jcKg
— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) July 26, 2023
Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz returned home from New Zealand on Saturday in order to get ready for the NFL preseason, and it’s a difficult one this time around as his wife, Julie, is still on the other side of the world competing in the World Cup with the USWNT.
ESPN reporter Josh Weinfuss caught up with the NFL veteran about how he’s supporting his wife from afar while getting down to business in Glendale.
Zach did have one message for his wife before leaving New Zealand: “Don’t come home without that gold.”
“I understood this was part of the deal when she went back to playing, and I was fully supportive of that decision,” Zach said. “It’s going to be tough missing [their son’s] first birthday, that’s for sure, as long as they’re still playing. But, at the end of the day, this is going to be an amazing story to tell.”