Missing the Women's World Cup? Don't worry, we've already got your 2023 outlook
LYON, France -- The U.S. women's national soccer team remains atop the sport after winning its second consecutive World Cup. But if American perseverance in 2019 proved anything, it was that 2023 will be even more difficult.
We're still waiting to find out where the world will gather four years from now -- not to mention whether the invite list will be expanded from 24 to 32 teams. In the meantime, here is the outlook for this year's World Cup alums:
Finish: Group F (3-0-0, 9 points, won group); went on to win the World Cup
Outlook: With Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis in place, and with the likes of Andi Sullivan waiting in the wings, the midfield is the future of this team. The depth might even force the U.S. into another formational shape -- to get more of them on the field or into their natural positions, in the case of Crystal Dunn. The transition ground is found at forward. Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan and Christen Press could remain factors in their mid-30s. But Mallory Pugh and newcomers such as Stanford's Sophia Smith and Catarina Macario (if the Brazilian-born standout attains citizenship) also should be in the mix.
Finish: Group E (3-0-0, 9 points, won group); lost to USWNT in World Cup final
Outlook: The Dutch developed a generation of players that put the team on the world stage over the past few years. Most key players should still be relevant in 2023; Netherlands all-time leading goal scorer Vivianne Miedema might just be entering her prime four years from now. Youth programs at domestic clubs such as Ajax now need to produce the next wave of talent to push the holdovers.
Finish: Group D (0-2-1, 2 points); failed to advance out of group stage
Outlook: Coming off a quietly impressive tournament, Argentina should have more momentum after this performance than previous lackluster World Cups. There is young talent. And as with other South American teams, the question is consistent support -- they can't be a national team for a few months every four years.
Finish: Group C (2-0-1, 6 points, second overall); lost to Norway, 1-1(4) on PKs in Round of 16
Outlook: Get a bit more athletic in the middle of the back line and don't throw a talented team into upheaval months before the tournament. That would be a start for 2023. Should they host in four years, the Matildas will still have a wealth of under-30 talent and Sam Kerr still in her prime.
Finish: Group C (2-0-1, 6 points, third overall); lost to France, 2-1, in Round of 16
Outlook: The sport's biggest question mark at the moment is what happens when Marta leaves the stage. The talent level of younger veterans such as Andressinha and Beatriz, even prospects such as Geyse, remains in a different league than the rest of South America. But will there be support from Brazil's federation?
Finish: Group E (1-0-2, 3 points, third overall); lost to England, 3-0, in Round of 16
Outlook: No matter your opinion on what happened in Cameroon's loss against England, it's going to take time for the team to be associated with anything else. More problematic: This wasn't a young team, and the pending investigations around those VAR protests won't encourage investment.
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Finish: Group E (2-0-1, 6 points, second overall); lost to Sweden, 1-0, in Round of 16
Outlook: Even if Christine Sinclair glides into retirement before 2023, Canada is in good shape to remain a contender four years from now. Young talent abounds, including Kadeisha Buchanan, Jessie Fleming and 18-year-old Jordyn Huitema, and CONCACAF remains a two-team top tier with no obvious challengers to that American and Canadian supremacy.
Finish: Group F (1-0-2, 3 points, third overall); failed to advance past group stage
Outlook: Chile has a world-class goalkeeper, Christiane Endler; it also has some momentum and good connections with the improving Liga Femenina Iberdrola in Spain, where many Chileans play. But to avoid stagnating like recent South American up-and-comer Colombia, it needs funding to train and play regular friendlies.
Finish: Group B (1-1-1, 4 points, third overall); lost to Italy, 2-0, in Round of 16
Outlook: Already at 100 caps at just 24 years old, Wang Shuang should be a team cornerstone. But after a frustrating World Cup, and with talk of her leaving PSG under pressure to play at home, her story instead seems emblematic of a stagnating national program.
Finish: Group D (3-0-0, 9 points, won group); faces Sweden in third-place match after losing 2-1 to USWNT in semifinals
Outlook: A surprise semifinalist four years ago, England will have paid its dues by the time 2023 rolls around. The growth of the domestic pro league needs to send more new prospects into the national team pipeline. Goalkeeper and center-backs are areas to watch. Steph Houghton is terrific and a cornerstone for the Olympics and Euro 2021, but the captain will also be 35 in 2023.
Finish: Group A (3-0-0, 9 points, won group); lost 2-1 to USWNT in quarterfinals
Outlook: Beyond next year's Olympics, getting over the World Cup hangover will begin with Euro 2021. But by the next World Cup, the French are going to need a new goalkeeper and must figure out where Amandine Henry, Eugenie Le Sommer and Wendie Renard -- who will all be between ages 32 and 34 by then -- fit amid waves of incoming young talent.
Finish: Group B (3-0-0, 9 points, won group); lost to Sweden, 2-1, in quarterfinals
Outlook: It's an interesting time for a team that looked inexperienced this year but could be one of the older teams in 2023 if built around Dzsenifer Marozsan and Alexandra Popp's generation. Despite allowing just two goals, Germany wasn't defensively intimidating. That must change.
Finish: Group C (2-0-1, 6 points, won group): lost to Netherlands, 2-0, in quarterfinals
Outlook: The Italians' run to the quarterfinals came ahead of schedule. The challenge will be to keep up the pace, which will depend a lot on the health and growth of the Serie A women's league. If the likes of Juventus and AC Milan continue to invest to keep up with continental peers, the national team will benefit.
Finish: Group C (0-0-3, 0 points, last in group); failed to advance past group stage
Outlook: Jamaica can build around Khadija Shaw; but as much as she is a star, the degree to which Jamaica was outmatched in an admittedly difficult group indicates its players need much more time together. Getting enough of it to hold off Mexico or Costa Rica in CONCACAF won't be easy.
Finish: Group D (1-1-1, 4 points, second overall in group); lost to Netherlands, 2-1, in Round of 16
Outlook: The team's exit was heartbreaking for Saki Kumagai and the goals weren't there, but Japan remains a pleasure to watch as much as any team. We'll know more about 2023 prospects after next summer. This group appears geared to peak when Japan hosts the 2020 Olympics.
Finish: Group E (0-0-3, 0 points, last in group); failed to advance past group stage
Outlook: Unless something happens to the full berth Oceania still receives, New Zealand is going to qualify for 2023 (it outscored opponents 43-0 in qualifying this past qualifying cycle). Keeping coach Tom Sermanni around beyond the 2020 Olympics would certainly help.
Finish: Group A (1-0-2, 3 points, third overall in group); lost to Germany, 3-0 in Round of 16
Outlook: The perennial qualifier beat South Korea and nearly drew France en route to the knockout rounds, so there's no reason to think Nigeria's place atop the depth chart in Africa is waning. With Asisat Oshoala just entering her prime, there is a strong player to build around.
Finish: Group A (2-0-1, 6 points, second overall in group); lost to England, 3-0, in quarterfinals
Outlook: Make peace with Ada Hegerberg. Depending on the timing in 2023, the most recent Ballon d'Or winner will be 27 or 28 by that tournament. Pairing her with Caroline Graham Hansen, who will also be 28, would place Norway among the contenders almost on its own.
Finish: Group D (0-1-2, 1 point, last in group); failed to advance past group stage
Outlook: Make qualifying a habit. Scotland could have fared much worse in the draw for Euro 2021 qualifying with Finland and Portugal as its main rivals. With a young talent like Erin Cuthbert, build on this first World Cup with a second consecutive Euro appearance.
Finish: Group B (0-0-3, 0 points, last in group); failed to advance past group stage
Outlook: A mild disappointment after being outscored 8-1 in France, South Africa must manage the delicate balance between finding new talent without losing the institutional memory -- six players with 100 caps -- that helped the team qualify for three of past four major tournaments.
Finish: Group A (0-0-3, 0 points, last in group); failed to advance past group stage
Outlook: Turn to a new generation. South Korea couldn't follow up on a successful 2015 campaign, and much of the current roster will be well past 30 years old by 2023. Some of those players, such as Ji So-Yun, will remain essential, but so will a youth movement.
Finish: Group B (1-1-1, 4 points, second overall in group); lost to USWNT, 2-1, in Round of 16
Outlook: Find a goal scorer. Spain is so close to something special. But for all its possession, it couldn't finish against Germany or the United States. And Jennifer Hermoso will be 33 in 2023; maybe it's 21-year-old midfielder Patricia Guijarro, but a true No. 9 would be ideal.
Finish: Group F (2-0-1, 6 points, second overall in group); will face England in third-place match after losing to Netherlands, 1-0, in extra time in semifinals
Outlook: After coming so close to a second consecutive major final, Sweden will likely again face a post-Cup test of identity. After the 2016 Olympics, it said farewell to Lotta Schelin. Now, after France, it's Nilla Fischer, Hedvig Lindahl and Caroline Seger likely departing before 2023. For now, the youth is in the forward line, which may force Sweden to play a more aggressive, attacking style of soccer.
Finish: Group F (0-0-3, 0 points, last in group); failed to advance past group stage
Outlook: Improvement will take funding. But, realistically, just staying ahead of the pack in Asia will probably keep Thailand in the World Cup. With traditional powers Australia and Japan in the running to host the 2023 Cup (and the host earning an automatic bid), Thailand should have a manageable path.