The Opta supercomputer has provided its 2023 Women’s World Cup predictions. Who will come out on top in Australia and New Zealand?
The Women’s World Cup starts this week, with 32 teams – for the first time in the competition’s history – competing for the top prize in women’s football.
Co-hosts New Zealand and Australia are both in action on the opening day, taking on Norway and the Republic of Ireland respectively.
Which players will star? Who are the favourites? What about the dark horses?
Everything is covered in our Women’s World Cup predictions, as the United States bid to triumph for a third consecutive edition.
Women’s World Cup Predictions
- The United States are our favourites to go all the way, with Opta’s supercomputer giving them a 21.6% chance of glory.
- England, the champions of Europe, are ranked second, at 16.9%. However, Sarina Wiegman’s team are without some key players due to injury.
- Spain – who will have Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas back – are given a 21.9% chance of reaching the final and an 11.3% shot of glory. However, they head into the tournament amid a dispute over their working conditions. Germany and France come next.
- Australia are ranked as the sixth favourites, at 5.88%, higher than the likes of the Netherlands, Sweden and Brazil. Fellow hosts New Zealand are in the middle of the pack, in 17th.
Let’s start with the obvious – the two-time reigning world champions. The USA are favourites to defend their crown for a second tournament running, an attempt that should start smoothly as they are predicted to win Group H – which also includes the Netherlands, Portugal and Vietnam – with relative ease.
Since suffering three straight defeats in late 2022, the USWNT have won their last nine games by an aggregate of 21-2. Not bad.
Their squad might be on the older side – indeed, captain Megan Rapinoe is playing at her final World Cup following her retirement announcement – but it is still packed with quality.
The USWNT have won four world titles, taking the trophy in half of the eight World Cups played. They are aiming to become the first side (men’s or women’s) to win three successive World Cups, while they have never finished below third in any edition of the tournament.
Vlatko Andonovski’s team head into the tournament on the back of 12 straight wins in World Cup play – a record. In those 12 games, they have amassed a goal difference of +32 (37 goals for, five against). They have won their World Cup openers in six of the eight tournaments, drawing the other two, including a competition-record 13-0 victory over Thailand in 2019.
Rapinoe has been directly involved in more goals than any other player over the last three editions of the World Cup (15 in 17 matches); the 38-year-old – along with Alex Morgan – scored six goals in the 2019 tournament, seeing the American duo join England’s Ellen White at the top of the scoring charts and share the golden boot. No player has ever been top scorer in more than one edition of the competition.
Five of the USA’s eight knockout goals were scored by Rapinoe, making her just the third player in the competition’s history to net at least five times in the knockout rounds of a single World Cup. The previous two players were also Americans – Carli Lloyd (six in 2015) and Michelle Akers (seven in 1991).
With 34-year-old Morgan, who was the USA’s leading scorer in qualifying with three goals in five appearances, also potentially set for her last World Cup, Rose Lavelle, at 28, is ready to take the mantle up from the veteran campaigners. Lavelle scored in the final in 2019, becoming the fifth-youngest player, at 24 years and 54 days, to net in a showpiece match in the competition.
Opta Predictions – USA
- Group winner – 70.5%
- Reach last 16 – 92.5%
- Reach quarter-finals – 69.3%
- Reach semi-finals – 51.4%
- Reach final – 33%
- Winner – 21.6%
The second favourites, according to our prediction model, are England. The Lionesses claimed silverware on home soil in last year’s UEFA Women’s Euros, beating Germany 2-1 in the final at a packed Wembley Stadium.
Chloe Kelly was the hero for England in that match, and the pressure might well be on the Manchester City attacker to step up in the absence of Beth Mead, who along with her Arsenal team-mate Leah Williamson will miss the tournament due to an ACL injury.
Mead was England’s top scorer in qualifying (13 goals from 10 games), while Wiegman is also without Ellen White, the Lionesses’ record goalscorer who called time on her career after the Euros.
England are making their sixth World Cup appearance, having qualified for a fifth successive tournament. They are one of three teams, along with Germany and the USA, to reach the quarters in each of the last four tournaments, while only the Lionesses and the USA have made the last four in the last two World Cups.
Only Germany, in 2003 and 2007, have won the World Cup while also being reigning European champions.
They should easily progress from Group H, which includes Denmark (1.45% chance of winning the tournament), China (1.22%) and minnows Haiti (0.04%), and our predictor model gives England a 42.9% chance of making the semi-finals.
England’s opening game sees them take on Haiti – they have won their opening World Cup fixture on just two occasions. In their final two group matches in each of their previous tournament appearances, however, England have posted a record of eight wins, one draw and one defeat.
The Lionesses have netted in each of their last 13 World Cup matches, which is the longest active streak in the competition, having last being shut out by France in 2015. Should England score in their first two group matches, they would equal the longest such run in tournament history, which was set by Norway between 1991 and 1999.
Barcelona star Lucy Bronze is in England’s squad and is set to play a key role once again. Only compatriot Steph Houghton (1,290) has played more minutes across the last two World Cups than Bronze (1,180), who also made a total of 37 interceptions across those tournaments – more than any other player. She was also pivotal in the Euros last year, providing two assists from a total of 10 chances created.
Coach Wiegman has won 18 of her 19 games as a manager in major Women’s international competitions (World Cup and Euros) – the only game she failed to win was the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final with the Netherlands (2-0 vs. USA).
Opta Predictions – England
- Group winner – 69.2%
- Rach last 16 – 89.9%
- Reach quarter-finals – 64.8%
- Reach semi-finals – 42.9%
- Reach final – 26.6%
- Winner – 16.9%
Other Women’s World Cup Contenders
Putellas’ return is a timely boost for Spain, but they head into the tournament amid a contentious dispute over working conditions, with 15 players having withdrawn from selection last year. Just three of those have been included in Jorge Vilda’s squad.
Nevertheless, they are still ranked as the third favourites to go all the way.
They are set to play at the World Cup for a third time and their best performance came in 2019, when they reached the last 16, so there’s plenty for them to improve on if they are to test the heavyweights. However, Spain qualified by finishing top of their group, and were one of the four European teams to win all of their qualifiers.
Spain are big favourites to win Group C, which also includes Costa Rica, Japan and Zambia.
Opta Predictions – Spain
- Group winner – 67.2%
- Reach last 16 – 91.8%
- Reach quarter-finals – 67.2%
- Reach semi-finals – 38.6%
- Reach final – 21.9%
- Winner – 11.3%
Runners-up to England at the Euros, Germany possess one of the strongest squads and are sure to be there or thereabouts. They are one of seven teams to have qualified for all nine Women’s World Cup tournaments, including being one of only three European nations alongside Norway and Sweden to play in each edition.
Germany are unbeaten across their eight World Cup openers, and have lost only once in 24 group games. Colombia, South Korea and tournament debutants Morocco should pose little bother when it comes to progressing from Group H, while only the USA have kept more clean sheets at the finals than the Germans.
Sara Dabritz was their star performer in 2019, scoring three goals. No midfielder had as many shots (21) or shots on target (10) during that tournament, while Dabritz has found the net in four of her six World Cup group games.
Opta predictions – Germany
- Group winner – 63.9%
- Reach last 16 – 86.89%
- Reach quarter-finals – 55%
- Reach semi-finals – 30.1%
- Winner – 9.3%
Another European team to win all of their 10 qualifiers was France, who have Brazil to face in Group F, but Herve Renard’s team are predicted to progress with ease from a pool that also includes Jamaica and Panama.
Renard – who guided Saudi Arabia to a famous victory over Argentina at last year’s men’s World Cup in Qatar – took over earlier this year, following the ill-tempered end to Corinne Diacre’s tenure. Renard is a highly experienced coach in the men’s game, and Les Bleues have won three of their four games under him so far, though that loss came to tournament hosts Australia in their most-recent outing.
France failed to make home advantage count in 2019, though they have reached the last eight in each of the three previous editions.
Wendie Renard – who withdrew from selection under Diacre – has returned to take the armband. She scored four goals in the 2019 tournament, more than any other France player, and was the only defender to score multiple goals during that World Cup, with three of those coming with her head.
Opta predictions – France
- Group winner – 56.3%
- Reach last 16 – 86.8%
- Reach quarter-finals – 52.5%
- Reach semi-finals – 28.7%
- Reach final – 15.4%
- Winner – 7.5%
One of the strongest teams in women’s football, Sweden are one of seven teams to have competed at every Women’s World Cup. In fact, no team has played as many games at World Cup finals without winning the tournament as Sweden (40). They have finished runners-up once (in 2003) and third on two occasions.
They went through qualifying unbeaten and have lost only three of their 15 group stage games played in the competition in the 21st century (W8 D4), with all three of those defeats coming against the USA.
Sweden will play South Africa, Italy and Argentina in a competitive Group G.
Opta predictions – Sweden
- Group winner – 50.3%
- Reach last 16 – 76.6%
- Reach quarter-finals – 38%
- Reach semi-finals – 21.3%
- Winner – 4.7%
They are not considered among the favourites, with only a 3.3% chance of winning the tournament, but Brazil head into the tournament as the eighth best team in the world and should not be wholly discounted from at the very least going on a deep run.
In Marta, they have the top goalscorer in Women’s World Cup history, with the 37-year-old registering 17 goals in 20 appearances. She has scored in each of the last five editions of the World Cup, a feat only otherwise achieved by Canada veteran Sinclair.
Among the teams that have previously played in three World Cups, Brazil are the only one to have always won their opening game (8/8). They kept seven clean sheets in those eight games, with the combined aggregate score being 23-1 in their favour, while they have only lost one of their 18 group matches.
Their coach, Pia Sundhage, will become the first coach to lead a three different teams at the World Cup finals, having taken charge of the USA in 2011 and Sweden in 2015.
Opta predictions – Brazil
- Group winner – 33.9%
- Reach last 16 – 77%
- Reach quarter-finals – 39.5%
- Reach semi-finals – 18.1%
- Reach final – 8.1%
- Winner – 3.3%
With Sam Kerr leading their line, Australia should be confident of a deep run. Our predictor model rates their chances of going all the way at just 5.88%, albeit that does have them as the sixth favourites.
Kerr scored seven goals during the 2022 Asian Cup and after failing to net in her first eight World Cup games, the Chelsea striker has scored five times in her last four such matches.
After being eliminated in the group stages in their first three World Cup appearances, Australia have subsequently reached the knockout stages in each of the last four editions but have never progressed further than the quarter-finals.
If Australia are involved, then expect goals – none of their 26 World Cup matches have ended goalless.
New Zealand, meanwhile, are likely to be involved in a tussle with Switzerland and the Philippines to claim second in Group A, in which Norway are the big favourites.
They are taking part in their sixth World Cup, and a fifth in a row, yet they are yet to win a single game at the finals. New Zealand are also the only team to have made five or more appearances at the tournament without ever reaching the knockout stages.
New Zealand have kept just one clean sheet from their 15 World Cup games, while they have always lost their opening match.
The Key Women’s World Cup Stats
- Rapinoe has scored nine goals and assisted a further six in the last three editions of the World Cup, meaning she has been directly involved in more goals (15) than any other player in that spell.
- Brazil’s Marta and Canada’s Christine Sinclair hold the record for most World Cup tournaments with at least one goal – they have both scored in each of the last five editions.
- Sinclair enters the World Cup 10th all-time in minutes played in the tournament (1,869), but she is just 234 minutes behind Brazil’s Formiga in second (2,103).
- Either the USA or Germany have competed in every World Cup Final but have never met each other in the title-deciding game.
- No teams have faced each other more times in the World Cup than the USA and Sweden, who have met in six of the previous eight tournaments, with all six coming in the group stage. This is the first tournament since 1999 that the two are in separate groups.
- There have been only four instances of teams winning 100% of their games in a World Cup: the USA (6/6 in 1991), Norway (6/6 in 1995), Germany (6/6 in 2003) and the USA again in 2019 (7/7).
- Despite having qualified for every single Women’s World Cup tournament, Nigeria have only reached the knockout stages twice in eight attempts and have the lowest goal difference in the history of the tournament (–43), winning four of their 26 matches.
- Only the USA and Germany have reached the knockout stages in all eight previous editions of the World Cup. China, Norway and Sweden have each advanced through the group stage on seven occasions.
- The USA’s 26 goals (in seven games) in 2019 is the highest tally by a team at a Women’s World Cup.
- No team has played as many games as South Korea at the World Cup without ever keeping a clean sheet (10).
- South American teams have won 22 matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with 20 of those being won by Brazil.
- Panama have a 0% chance of winning the tournament according to Opta’s supercomputer, which ran a simulation of the tournament thousands of times, with Panama failing to win on each occasion.