So, the WWC 2023 has drawn to a close with Spain beating European champions England 1-0 to be crowned winners in what was a fascinating final. The tournament was full of surprises and didn't disappoint, with this being said it's interesting to review the significant shocks that occurred over the past weeks, where many teams faced unexpected exits despite the odds suggesting they'd go far.
A first shock that many predicted against happening was France crashing out to home nation Australia. Australia had good momentum going into the game but France were looking dangerous having put 6 goals past Panama and 4 goals against Morocco in the previous games. The game ended in a 0-0 stalemate with both sides eager to win the match in extra time to avoid a loss which would end their world cup dreams. France ranked 5th in the world were favourites, but Australia are ranked 10th in the international rankings. Despite this the shock was the performances of France who regardless of the thrashings they delivered to Panama and Morocco were showing weaknesses like drawing to Jamaica in their first group stage game. It was a very inconsistent and confusing World Cup for France who demonstrated signs of promise and threat but then lacked the ability to play this way in the contest that mattered with Australia. Australia with the home support behind them knocked France out on penalties concluding what was a big loss for them. A tough defeat to take for a side considered a favourite coming into the tournament and definitely a shock as it was in everyone's minds that it would be France with superstar striker Kadidiatou Diani to face England in the semi-finals.
The next shock might be the biggest of them all. Canada arrived to the 2023 Women's World Cup as Olympic Champions and of course with this kind of recent success they were destined to prevail and put up a fight. Well, this didn't turn out to be the case in fact Canada failed to even make it out of the group stage after a draw to Nigeria and devastating loss to Australia left them third in Group B, a group they were favourites to top. Nothing went right for Canada it wasn't the same side we saw at the Olympics who impressed in every game they played. Canada did not play to their usual standards and left fans speechless; no words could describe the shock of Canada failing to qualify for the knockout stages, maybe the occasion and nerves got to them but as gold medallists there was so much more for them to achieve. They only managed to score two goals in a 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland and conceded 5, maybe Canda will return to form at the CONCAF Championships however this World Cup is certainly one for them to forget and perhaps a missed opportunity to state their authority as a top side in the women's international game.
Speaking of failing to make it out of the group stage another team that didn't manage the task was 2nd seed in the world Germany. Germany looked ready to set the tournament on fire with an opening 6-0 victory against Morocco in Group H, but were quickly left stunned when Colombia handed them a 2-1 defeat in their second game. The side starring striker and captain Alexandra Popp, struggled to carry over the electrifying pace they had in the match with Morocco which perhaps made the team overconfident going into their last two fixtures because that first win was so comfortable. Despite the loss Germany still had a chance to go through if they won verses South Korea and for a team of their talent this should have been a game they can out the blocks fast in to put the match to bed and secure a knockout place. Unfortunately for Germany, South Korea had nothing to lose as proven by the fact they scored within 6 minutes to rattle the German players who would have been feeling the pressure. Popp levelled the game at 1-1 before half time but this was to be the only goal Germany would score before the final whistle blew confirming Germany's shock exit from the competition.
A final shock of the WWC to conclude what was a tournament full of many twists and turns would be the downfall of previous Champions the USA. USA did make it through their group but there was no standout performances as they began to develop a real issue in front of goal. USA were missing and intensity and end product to their team all-tournament, their game against Portgual being a prime example as the 0-0 draw is something the players must reflect on as a missed opportunity to get three points and top the group. It didn't get any easier for the USA either as their round of 16 game saw them face a competent well drilled Sweden side with a great defensive record. Sweden proved too be to much for the USA, even though the Americans were denied on numerous occasions by goalkeeper Zecira Musovic the chances they had were there to be finished and it must be frustrating to look back on. USA had all the eyes on them to see if they could win the World Cup back-to-back but could progress no further than the round of 16. A poor outcome for one of the best teams and certainly a shock that they failed to turn up and find the cutting edge they so desperately needed in the final third.