The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is just days away, and we’re coming at you with previews of every group in the tournament, featuring odds from our friends at bet365. In anticipation of that opening match and each to follow, Canada Sports Betting will continue to spotlight each match day’s fixtures with daily previews!
In this preview, we’ll be focusing on Group G. A very talented and balanced group without a flat-out frontrunner, Group G features Sweden (3rd in FIFA’s World Rankings), Italy (16th), Argentina (28th), and South Africa (54th).
|To Win Group||To Qualify||To Not Qualify|
Group G Team Previews
While not many have Sweden as the favourites to go the distance in this tournament, that isn’t going to stop their motivation. Semi-finalists in two of the last three (2011 and 2019) World Cups, along with Euro 2022, Sweden comes into the event with an undefeated record in qualification and motivation to prove that it means something. The Swedes are typically locks to move beyond groups, only failing to do so in 2007. When they followed that up with a strong Olympic qualification in 2008, the federation stepped up with funding to bring the program to the next level, a decision that hasn’t brought them global or continental glory yet, but one that’s strengthened the program.
The Swedes’ form is a bit mixed coming into the tournament, but their most recent result, a 5-1 victory against the Philippines, should be a solid confidence booster as they pivot to the task at hand. This is a group that’s lost just three times in the past calendar year, and they hope to keep that number as low as possible over the next month.
Player to Watch: Fridolina Rolfö
Played primarily as a forward throughout her career, the 29-year-old Rolfö has found a lot of success since moving to more of a wing-back position. The move came after joining Barcelona as her club team in 2021, after years spent playing for Jitex and Linkoping in Sweden, along with Bayern Munich and VfL Wolfsburg in Germany. At Barcelona, she’s been able to find even more ways to be creative while keeping herself healthy, scoring a more than respectable 17 goals in 47 games.
With her country, Rolfö has played over 100 caps when combining her youth experience and her senior team experience, joining the latter in 2015. She scored one goal in the 2019 World Cup, one of Sweden’s five against Thailand, and hopes to build on that this year. Rolfö has won Sweden’s Forward of the Year award in each of the last two years.
One of the earliest teams in Europe to get involved with the women’s game, Italy saw themselves in a bit of a dark age until recently. Their appearance in the 2019 World Cup was their first in over 20 years, a far cry from their quarter-finals appearance in the inaugural tournament in 1991, and their five consecutive semi-finals appearances in the UEFA Euro tournament from 1984 to 1993. This group has reaped the benefits of increased development resources both at home, and across Europe, allowing for them to develop into top-quality players that can compete with the powerhouse nations.
The squad is due for a little bit of recovery after a poor showing at Euro 2022. Despite going to the quarter-finals in the 2019 World Cup, they went winless at the continental level just three years later, putting the group’s staying power into question. Nevertheless, they come into this tournament with wins in three of their last four between friendlies and smaller tournaments, and will get a competitive, but not excessively daunting, squad in Argentina to go up against first.
Player to Watch: Manuela Giugliano
While Giugliano is just 25 years old, she already has nine years of experience playing for the senior team, debuting in October 2014. She scored her first ever international goal just weeks after her 18th birthday, and has been a mainstay with the national team for major events since Euro 2017. For her club, Giugliano spent much of her early career bouncing around, but has settled for the past handful of years with AS Roma.
Giugliano, who has 65 senior caps to her name, is a two-way midfielder who can hop into offensive situations if need be, but sees herself as someone who can help make defensive plays and imitate a counter-attack, bringing Azzurri legend Andrea Pirlo’s play style over to the Azzurre. It’s this that has allowed her to become the heartbeat of the Italian squad when they’re at their best.
With the men’s team having picked up last year’s World Cup in Qatar, you have to imagine that the expectation is similar for the women’s Argentine squad, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, you might argue that they’d be happy to just come out with a won game, having gone without in all three prior qualifications. Their first two appearances in 2003 and 2007 were routs, 0-3 performances both times around that had a combined goal total of 33-2 for the opponents. Their effort last time around in France was much better, with a loss and two draws for a total goals of 4-3 in favour of the opposition, but it’s still a ways to go from glory.
Just four years removed from building a professional club system in the country, La Albiceleste have come a long way in recent years. In fact, their 2023 has been lights out, going undefeated with five wins and one draw in friendlies, only conceding one goal. If they can carry that momentum into the tournament and strike first against Italy, the tide shift could be seismic.
Player to Watch: Estefania Banini
In a lot of ways, Banini is a legend in Argentina for her efforts off the pitch as much as on them. Her playmaking ability has been a marvel for much of her club career, spread between Chile, the NWSL, and Spain, where she currently plays with Atletico Madrid. Her play in the 2010s led to her naming in the CONMEBOL federation’s Team of the Decade, and she received World11 honours from FIFA in 2021 as a midfielder.
Her international resume is pretty short, but it’s in large part due to her speaking out against the Argentine federation’s methods of coaching and development and support for the women’s game. While it led to her blacklisting for three years, it was a message the federation and the nation needed to hear, and she finally returned to the team in April 2022. Since then, she’s added four more goals to her international account, and looks to build on that in this tournament, cementing her legacy once and for all.
South Africa come into this tournament looking to pull out their first points at the World Cup stage, having qualified once before in 2019 but dropping all three games in that tournament to Germany, Spain, and China. They do carry some momentum in this time, though, winning the 2022 Africa Cup of Champions by beating Morocco in the final. That kind of experience, to not just win but see what it takes to get through the grind of a tournament like this, will definitely show some use this time around.
The Banyana Banyana, as the the squad is called in South Africa, come in following an up and down friendly schedule but land on a decently high footing. After losing to Serbia in April and getting blown out by Botswana earlier this month, the group picked up a 2-0 win in a tune-up game against Costa Rica. Coach Desiree Ellis has to adapt her team’s playstyle once more going into this tournament, knowing that rather than the high-possession, technical game they excel at against lower seeded nations, their best hope at results this time will be on the counter-attack.
Player to Watch: Thembi Kgatlana
Kgatlana’s fortunes have made her international career more established than her club career. Joining the NWSL with Houston, the goal was for her to be put in a situation where she could develop away from home while still having national team coach Vera Pauw around to mentor her, along with a handful of her South African teammates. This only lasted a year, however, similar to short pit stops in Beijing, Benfica, Eibar, and Madrid. Kgatlana returned to the NWSL last year, only to tear her Achilles tendon in the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations. She’s since recovered and has been back to play since May.
On the international end, the 27-year-old has been representing the senior team for nine years, including a Summer Olympics appearance and an eight-goal tournament in the 2018 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. She also scored South Africa’s first ever goal in the World Cup the following year, but now seeks a fresh update to her account.
Group G Winner Odds
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Things are actually reasonably tight here, with Sweden still the clear frontrunners to win the group, but none of the four teams out of it before things start. Argentina could certainly find a way to make this interesting and the South Africans could even steal a point or two.
Group G World Cup Winner Odds
It’s pretty unlikely that Group G produces this tournament’s winner, with Sweden being the most likely with the eighth-shortest odds. With the right breaks in the knockout rounds, though, who knows?