WORLD CUP WONDERINGS…
We bullied and bribed a team of UK-based writers and voices to share their thoughts ahead of kick-off. It’s an informed bit of fun, points are included in no particular order, and you are free to vehemently disagree. Some of us have probably changed our mind several times already and will be wearing ‘eggy’ faces by August!
We’re very grateful for their stabs in the dark, pearls of insight and tongue-in-cheek comments, because here at She Kicks, we take our football seriously but not ourselves…*
*This version of the feature appeared in our print/digital magazine Issue no. She Kicks 80 – slightly extended version will appear soon!
Our starting XI:
CHRIS BROOKES (She Kicks asst editor / beatsandrhymesfc.com @chris_brookes)
ROBYN COWEN (BBC Sport TV comms @robyniocowen)
TOM GARRY (The Telegraph women’s football reporter @TomJGarry)
MOLLY HUDSON (The Times/Sunday Times England women’s reporter @M0lly_Writes)
SEB HUTCHINSON (ITV football comms @Seb_Hutch)
RICH LAVERTY (Freelance @RichJLaverty richlaverty.substack.com)
SOPHIE LAWSON (@ESPNFC writer @lawson_sv)
GLENN MOORE (World Soccer’s women’s football correspondent @GlennMoore7)
JACQUI OATLEY (Fox Sports TV comms @JacquiOatley)
JEN O’NEILL (She Kicks editor @Shekicksdotnet)
SUZY WRACK (Guardian football writer @SuzyWrack)
Firstly and without hanging about… WHO IS GOING TO WIN IT?
Chris: Want to say England but can’t quite get past the thought of an already-strong Australia team with home support behind them. So…probably USA.
Jacqui: Every nation has their issues, including the USA, but they have the advantage of being mid-season and at their peak, compared to nations on a traditional European calendar. Plus they have the fire power to die for and they’re all supreme athletes, so I have to go for them. But keep an eye on Brazil.
Robyn: England – in Sarina we trust.
Suzy: Germany; I feel like their squad is maturing at the right time for this tournament.
Seb: The United States of America; their draw is good and so are they.
Tom: This World Cup looks wide open but there’s so much strength and experience across Germany’s squad.
Jen: I have stated Germany would win it a number of times since straight after the Euros final, and though I realise it’s far from clear-cut, I can’t go changing now!
Glenn: Even with some injuries, it is hard to look beyond the United States. Germany appear Europe’s best, given the players missing from England’s squad, while Australia will surprise a few.
Molly: Each of the main contenders have weaknesses, namely England’s defence and whether the United States can blend their crop of talented youngsters with ageing legends, leaving Germany the most well-rounded team in the tournament. They outplayed England for parts of last summer’s final, and that was despite the injury to Alexandra Popp.
Rich: I really don’t know, which isn’t much use, is it? Aaaaaaaargh…Germany.
Which Lioness will roar loudest?
Robyn: Mary Earps; the big player for the big occasion.
Seb: It must be Lauren James; if ever there was a stage to see her shine, it’s this.
Tom: Lucy Bronze; she’ll really step up as a senior member of this England squad and shine.
Jacqui: Rachel Daly; I’m a huge admirer of that lass. She achieved so much in the US and is only just receiving the credit she deserves. Now I really hope she gets the chance to shine in her natural position.
Chris: Tooney from Tyldesley.
Rich: I fully bigged up Lauren Hemp last year and she had a somewhat-quiet tournament. I think Greenwood will play a big part this year, and Daly up top. And Keira Walsh, but that’s a given.
Jen: Chloe Kelly returned so impressively from her ACL injury in 2021-2022 to produce in pressure moments for England. I really hope her cheeky confidence, skill and positivity are going to shine on the world stage (and Jordan Nobbs absolutely deserves her moment).
Glenn: This could be a breakout tournament for Lauren James, but in the absence of Leah Williamson, Millie Bright may be England’s key player.
Suzy: Keira Walsh; the midfielder is irreplaceable.
Molly: Georgia Stanway; some might have forgotten about the tenacious midfielder, given she left the WSL to join Bayern Munich last summer, but she has only improved.
Who will go from a zero to hero or be a surprise package?
Jacqui: Kerolin of Brazil is well known in the US but less so in the UK; she’s a super-exciting, attacking talent, with flair, balance, creativity and finishing ability. Also, Jun Endo of Japan; I love watching her and she has pink hair, so she’s a commentator’s dream!
Chris: Colombia could be interesting. For players, Racheal Kundananji (assuming she plays up front, which she hasn’t always done for Zambia) is potentially a group-stage sensation. And Priscila Chinchilla to trend on Twitter, as non-SWPL followers suddenly become fascinated by her name when Costa Rica are playing.
Glenn: I hope Morocco make the knockout stages; they’ve invested in the women’s game and success could encourage other African and Arab nations to follow suit.
Robyn: Not such of a surprise after the incredible Olympic Games she had but looking forward to seeing Barbra Banda for Zambia once again; she has been treated appallingly, she missed AFCON, so I’m rooting for her to shine at another big tournament.
Molly: Zambia provided plenty of fun and goals in the Olympics and could do so again in Group C.
Sophie: A young player who, despite playing for Real Madrid is yet to really capture the full imagination of the public, and could use this tournament to ‘break out,’ as it were, is Colombia’s teen sensation, Linda Caicedo.
Seb: Haiti’s Melchie Dumornay; arguably the most exciting teenager in the world. Can she stand out despite her country being outsiders to even pick up a point?
Suzy: I’m excited to see which of the next US starlets explodes into action on the biggest of stages. Sophia Smith? Trinity Rodman? Both?
Rich: I think if Evelyne Viens starts for Canada, she could be one. Spain’s Alba Redondo. Brazil, too, I think are massively on the up but have a tough run.
Jen: The general conversation seems to be writing off Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but one or more of these teams is going to ‘surprise’ and go deep in the tournament.
What or who will be a borefest?
Rich: The opening-day games!
Tom: The inevitable and tiresome moaning about VAR. And Group A, I’m afraid to say, looks fairly dull.
Sophie: If at any point our great FIFA overlord blesses us with his presence to proclaim who or what he feels like today…
Suzy: ‘Today, I feel like a woman,’ ‘Today, I feel gay,’ ‘I have four daughters.’ Get your Infantino bingo cards ready.
Jacqui: Any lowly-ranked team that faces the US; it’s not their fault, as their natural instinct is to restrict space and keep the score down, but it can be dull to watch.
Seb: Any mention of tea…Alex Morgan…
Jen: The sentiment and motives are absolutely beyond criticism but hearing how a team/player is aiming to ‘inspire a nation’ in EVERY interview…*face melts*
Robyn: I fear Spain, given all that is happening in the background, won’t have the emotional energy to play at their best; they could be in for an early exit.
Molly: Norway; all of the attacking talents you could possibly wish for, but a leaky, unreliable defence will likely result in a litany of stars failing to hit their full potential.
What or who will be the biggest miss?
Suzy: Leah Williamson; devastating absence for England.
Rich: Sounds obvious, but it’s still so sad to have so many top players, like Williamson, Mead, Miedema, Katoto, Cascarino, Glas, Swanson and Macario, miss out.
Robyn: Leah! Viv! Meado! Macario! Fran! Swanson! Katoto! I’m sure there’s more, but it’s always heartbreaking for any player to miss a major tournament. Also, not injured, but I will miss watching Mana Iwabuchi for Japan; hopefully someone else can slide into those silk slippers.
Jacqui: Mallory Swanson of the US; what a talent. Leah Williamson and Beth Mead; I’m just so sorry for their sakes. Plus the likes of Erin Cuthbert and Jess Fishlock; I’m gutted for them that Scotland and Wales, respectively, didn’t make it.
Tom: Patricia Guijarro; it’s a dreadful shame that arguably the world’s most in-form midfielder won’t be there.
Molly: Patri Guijarro rarely wins big individual awards, but ask her Barcelona teammates who is the secret behind their success and it is often Patri they highlight. Her decision to make herself unavailable for selection for the tournament, having failed to see improvements since 15 players went on strike, is admirable, but her effortless quality on the ball will be sorely missed.
Glenn: I fear for New Zealand; it’ll be a blow if they don’t get out of the group. A huge one if they can’t even win a game.
Seb: With all the disharmony, Spain could be a massive disappointment.
Chris: The ones who’ve sacrificed so much (energy, emotion, and most definitely, finances) to follow the game over the years as fans or media, who won’t get to be there this time.
Sophie: The concept of summer…
Who will be the coolest cucumber in the technical area? (No surprises that Hervé R and then Sarina W got most votes!)
Jacqui: Has to be Hervé Renard of France; he’s no stranger to the gym and a fitted white shirt, plus he has the coiffed barnet and is always tanned so he looks the part.
Chris: Cambridge United’s own Hervé Renard; more open shirts than a Bon Jovi concert.
Glenn: Sarina Wiegman never gives much away, though there may be some scowls.
Sophie: I’m struggling with the very hip slang used for the question but, Amelia Valverde (Costa Rica).
Which kits do you footie fashionistas adore and which do you abhor? (Check them out here, on GQ’s handy rundown of top kits: https://www.gq.com/story/womens-world-cup-kits-ranked
Sophie: Adidas have hit it out of the park, haven’t they? Germany is a pure beaut and both Argentina and Colombia are muy guapa.
Jacqui: I love the purple-and-pink Japan away kit. The Germany green-and-gold away shirt is classy, too. Also Canada’s red shirt with the maple leaf embedded in it.
Robyn: Love the purple Brazil away, love England’s away kit and the Italia ’90 vibes. France home and away always slick. Portugal away looks end of day at nursery for me.
Jen: Australia’s away kit is a hard yes. Sweden, Spain and Colombia away are decent. Black kits get the nod too, so the Football Ferns and Nigeria away.
Chris: Canada’s home shirt is a beauty – made from the most advanced maple-shaped technology and disappointment-wicking fabric yet!
Seb: Big fan of yellow kits, so Brazil and Colombia score highly, but there is something classy and retro about Jamaica’s yellow, with the green-and-black trim. In contrast, I’ve seen Portugal’s second strip and hopefully, they won’t have to wear it…(sorry).
Rich: Not a massive fan of the new Adidas ‘landscape’ kits, but I saw Switzerland’s new Puma kit this morning and it was very sleek; simpler, the better.
Molly: England’s light-blue away kit is a hit, as is the black Ferns kit. But the speckle design on the United States home kit, and the Portugal away kit is reminding me a bit too much of the style of ‘art’ you get when you fire random paint at a canvas; fun but not altogether creative.
Tom: Portugal’s second kit is a work of art, I love it. China’s are both frightfully boring.
Suzy: I don’t usually buy kits but the Spain and Japan away shirts had me opening my dusty wallet wide; they’re luscious.
Any tips for jet lag, working all hours and/or watching matches at odd times of day?
Suzy: Quit your jobs or phone in sick and embrace the madness.
Sophie: Stay hydrated, listen to your body, and if your eyes start to bleed, call a priest.
Chris: Make sure you’re Sophie Lawson.
Tom: A friend once told me that, when covering a World Cup, if an opportunity to eat fresh vegetables arises, take it.
Jen: Read our ace ‘Football on the Brain’ pullout in this issue, put together by the brilliant boffins from Oxford University (see below).
Ah, my favourite subject! I always try to adapt to a new time zone immediately, rather than let my body clock dictate. I’ll have a flight and commentary per day in Australia, so it’ll be super hard to switch off at all, but I have a brilliant summariser in former US international Lori Lindsey, and we get on like a house on fire – she’s my American version of Sue Smith! We’re going to have such a laugh together and I can’t wait.
Robyn: I am taking my three-year-old, so pray for me. That’s probably what I’ll be doing most of the time, praying for a kind sort of jet lag; does that exist? Usual tournament diet of coffee and Haribo will hopefully be enough!
Rich: Good luck! For those at home, McDonald’s breakfast *taps nose*
Glenn: Adopt local time asap, and don’t sacrifice sleep. A wise ex-colleague once told me, ‘Always leave the bar by 2am – no one remembers anything said after that anyway.’