The draw for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is in and it has not been kind to the Matildas.
The Matildas have been drawn into Group B alongside Ireland, Canada and Nigeria, close to the worst-possible result from the draw and described by Heather Garriock as the “Group of Death”.
Canada is the reigning Olympic champions and recently beat the Matildas in back-to-back games last month down under despite an understrength squad. They are the highest-ranked opponent (seventh) Australia could have drawn from their pot.
The Republic of Ireland were the third-highest ranked team in their pot (24th), but beat the Matildas last year.
The final opponent, Nigeria, were the highest-ranked team in their pot (45th), are the most successful team in African history, having won the last three Africa Women’s Cup of Nations titles before losing it this year.
“Obviously the teams are tough,” Matildas and Arsenal star Steph Catley told Optus Sport.
“Ireland is tricky, we just watched them in a few playoff games and they played really well, defended really well. Canada just won the Olympics and Nigeria has some incredible players too and African teams are really tough to play at major tournaments.
“It’s a tough group but if you want to win, you’ve got to beat everyone. I think obviously Canada is really tough. We played them recently.
“We didn’t have a full squad but they have great players who play in some of the best leagues in the world. That’s one we’ll definitely look at early in terms of our preparation.”
Looking past the group stage, the Matildas have also copped a tough road to glory on home soil.
If the Matildas finish first in Group B, they will face the runner-up from Group D. If the Matildas finish second in Group B, they will face the winner from that group. But Group D includes two brutal possible opponents in England and Denmark.
Australia will host the showpiece tournament alongside New Zealand, where the official draw took place in Auckland with hundreds of famous faces including Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
New Zealand will host the opening match of the tournament, against heavyweights Norway. The, on July 20 at Sydney Football Stadium, the Matildas will face Republic of Ireland in their first match.
In other notable matches, two-time reigning champions the USA have been drawn against the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final.
Republic of Ireland
Group B Play-off winner
Group A Play-off winner
Group C Play-off Winner