PREVIEW: Who will be the surprise package at the Women’s World Cup?

Less than two weeks remain until the FIFA Women’s World Cup gets underway in Australia and New Zealand – and as we prepare for four weeks of fantastic football and non-stop action, we’ve compiled a list of four potential surprise packages at this summer’s tournament.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive insight into every team competing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we’ve also put together a detailed guide that’s available to read for free! It’s packed to the brim with team history, analysis and the players to keep an eye on.


Zambia haven’t been handed the easiest group, and as FIFA Women’s World Cup debutants, the expectations are rather low. They’re heading into this summer’s tournament as the lowest-ranked side – sitting 77th in the most recent official rankings.

But this is a side capable of pulling off an upset of monumental proportions. Spain are set to top the group, but competition for second place will be fierce and Bruce Mwepe’s side will certainly feel that they’re able to pip Japan and Costa Rica to that all-important final spot in the knockout stages.

Racheal Kundananji and Barbra Banda have been heralded as the future of African football for some time now, and at just 23 years old, they’ve got long careers ahead of them. Kundananji has been in fine form in Liga F this season, while Banda has been plying her trade in China – but the duo truly shine when they combine to lead the line for the Copper Queens.

I’ve been keeping my eye on Zambia for a while now, and it’s fair to say that their stunning win over Germany wasn’t a fluke. Kundananji and Banda are simply fundamental to Mwepe’s play style, allowing long balls to penetrate opposition defences as the Zambian side admittedly lack the quality to play possession-based football.

If the attacking pair can remain fit, I can see Zambia comfortably reaching the round-of-sixteen – but even I think that reaching the quarterfinals might be a step too far, given that they’re likely to meet Norway or Switzerland should they make it out of the group.

Republic of Ireland

This Irish squad is packed to the rafters with top talent – so it might seem like a strange decision to call them a surprise package, but Vera Pauw’s side are another team making their FIFA Women’s World Cup debut.

Captained by Arsenal’s Katie McCabe, the Girls in Green will look to make a statement this summer. They’ll have to escape from a tough group though if they wish to make it to the knockouts, with Canada, Australia and Nigeria all standing in their way.

Regardless, Vera Pauw’s side will take confidence from their recent friendly against France. While McCabe limped off injured after just thirty minutes, it appears that the move was precautionary – though that’s not the only good news Irish fans can take from the fixture.

For large parts of the match, Ireland were dominant against a French side ranked fifth in the world. Two goals in first-half stoppage time put the game to bed though, and les Bleues added a third in the second half – but if Pauw can improve the mentality of her side, they’ve certainly shown that they possess the quality required to pull off an upset.

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At first glance, it would appear that including Italy on this list is a strange move. In the men’s game, Italy are a powerhouse across the European footballing scene – even if they missed out on the last World Cup.

Arriving at their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup, le Azzurre have history in this competition. But they’ve never made it out of their group – and while their squad looks good enough to change that record on paper, there are certainly some notable omissions.

Milena Bertolini’s decision to leave the nation’s captain, Sara Gama, out of the final squad caused controversy across the country – with the 34-year old Juventus defender having made 126 appearances for the national side since 2006.

Bertolini also opted to travel to the Southern Hemisphere without Martina Piemonte, with the forward having brought her successful stint at AC Milan to an end, signing a two-year deal with Everton. This is arguably the most notable omission from the Italian squad, and one that could severely hinder their ability to convert chances in the final third.

Yet Bertolini has also created a sense of intrigue, with the inclusion of Giulia Dragoni sparking plenty of questions. At just sixteen years of age, the Barcelona youngster lacks experience on the international scene – she has played just 45 minutes for the senior side, with her debut coming in a goalless draw against Morocco on July 1. In fact, it’d be fair to say that Dragoni lacks experience of any kind: she made her senior debut in November 2022, and hasn’t played a first-team fixture since her move to Barcelona in the winter.

There is a strong feeling that the future success of Italian football hinges on the performance of the national team this summer, as those involved in the sport across the country will be hoping for a boom in popularity like that seen in England after the EUROs success.

South Korea

For the most part, Colin Bell’s squad looks to be pretty standard for a South Korean side. The Asian outfit have never made it past the round-of-sixteen, but as they arrive at their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup, attention is focused firmly on Casey Phair.

Should she make it onto the pitch, the US-born forward will become the first biracial player – male or female – to appear for the South Korean national team. She’s eligible for selection through her South Korean mother, and Bell was keen to tie her international future down before she attracts the attention of the United States.

It’s fair to say that the striker lacks experience, having never appeared for the senior team before – and with just two U17 caps to her name, her inclusion in the 23-player squad is certainly a risk. Regardless, Bell insists that she will be ‘a valuable member of the squad.’

Elsewhere on the pitch, Bell will look to rely on the expertise of two WSL stalwarts: Cho So-hyun and Lee Geum-min. As two of the most established figures in the South Korean midfield, the duo will likely work alongside Ji So-yun – and the Tigers of Asia will surely fancy their chances of progressing from Group H.

While they failed to win the final, Bell’s team clinched the silver medals at last year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup – and they certainly understand how to make it to the latter stages of a tournament. Converting continental success into international success isn’t always straightforward though, so it’ll be fascinating to see how this side fare.

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FromTheSpot will be bringing you coverage of every game throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup, including previews and detailed reports. We’ll cover games in the buildup to the tournament too, so you can get a feel for the potential favourites ahead of action getting underway in Australia and New Zealand.

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