FIFA soccer, and all of international sports, will start to become more convenient in American TV times as of the upcoming FIBA World Cup, and when an immense number of prestigious soccer matches come to North America in the years 2024 through 2026. For now, it’s a shame that otherwise enthusiastic casual fans of women’s soccer must watch a GMG at 4 in the AM.
But even as FIFA takes its last gasp at ceremonies very far removed from Western civilization (the Moon may be next), purist supporters of women’s sports have to be pleased at the close, unpredictable outcomes of the 2023 World Cup. Parity in women’s soccer is a thing, and that’s gotten revealed in spades in Oceania in spite of an expanded WWC field of nations.
What makes the activist happy makes the punter shrink with dread. How can we accurately forecast an unpredictable medal round – without Team USA of the 2010s or another prohibitive favorite – in circumstances that have been as unpredictable as any men’s FIFA showdown in recent memory?
Thankfully, there’s some wayward odds on the board that make “percentage” picks on the Women’s World Cup Final possible, even though it’s hard to watch a Lauren James strike in the box and think about the percentages.
First, though, here’s a glance at Saturday morning’s consolation derby.
Sat. August 19th: Australia vs Sweden
This “Saturday’s” FIFA Women’s World Cup action will define what’s been so frustrating for state-side supporters throughout Qatar 2022 and Oceania 2023, broadcast in the dead of night in the American Midwest, late Friday night in storm-ravaged Hawaii, and early Saturday morning on the east coast. International soccer’s trek through the furthest reaches of world time zones is coming to an end as of 2024. But for right now, those who speculate on the WWC despite red-eye hours will see a pair of lively bouts, not one.
Each of the national teams playing for 3rd place in the 2023 Women’s World Cup have exceeded expectations, even as the fiery host-team vibe of Matildas contrasts with Team Sweden’s cool-headed demeanor and patient, conservative tactics. That means that there won’t be a downtrodden World #1 or #2 on the pitch to hang its heads and be blown out by a hungrier team.
FanDuel Sportsbook betting lines on the bronze medal match in Brisbane are as tight as can be found on climatic FIFA kickoffs, with Sweden holding slightly better (-120) odds to prevail. The nations had similar losses in the semi-final round, each team scoring a dramatic equalizer only to break down against an elite attack moments later. Spain’s upstart left back Olga Carmona tallied to give La Roja a 2-1 lead over Sweden almost immediately after Tre-Kronor had managed to tie the match in the late going. Australia’s 2-goal loss was perhaps less heartbreaking, due to the match audibly winding down after England’s entire forward line and attacking midfield had scored to give Lionesses a 3-1 lead. No host team’s loss, however, comes without a let-down.
Team Australia’s scrappy duo of a forward line features Sam Kerr in front of 8 dogged defenders and keeper MacKenzie Arnold. That’s a “Leicester City” style pincer tactic that could create weird turns in midfield against Team Sweden’s dynamic 4-level formations. It also calls FanDuel’s relatively short 2-to-1 “Draw” odds into question, especially considering that a 3rd Place Game must remain drawn until past the 120th minute before approaching a regulation draw and a tiebreaker.
The Over/Under odds on Saturday’s match are fairly standard, a hint that goals can be had, even though the team with more attackers in formation is Sweden, also the FIFA side with a reputation for cautious clearance.
Pick: Under (2.5) (-120)
Sunday, August 20th: England vs Spain
From controversy to climatic battle, Spain is a slim favorite to lift hardware by beating the vaunted Lionesses of England in Sunday’s gold medal showdown. La Roja is holding firm at (-116) odds to win gold and (+145) money-line odds offered on an 11-on-11 Spain victory. England’s the shocking, if slight underdog at (+165) money-line market odds.
Team Spain’s betting action to win took a swan dive prior to La Roja’s semi-final round bout with Sweden. Something about how Spain refused to let Tre-Kronor equalize for more than a moment has sold sportsbook speculators on the incomplete Spain roster’s ability to beat Lionesses this weekend. But others will contend that Team England is a true favorite to win no matter which opponent they’re up against in the Women’s World Cup title tilt.
Lionesses can’t feel like underdogs whether they see the London betting boards or not. Sunday’s scenario is exactly what Sarina Wiegman’s team has been hoping for. There’s no USWNT or France in the way as Lauren James returns from a 2-game suspension. The English have overcome an obstacle course while shorthanded, matching Spain in defending while showing even more on the attack. Spain hasn’t played a team of elite FIFA strikers since losing 4-0 to Japan in Group Stage, and has yet to prove that result was a fluke.
Team England’s strikers embarrassed the FIFA Women’s World Cup’s trendiest prop-bet goalkeepers from Colombia and Australia, and then turned physical, disruptive, and quick to counterattack against Matildas in a semi-final match that ended casually, compared to Team Spain’s nail-biter. James’ ability to help out her midfield following turnovers could hurt La Roja’s own chances to counter. But what’s maybe sketchier than the money-line markets are Sunday’s goal total lines, which offer a whopping (+150) payoff for wagers of Over (2.5) tallies.
If bookmakers and users are sold on Spain’s offense, why would they be freezing up about England’s scoring at the same time, with James’ fresh legs ready to explode? And why imagine such a boring bout, even if wagering on La Roja to win?
Just look at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final’s history. Golden clean sheets can be observed dating back to the inaugural women’s FIFA clashes of last century. There is Norway’s 2-0 defeat of Germany in 1995, followed by the iconic 0-0 draw and tiebreaker between America and China. Germany shut out Brazil to lift hardware in 2007, 12 years before the United States beat Holland by an identical 2-0 score to repeat with gold.
But before that, U.S. and Japanese teams scored 11 times in a pair of free-for-all finales. In a tournament where not even Nadeshiko’s strikers have been able to keep up, we wouldn’t be surprised to see 2023’s Women’s World Cup Final turn wide-open down under.
Picks: England to Win World Cup (-102), Over (1.5) (-225)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.