As Concacaf W takes place from Monday in Monterrey, it’s worth taking a look at the eight teams that will be vying for the four straight and two playing spots for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and Nova Scotia. Zealand as well as two berths at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.
It’s the toughest Concacaf summit in recent memory, and any team that gets through it will have earned their place.
Why they will win: Canada is the reigning Olympic gold medalist and has one of the most balanced teams in the tournament. With players from NWSLEuropean leagues and the NCAA, there is a good mix of experienced players (Christine Sinclair, Desiree Scott), players in their prime (Kailen Sheridan, Quinn, Kadeisha Buchanan, Nichelle Prince) and young players with huge advantages (Jordyn Huitema, Jayde Riviere, Zoe Burns) it’s a solid team that’s built to win now.
Why they won’t: Everyone will be chasing them, so they will have to be at their best in every game. Historically, Canada hasn’t been able to perform at its best for an entire tournament, and it has always resided in the shadow of its neighbors to the south. To be the favorites (even if it’s not the disengage favourites), is an unfamiliar position and they will have to adjust mentally.
Why they will win: Costa Rica have always been in the second group of teams behind the Concacaf big two, and like Mexico, Jamaica and Haiti, and like those three teams, they have worked hard to raise their level of play. advanced through qualifying with a 22-0 aggregate, including a 5-0 win over Guatemala. They also spent the last international break playing against Haiti, and iron sharpens iron. They have a real star in Rocky Rodríguez, a star in the making in Priscilla Chinchilla, and a host of players in their domestic league, who are perhaps the best in the region behind Liga MX Femenil and the NWSL.
Why they won’t: They may not have done enough to move from the second level to the first. While the domestic league is relatively strong, it is far from the NWSL and Liga MX Femenil and there is a plot of players on the roster who play it. It’s also an older side, with nine players over 30, with midfielder Shirley Cruz fast approaching 37. They can run out of gas quickly in the heat and altitude of Monterrey, especially if they’re forced to play from behind.
Why they will win: Panama is another team that easily won their group and beat a tough opponent to do so. They posted a 24-0 aggregate scoreline, including a 2-0 win over El Salvador, which was a dark horse pick to come out of the qualifying stage. They have a good core of young players, including Lineth Cedeño, who at 21 is already playing in Italy with Hellas Verona, Rosario Vargas, 19, who is playing in Spain with Valencia, and Hilary Jaen and Gabriela Villagrand in the NCAA. system in the United States. Marta Cox also saw her star rise, thanks to being unquestionably the best player in a bad Tea León in Liga MX Femenil, moving to runner-up Pachuca during the offseason. This is going to be a fun team to watch.
Why they won’t: Like Costa Rica, the majority of their players play in the Panamanian national league, which has nothing to do with the quality of the Liga MX Femenil or the NWSL. And with their youth comes the lack of experience in critical conference games. There is a plot unknowns in Panama, and they’re going to have to rely on a relatively untested squad to arrive at critical moments.
Why they will win: Perhaps no team had a tougher qualifying run than T&T, who had to overtake Nicaragua and an upstart team from Guyana to get here. They are also managed by a Trinbagonian legend, Kenwyne Jones, who played professionally for England and the national team before retiring in 2017. Jones has a host of fine young players at his disposal, including Hibernian’s Liana Hinds in Scotland, Victoria Swift, who has just finished a season with León, and twelve players from the NCAA system in the United States.
Why they won’t: Despite everything Jones brings, he is yet to prove himself as a manager. Can his experience translate to the young women he manages, and if so, can it be done under the pressure cooker of the Concacaf W Championship against some of the best teams in the world? It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly a lot to ask of a team that has so many question marks.