The curtain closes on the biggest and perhaps best ever Fifa Women’s World Cup – which means it’s time for us to dish out some tournament awards.
Despite English disappointment at losing the decider, this was a tournament to savour, with so many magical moments, terrific goals, and big surprises.
Women’s World Cup 2023 Awards:
Best Player – Aitana Bonmati, Spain
England’s progression to the final was a real collective effort with no single player making a claim for player of the tournament. Spain have also been collectively excellent, but there can be no doubt that Aitana Bonmati was the best player on the best team.
Integral to the side’s style of play and tactical approach, Bonmati added the Golden Ball award to her World Cup winner’s medal following the win over England. True to form, she misplaced just two of her 44 passes in the final. The Barcelona midfielder ended the tournament with three goals and two assists.
Aitana Bonmati 2023 Ballon D'Or winner?⌛️
— BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) August 20, 2023
Best Goal – Bia Zaneratto, Brazil vs Panama
There were some stunning strikes in this tournament, but we have to give it to Brazil for one of the finest team goals you will see at any World Cup. Some exquisite interplay led to Bia Zaneratto’s goal, preceded by a delightful backheel assist from Ary Borges.
Ary Borges, stop that 😮💨
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 24, 2023
Best Manager – Sarina Wiegman, England
Given the talent at her disposal, it would be easy to fall into the trap of claiming that Sarina Wiegman’s job as England boss has been child’s play. After all, she didn’t even have to change her team once on their way to Euro 2022 glory. Just put out the best players and they’ll win, right?
But this tournament has been no walk in the park. Injuries to key players, as well as the bonus dispute between the squad and the FA, made for a less than ideal lead-up to the World Cup. The side were subsequently unimpressive in their opening two group games.
At that point Wiegmann switched to a back three, something she had never done before. It paid immediate dividends. The Lionesses trounced China with Lauren James excelling in the number 10 role behind the two strikers.
When the Chelsea forward was sent off against Nigeria, ruling her out for the next two games, there was no panic. They recovered from a goal down against Colombia before dispatching co-hosts Australia in the semi-final.
Yes, the draw was kind to England. But without Wiegmann’s guiding hand throughout, they may have lacked the required leadership to bring them all the way to the decider against Spain.
Defeat in Sydney shouldn’t diminish the incredible job she has done. She has now reached the final in each of the four major tournaments she has managed in her career, a truly remarkable record.
Best Save – Courtney Brosnan, Ireland vs Nigeria
Ireland may have been eliminated from the World Cup after just two games, but they still managed to muster up two of the tournament’s most memorable moments: Katie McCabe’s goal directly from a corner against Canada, and Courtney Brosnan’s stunning save to ensure she kept a clean sheet in their final group game versus Nigeria.
What. A. Save. 😳
How did Courtney Brosnan keep that out?! 🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/HWDLD4Jk9l
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 31, 2023
Breakout Star – Linda Caicedo, Colombia
She may only be 18-years-old, but Linda Caicedo already looks to be the real deal. The Colombian announced herself to the world stage with a goal against Korea Republic, but she truly made her mark with a stupendous strike in the win over Germany, jinking between defenders before smashing the ball into the far side of the net. It’s one of the all-time great goals.
Les dejo el gaaaaaallllllllll de Linda Caicedo vs 🇩🇪🕸️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/poOP40EVIw
— Daniel Gonzalez (@Caloo_10) July 30, 2023
Caicedo made her professional and international debuts at the age of 14, was diagnosed with cancer at 15, and in February completed a move to Real Madrid at 17. She has packed a lot into her young life, but we can’t wait to see what’s next for the forward.
Best Meme – Michelle Alozie, Nigeria
Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie took Lauren James’ stamp on her in the quarter-final defeat to England and turned it into a viral meme. Well played.
— michelle alozie (@alozieee) August 8, 2023
Biggest Villain – Carli Lloyd, pundit
The true villain of every World Cup is, of course, Fifa. But Carli Lloyd ruffled more than a few feathers with her withering criticism of the USWNT players following an uninspiring goalless draw with Portugal.
Following the result, which sent the Americans through to the knockout round, the squad could be seen signing autographs and dancing with fans. This was worthy of scorn, apparently.
“I have never witnessed something like that,” Lloyd said on FOX Sports. “There’s a difference between being respectful of the fans and saying hello to your family, but to be dancing and smiling… I mean, the player of the match was that post. You’re lucky to be not going home right now.”
The two-time World Cup winner, who retired in 2021, has not always been the most popular figure in American soccer. She now seems to be pivoting towards the shock jock pundit role in her post-playing career, defending her inane comments by claiming she was “the only one brave enough” to say it. Yawn.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 15, 2023
Surprise Package – Colombia
This World Cup produced quite a few surprises, with Jamaica, Morocco, Nigeria, Switzerland and South Africa all doing better than expected. Although three of the final four nations were from Europe, it genuinely feels like the gap between the best sides and the also rans has shrunk.
No team illustrated this point more than Colombia, who made an unlikely run to the quarter-finals. They pulled off a huge upset when they defeated Germany, one of the pre-tournament favourites, in the group stage.
Victory over the Reggae Girlz gave them passage to the last eight, where they were ultimately outclassed by England.
Biggest Shock – Germany’s group stage exit
Tipped by many to be one of the main threats to the crown, Germany started off the World Cup like a house on fire, destroying Morocco 6-0 in the opening game. They ended it with a damp squib, losing to Korea Republic and missing out on the knockout rounds to… Morocco. Ouch.
Best Team To Watch – Japan
Spain may have taken home the trophy, but Japan were the spiritual winners in our eyes. An absolute thrill to watch, the Asian nation were unrelenting in attack, scoring 15 goals in just five games.
Such are the vagaries of tournament football, this is arguably a better team than the one that won the World Cup in 2011, but were undone by Sweden in the quarters.