Rapinoe And The Aussie Boom: Five Things To Look Out For At Women's World Cup

The World Cup begins this week
11:00, 18 Jul 2023

The Women’s World Cup gets underway on Thursday morning as co-hosts New Zealand face Norway and the excitement is building for the biggest iteration in the event's history. With 32 nations competing for the first time and hundreds of millions of viewers expected, there are loads of brilliant stories to look out for as the festival of football gets underway. 

Rebekah Stott gets dream homecoming

New Zealand’s Rebekah Stott may be appearing at her third World Cup, but her journey to get to this one, on home soil, has been a remarkable one. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer. 

That knocked her career off track, and she left Brighton and Hove Albion to undergo chemotherapy and recover at home. She was initially set to go through six cycles of chemotherapy, but after just four months she was playing football again - for the semi-pro Bulleen Lions.


“I was just so happy and so thankful that I didn’t have to go through two more cycles… One month later I got the call from the doctor that I was in remission – it was such a great feeling,” she told the BBC. 

From there she signed for Melbourne City, before returning to Brighton in one of football’s greatest comeback stories. Now she will play a key role for her country in a home World Cup. 

Armband debate

One of the big issues at the men’s World Cup in Qatar was the OneLove captains' armband. It looked as though Fifa would allow the armband before they changed their mind and confirmed that players would be booked for doing so. That saw a u-turn from all teams and captains, with Germany claiming they have been silenced with their ‘hand over mouth’ gesture.

Now, at the women’s World Cup, there are several openly gay footballers playing and a far more receptive audience. However, Fifa has announced it will give players a selection of approved options highlighting issues from gender equality to indigenous people. However, none are LGBTQ+ focused.


Megan Rapinoe says farewell 

At 38, Megan Rapinoe has confirmed this season will be her last, and her big finale could come Down Under. She’s arguably the most famous female footballer on the planet, and could inspire her nation to a famous three-peat. The US have won the last two tournaments and, as the most dominant force in the game, they're favourites to win again this summer. But with Rapinoe retiring, there is a sense that this could be the end of an era. She’s got 199 caps and 63 goals so far, but can she make it three World Cup titles? 

Is this the Aussie boom?

Australia is in the midst of an epic sporting summer. Their women have already retained the Ashes and by the time the World Cup gets underway the men will hope to be well in charge of the Fourth Test. Elsewhere a compelling NRL season is in full swing and the Aussie Rules is absorbing the nation once more. 

With such an array of sport on, the Women’s World Cup may have been swallowed up, but instead it has taken centre stage. Sam Kerr’s face adorns billboards up and down the country, while local governments believe that hosting the tournament will inject over 10 million dollars into the economy. However, the real test of success of this tournament will be in how much they can inspire the next generation. 

Sinead Farrelly’s emotional comeback 

Republic of Ireland international Sinead Farrelly has also been through physical and emotional tests to reach this World Cup. She was forced to retire in 2016 after a severe car crash that left her battling concussions and trauma. In 2021, she also reported former manager Paul Riley for sexual coercion and misconduct in a report in the Athletic, and he was subsequently sacked from all positions. 

After such a turbulent six years, she signed for Gotham FC, telling the Irish Times she had only played 10 times before joining them. Now, she is on the brink of a World Cup return, and a return to the biggest stage in football. For Farrelly, it will be a truly remarkable comeback.

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