England learnt of their group opponents for their FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia New Zealand 2023 qualifying campaign earlier today with the draw having been made by UEFA.
The Lionesses have been placed in Group D as a top seed. They will face Austria, Northern Ireland, North Macedonia, Latvia and Luxembourg as they look to qualify for a fifth consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup.
FAWSL Full-Time have taken a look at the group in some depth and here is our summary of England’s upcoming opponents.
Austria are yet to qualify for a FIFA Women’s World Cup but the nation have taken great strides forward in recent years and are set to appear at a second consecutive UEFA Women’s EURO next summer.
The nation were the surprise package at UEFA Women’s EURO 2017, reaching the semi-finals on their debut tournament appearance and they pushed France all the way in their latest qualifying campaign, eventually securing their place at England 2022 as one of the best runners-up.
English fans will be familiar with Austrian goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger who plays her club football with Arsenal while midfielder Sarah Zadrazil (Bayern Munich) and Nicole Billa (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) are amongst the players to watch.
Northern Ireland (48th)
Northern Ireland are a team that England know well with the pair having faced each other at St George’s Park in February. England made easy work of Kenny Shiels’ side as they ran out 6-0 winners.
The Green and White Army have since made history in becoming the lowest ranked side to ever qualify for a UEFA Women’s EURO as they defeated the Ukraine 4-1 in their play-off. Shiels’ side face an even more difficult assignment this time around but Northern Ireland will be hoping that their spirit and togetherness shines through.
The Northern Irish team will include several names known to England including Liverpool’s Rachel Furness and Everton’s Simone Magill, two players who can make things happen.
North Macedonia (131st)
Ranked 131st out of the 167 nations which feature in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, North Macedonia are definitely the minnows of Group D. The nation have only been playing football for 16 years and did not even enter FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 qualifying.
In 48 qualifying matches, North Macedonia have lost 41 while they have conceded 286 goals, an average of 5.96 goals per game. Kiril Izov’s side did collect two wins in their UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualifying campaign with both coming against Kazakhstan, a sign of some progress.
While virtually all of the North Macedonian squad play in their homeland, Nataša Andonova is one of the exceptions. The forward, who represents Spanish club Levante, is the North Macedonia captain and is their all-time record goalscorer with 14 goals.
Latvia are another side who have never qualified for a major tournament. They have been on the scene for the best part of three decades, although they spent a long period not taking part in qualification campaigns for EUROs and World Cups.
Latvia’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualifying bid was a disaster with the nation scoring just two goals and conceding 39. They collected no points in a tough group which included Sweden, Iceland, Slovakia and Hungary. Latvia will be hoping to perform better in FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia New Zealand 2023 qualifying with the likes of Luxembourg and North Macedonia also being in their group.
Young striker Sandra Voitāne is the one to watch. The SV Meppen forward has 12 goals in 37 outings for her country, an impressive goal tally at just 21 years of age.
One of the youngest teams in UEFA qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia New Zealand 2023 is Luxembourg. The 23-player squad for last month’s friendly against Liechtenstein contained three players under the age of 16 and 12 teenagers overall.
Luxembourg will celebrate 20 years as a women’s national team in 2023 while they entered their first qualifying campaign just 12 years ago. The nation are returning to qualifying following a four-year absence after opting against entering the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualifiers.
The vast majority of the Luxembourg team play their football in their homeland. Eintracht Frankfurt forward Kim Olafsson is arguably the most well-known player, although she is not a first team regular. Just two Luxembourg squad members have played more than 15 international games.
The dates of England’s group fixtures will be determined in due course.