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World Cup 2023: Introducing the debutants

July 17, 2023

A quarter of the teams featuring at this year's Women's World Cup are playing in the tournament for the first ever time, providing a litmus test of how far the development of women's football across the globe has come.

The Republic or Ireland players celebrate with a large national flag
The Republic of Ireland finished as runners-up in the UEFA qualifying group behind Sweden, before beating Scotland in a play-off.Image: Colin Poultney/Pro Sports/IMAGO

Following qualification play-off victories for Haiti, Portugal and Panama, this year's Women's World Cup will feature a grand total of eight debutants.

FIFA's flagship women's competition has been expanded from 24 to 32 teams for the first time in a continued effort to grow the game globally, and a quarter of the field will turn out for their maiden tournament.

DW takes a look at how the debutants reached theAustralia & New Zealand finals and how the month-long event could offer a litany of upsets.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC)


The Philippines will participate in their first ever FIFA tournament, reaching the competition by virtue of reaching the semifinals of the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup — after advancing from the group stage of that competition for the first time.

Midfielder Sarina Bolder struck the winning spot-kick after their match against Chinese Taipei went to a penalty shootout. Born in the United States, Bolder could hold to the key to the team's success, being well acclimatized to the southern hemisphere as the 26-year-old plays for Australian A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers.

However, the side will face a stern test having been drawn in a group with co-hosts New Zealand's, plus Norway and Switzerland.

The Philippines celebrate and lift the trophy
The Philippines won the AFF Women's Championship for the first time in their history in 2022Image: George Calvelo/NurPhoto/IMAGO


As the sixth and final team from the AFC to reach the World Cup, Vietman's presence at the finals comes after a concerted effort within the country to promote and improve women's football.

Although a professional league is yet to be established, a series of reforms since the end of the 2010s have aimed at drawing girls towards the game and encouraging involvement in the sport at school, universities and workplaces.

The investment has paid off. While Vietnam were one of the losing quarterfinalists at the 2022 Asian Cup, they saw off Chinese Taipei and Thailand in a three-team playoff to reach their first-ever FIFA women's competition.

Captain Huynh Nhu is the only player to play outside of the country, becoming the first female Vietnamese player to play professional football having signed with Portuguese side Vilaverdense in August 2022.

Confederation of African Football (CAF)


Although the Coronavirus pandemic paused many premier competitions in Africa, the delay to the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) actually worked in Morocco's favor as they were handed the hosting rights for the 2022 competition.

The country was captivated by the home team's exploits as they unexpectedly reached the final of the tournament, meaning they became the first-ever Arab country to qualify for the Women's World Cup — with the four semi-finalists automatically earning a berth in Australia and New Zealand.

While they have a team full of players who ply their tracde across Europe, captain Ghizlane Chebbak plays in her home country for army team AS FAR and is one to watch after top-scoring at the 2022 WAFCON with three goals.


Zambia also made history as the first landlocked country in Africa to qualify for a World Cup for either gender, following a narrow penalty shootout win over Senegal in their final eight clash at the 2022 WAFCON.

Midfielder Rachael Nachula could provide a unique story if she's picked for Zambia's World Cup squad with the 37-year-old having already enjoyed a successful athletics career — reaching the 400m semi-final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, Barbra Banda, who tore Germany apart in a pre-World Cup warm-up match, has been given the all clear to feature at the tournament after being banned from the WAFCON due to increased testoterone levels. Her goalscoring threat will be key for the dark horses in Group C with Spain, Japan and Costa Rica.

Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football(CONCACAF)


In a challenging week for Haitian football back in February, in which former federation president Yves Jean-Bart had his lifetime ban from the sport for allegedly sexually abusing and harassing young female players in the national team overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the national team produced two outstanding performances to reach the World Cup for the first time.

In their intercontinental play-off semi-final they swept aside Senegal 4-0 before Melchie Dumornay's brace took Haiti past the much-fancied Chile to make it into Group D at the World Cup, where they will face European champions England.

With her speed and tricks, Dumornay showcased the talents that saw her top the NXGN list of the best young players in the world in 2022, alongside the recipient of the male award, Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham. She will undoutedly be one of the players to watch out for in Australia and New Zealand.

Roselord Borgella screams in delight
Haiti overcame Chile 2-1 in their Intercontinental play-off matchImage: Luis Veniegra/Zuma/IMAGO


Panama were the last team to reach the World cup, having also battled through the intercontinental play-offs where they overcame Papua New Guinea and then Paraguay.

One of Panama's most exciting talents is forward Riley Tanner, who scored on her debut against Papua New Guinea after coming on as a half-time substitute.

The United States-born striker, who plays for Washington Spirit, will face up against Brazil and Orlando Pride stalwart Marta during the NWSL season prior to the World Cup, before the two meet again when Panama face Brazil in Group F.

Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)


Two unlikely sources earned Portugal their maiden World Cup appearances as centerbacks Diana Gomes and Carole Costa (penalty) helped the team overcome Cameroon 2-1 in their intercontinental play-off tie.

Though the Portuguese have reached the previous two European Championships, they exited both competitions at the group stage and will have a tough job to outdo that in the World Cup as they have been drawn against both 2019 World Cup finalists the United States and the Netherlands. They may fancy their chances more against fellow Group E debutants Vietnam.

The Portugal team huddle after a goal
Portugal failed to win any of the group matches during the 2022 Euros in EnglandImage: SEVIL OKTEM/Sportpix/IMAGO

Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland mark their debut at any senior women's tournament, following a narrow 1-0 win over celtic neighbors Scotland in their UEFA play-off, with Turbine Potsdam striker Amber Barrett netting the game's only goal (see top photo).

The Irish tested their credentials ahead of the World Cup, but failed to pick up a single win in four outings. In April they gave a good account of themselves in back-to-back goalless defeats against the USWNT.

A 3-2 win over Zambia was then followed by a 3-0 defeat to France.

Edited by Matt Ford