Women’s World Cup 2023: Mary Earps and Linda Caicedo feature as Sky Sports’ journalists give tournament verdicts

Women’s World Cup 2023: Mary Earps and Linda Caicedo feature as Sky Sports’ journalists give tournament verdicts


Sixty-four games and 164 goals – numerous records were broken at the biggest and best Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand; it was Spain who lifted the trophy, with plenty of their big-name stars thriving; England’s Mary Earps and Colombia’s Linda Caicedo also caught the eye

Best player? Best goal? Best XI? Sky Sports’ journalists and reporters give their World Cup 2023 verdicts after a record-breaking tournament.

Charlotte Marsh: World-class Earps England’s saviour

Mary Earps saves Jennifer Hermoso’s penalty in World Cup final

Best player – Mary Earps

No one had a bigger hand – literally and figuratively – in helping their team win games than England’s Mary Earps. She made world-class save after world-class save at times when the Lionesses desperately needed it. A deserved Golden Glove winner.

Best goal – Linda Caicedo vs Germany

There were so many good goals, but for me, Linda Caicedo’s strike sticks in the memory. The skilful touch to bypass two Germany defenders and then a delicious finish, all from a player who is only 18. After everything she has been through at such a young age, it was a stunning strike from the teenager.

Best moment – Australia win penalty shootout against France

A moment that will define women’s football in Australia for years to come. France wasted their chances against the determined Matildas, who went on to win a rollercoaster of a shootout 7-6. The scenes were joyous as fans across the country soaked in the historic result – even on an airplane. It epitomised exactly what the World Cup is all about.

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Breakout star – Linda Caicedo

What’s life without consistency? It was not just the goal against Germany that made her standout, Caicedo sparkled in every game she played. To start in five World Cup games, including two huge knockout fixtures, is a big ask for anyone. But to do so as a teenager and display such maturity and technical talent is remarkable.

Best game – Sweden 0-0 USA (5-4 on penalties)

Aside from the final, the biggest result of the tournament. It was a game that had everything – two top three-ranked teams going toe-to-toe in a battle of defence versus attack. Fittingly, it was decided by the barest of margins, as Sweden knocked the USA out before the semi-finals for the first time ever. Extraordinary.

Team of the tournament:

Mary Earps (England), Olga Carmona (Spain), Alex Greenwood (England), Amanda Ilestedt (Sweden), Ona Batlle (Spain), Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Kenza Dali (France), Hayley Raso (Australia), Hinata Miyazawa (Japan), Linda Caicedo (Colombia), Kadidatou Diani (France).

Laura Hunter: Gifted Bonmati a joy to watch

Spain's Aitana Bonmati,right, reacts with teammate Alba Redondo after scoring her team's third goal during the Women's World Cup second round soccer match between Switzerland and Spain at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Spain’s Aitana Bonmati was the ultimate technician of the tournament

Best player – Aitana Bonmati

I made no secret of my affection for Aitana Bonmati’s talent throughout coverage of this tournament. What a joy to watch. Her close ball control is better than any I’ve ever seen. An adhesive touch, wonderful vision and timing, and an eye for goal. The complete midfielder. Watch out Alexia Putellas, Bonmati is coming for your crown.

Best goal – Sam Kerr vs England

This is just exquisite. Audacious in nature, perfectly executed. Imagine having the nous and ability to charge 50 yards up field, surrounded by opposition shirts, before unleashing a rocket top left. Simply outrageous bit of solo play from one of the best in the business.

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Best moment – Chloe Kelly winning penalty

Everyone was on tenterhooks as Chloe Kelly stepped up to take England’s fifth penalty versus Nigeria. A nation held its collective breath, glued to the TV screen. Yet Chloe Kelly barely batted an eyelid. Zero emotion, until the ball hit the back of the net of course – cue the uproar. It takes a real player to demonstrate such finality under so much pressure.

Breakout star – Linda Caicedo

Wouldn’t it be nice for one of us to say something original or left-field? Sorry, won’t be me. Caicedo made this World Cup her stage, she owned it, as if she belonged all along. Shout out also Lauren James – she made England sing at times when no one else could.

Best game – Switzerland 1-5 Spain

I enjoyed Sweden’s win over the USA – on the basis England’s pursuit of ultimate glory became that bit ‘easier’. But who can name a 0-0 as ‘game of the tournament’? Sorry, Charlotte. My vote goes to Spain’s emphatic victory over the Swiss. I’m a purist. Bonmati scores a wonderful opener, then it rains goals – including the oddest own goal you’re ever likely to see.

Team of the tournament:

Mary Earps (England), Olga Carmona (Spain), Alex Greenwood (England), Amanda Ilestedt (Sweden), Ona Batlle (Spain), Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Jill Roord (Netherlands), Jenni Hermoso (Spain), Linda Caicedo (Colombia), Salma Paralluelo (Spain), Alessia Russo (England).

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Salma Paralluelo
Salma Paralluelo netted three times at the tournament – including a double against Japan

Best player – Mary Earps

An unglamorous and patriotic choice but in a tournament without many standouts, Earps’ love of the big occasion was paramount. England would have been humbled by Haiti, nixed by Nigeria and suffered a heavier defeat in the final if it wasn’t for their No 1.

Best goal – Linda Caicedo vs Germany

A mix of sublime skill and precision finishing. Her quick feet terrified the Germany defence and set up one of the moments of the tournament. Not only was it a beautiful goal, it also showed the emerging nations are here to stay.

Best moment – Relief of winning vs Nigeria

Chloe Kelly’s rocket sent England into the World Cup quarter-finals and calmed a stressed-out fanbase. England didn’t deserve to beat Nigeria; their grit and determination got them through it. Kelly’s penalty was calm, precise and was hit so hard it propelled England into the next round.

Breakout star – Salma Paralluelo

World football has a new star. The 19-year old is the first player to be U17, U20 and senior world champion and you can see why. Athletic and technically gifted, Paralluelo is a nightmare for defenders. Getting the nod over back-to-back Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas in a World Cup final shows the teenager’s time is now.

Best game – Australia 0-0 France (7-6 penalties)

This was the game that encapsulated a country. Australia had already bought into the tournament like no other hosts before, but this made the Matildas the hottest stars in the Southern Hemisphere. Thirteen penalties, a star born in Mackenzie Arnold and utter chaos was the best form of entertainment.

Team of the tournament:

Mary Earps (England), Olga Carmona (Spain), Alex Greenwood (England), Amanda Ilestedt (Sweden), Ona Batlle (Spain), Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Jill Roord (Netherlands), Teresa Abelleira (Spain), Hinata Miyazawa (Japan), Salma Paralluelo (Spain), Kadidatou Diani (France).

Caroline Barker: Greenwood a cut above

Alex Greenwood played a commanding role in England's back five against Australia
Alex Greenwood played a commanding role in England’s back five

Best player – Alex Greenwood

With a defensive reshuffle and so much resting on her shoulders, Greenwood barely put a foot wrong, fitting with ease into a back three or four. Set-piece delivery was exemplary. She marshalled everything. And had England won the World Cup, she would have claimed best player.

Best goal – Sam Kerr vs England

The goal was brilliant! A thunderbolt. But what it could’ve meant, drawing Australia level, after all her injury problems in the tournament, it was ‘goal-den’.

Best moment – New Zealand upset vs Norway

From consoling players after defeat, to kissing loved ones in the stands, to Katie McCabe scoring from a corner against Canada – what a way to mark a first ever World Cup appearance for Ireland. This was the World Cup of upsets, though, and it started right at the beginning with New Zealand, the co-hosts, getting their first ever win and over Norway too. Epic!

Breakout star – Linda Caicedo

Have to agree with those who have named Caicedo – what an incredible story. Made her senior team debut aged 14, then was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 15. She scored wonderful goals and had everyone talking ahead of the match with England. Brilliant.

Best game – South Africa 3-2 Italy

My runner-up is Colombia beating Germany to all but secure progression, with their head coach still serving a ban, a wonder goal from Caicedo, and a 97th minute winner. Only just pipped by South Africa’s last-second win to knock out Italy and earn their first-ever Women’s World Cup victory.

Team of the tournament:

Mary Earps (England), Olga Carmona (Spain), Alex Greenwood (England), Millie Bright (England), Risa Shimizu (Japan), Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Teresa Abelleira (Spain), Jill Roord (Netherlands), Hinata Miyazawa (Japan), Mariona Caldentey (Spain), Linda Caicedo (Colombia).

Pien Meulensteen: Reggae Girlz made history

Jamaica's team members celebrates after the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between Jamaica and Brazil in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
Jamaica made it to the round of 16 before being narrowly beaten by Colombia

Best player – Aitana Bonmati

A midfield maestro, who dictates a lot of Spain’s play. She can score important goals and create chances – but also break up play and defends brilliantly when needed. It’s no surprise she won the Golden Ball.

Best goal – Marta Cox vs France

The technique, the power and the accuracy was outstanding. But for me, I remember this goal because her reaction showed just how much it means for a player to score at a World Cup finals. Incredible.

Best moment – History made for the Reggae Girlz

The forward roll from Lorne Donaldson at full-time, after drawing against Brazil to secure progression, is a particular favourite memory. After everything Jamaica had to deal with to even get themselves to a World Cup finals, to get to a knockout stage of a major tournament was an amazing achievement.

Breakout star – Linda Caicedo

At just 18-years-old (which is absolutely incredible to think), she is a real superstar for Colombia and technically a brilliant player. Who can forget that sensational goal she scored against Germany?

Best game – England 6-1 China

Clinical. The goals were outstanding and this was a game that proved just how unstoppable England can be.

Team of the tournament

Mary Earps (England), Olga Carmona (Spain), Wendie Renard (France), Millie Bright (England), Ona Batlle (Spain), Jill Roord (Netherlands), Keira Walsh (England), Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Hinata Miyazawa (Japan), Kadidiatou Diani (France), Linda Caicedo (Colombia).

Izzy Christiansen: Matildas progressing on penalties crucial for tournament

Best player – Lauren Hemp

I thought she was in outstanding form throughout. In and out of possession was superb, goal contributions and all-round technical aspects of her game were on a very high level.

Best goal – Linda Caicedo vs Germany

The touch, quick feet and finish were outstanding and added to the youngster having a super tournament. A goal like that against Germany is impressive.

Australia's Sam Kerr scored a stunning goal to equalise against England in the semi-final
Australia’s Sam Kerr scored a stunning goal to equalise against England in the semi-final

Best moment – Australia beating France on penalties in quarter-final

The co-hosts progressing after the most nerve-wracking penalty shootout was an incredible moment for the Matildas, but also the tournament. The Australians deserved to progress and the effect it had on the team was just incredible.

Breakout star – Salma Paralluelo

She was superb off the bench, played with confidence and came up with crucial goals on her team’s quest to the final. The 19-year-old then started the final as a reward, she’s got a bright future.

Best game – USA vs Sweden

Tactically one of the most interesting games along with the final. USA played almost the perfect game, despite the critics. But the manner in which Sweden won was extraordinary. The goalkeeping performances from both players in that game, the technicality of the USA was impressive, the shootout – it had everything.

Team of the tournament

Mary Earps (England), Ona Batlle (Spain), Alex Greenwood (England), Naomi Girma (USA), Steph Catley (Australia), Teresa Abelleira (Spain), Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Leicy Santos (Colombia), Lauren Hemp (England), Salma Paralluelo (Spain), Alessia Russo (England).

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