Shockers, Standouts & Snogs: 2023 World Cup Group Stage Round-Up

2023 gay World Cup feature image photos: Photo by Aitor Alcalde – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images // DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Image // Hannah Peters – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

It’s the gayest World Cup in history, so it should surprise absolutely no-one that the group stages of this year’s tournament have been filled with unprecedented levels of chaos.

Expanding the tournament to 32 teams was always going to inject a healthy amount of uncertainty into proceedings, but I’m not sure anyone could have imagined the upsets we’ve seen – or the unbridled joy of underestimated nations after unexpected, yet fully deserved triumphs. 

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest shocks, standout performers and obvs plenty of gay stuff from the group stages!

The Pace-Setters

After a quiet few years that saw them slip firmly out of the world’s top ten, Japan came into the tournament perhaps a little overlooked (or else I just didn’t pay them any attention because there are no out gays on their team). Where other top-ranked teams struggled for goals, Japan have had no trouble taking their chances, even while rotating a good part of their squad each game.  While far from a David-and-Goliath situation like some of the other surprise results we’ve seen, I was totally blown away by the way Japan dismantled Spain 4-0. With their combination of meticulous preparation and clinical finishing, while still possessing plenty of flair, Japan look like a really formidable outfit.

Sweden have looked super professional ever since coming from behind to win their opener, before steam-rollering an Italian side who must have been expecting to do a lot better. Fortune has dealt them an extremely tricky route forward, and much depend on which side of the bed Team USA gets out of for their last 16 match on Sunday.

Colombia have to rank as the biggest sensations of the tournament so far, with stunning wins against higher ranked South Korea and Germany, before a loss to Morocco that incredibly dumped the #2 ranked German team right out of the competition. 18-year old Linda Caicedo made her debut for the national side aged 14, only to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer a year later. Barely a year since she finished chemotherapy, she’s scored two incredible goals to propel Colombia into the knockout stages for only the second time in their history, and there’s no doubt she’s the story of the tournament so far.

Africa Rising

A record four African nations competed in the group stages in this year’s edition, with Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco all advancing to the knockout rounds. Morocco have just kept making history: the first North African and Arab nation to make it to the World Cup Finals, the first team to field a player wearing a hijab, the lowest ranked nation – at 72 – to progress to knockout stages. South Africa too have escaped their group for the first time with some solid performances, and Nigeria particularly excelled with both defensive rigour and flashes of attacking brilliance from Asisat Oshoala that might see them go even further.

Valiant Debutantes and Battling Minnows

I was desperately hoping that the expansion to 32 teams didn’t throw up lop-sided results and heavy defeat’s like USA’s infamous 13-0 drubbing of Thailand in 2019. My prayers have been answered ten times over, with the competitive level the highest I’ve ever seen it on this global stage. Even debutantes that didn’t make seismic shockwaves like Morocco have a lot to be proud of, with Zambia picking up a win, Ireland grabbing a goal and Haiti pushing their opponents to the wire despite not managing to notch a point. 

Changing of the Guard

Of course, the surprising advances of less experienced nations have come at the expense of a number of higher-ranked teams that failed to fire on all cylinders. I’m sure most football fans would have loved to see legends of the games Marta and Christine Sinclair extend their records further, but it wasn’t to be, with both Canada and Brazil turning out pretty flat performances. For me, the stony look of disappointment as Marta watched her team’s demise on the bench was offset by the unbridled joy rippling through the Jamaican team. For a side shut-down twice in the last fifteen years for lack of funding, Jamaica’s progression will have an immense effect on the future of the team. The bitter pill to swallow is that Canada and Brazil’s own struggles for recognition will undoubtedly be set back following their unexpectedly poor showing. 

Looking Ahead to the Knockout Rounds

Prior to the group stages, it looked like Australia’s side of the draw would be a hell of a lot tougher when it got to the knockout stages. However, with Germany, Canada and Brazil all going out, it’s a lot more open for the host nation, with only England and France the remaining sides ranked in the top ten. With both England and Australia moving up a gear in the final group games I’m taking a punt on those two making it to the semis, but there are a lot of wildcards along the way.

The other half of the draw is shaping up to be hyper-competitive. The USA’s damp squib of a group stage has left them with a tricky route; usually I’d expect the negative media to get them fired up to prove everyone wrong, but that may be tough with a coach that doesn’t even know which players to send out. With Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands and Spain all lurking, whoever makes it to the final will definitely deserve to be there. I’m tipping Japan to continue their form and unpick each team they encounter.


Top 2023 World Cup Gay Moments

Statistically it would be impossible for gays not be dominating this competition, and sure enough, a whopping 20 of the 36 goal-scorers so far are playing for the rainbow team! This makes it a real challenge to pick out top gay moments, but here’s a few highlights:

3. Ruesha Littlejohn refuses to shake Caitlin Foord’s hand because she went on holiday with her ex

Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images

I am personally thrilled that this storyline ripped straight from a lesbian soccer romance novel has made it onto the global stage.

2. Alba Redondo snogs girlfriend in crowd

Photo by Hannah Peters – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

We’ve become accustomed to the televised victory snog after the World Cup final, pioneered by Abby Wambach in 2015, supplemented by both Kelly O’Hara and Megan Rapinoe in 2019. Not content to wait that long, Alba Redondo planted a substantial smacker on her girlfriend after a routine group stage win (admittedly she did grab two goals). I don’t fancy Spain  to make it to the final, but if Alba + gf are this passionate this early, I definitely would be curious to see how things escalate if Spain win the whole damn thing.

1. Linda Caicedo dedicates her incredible goal against Germany to her girlfriend

Has anyone had enough of watching Linda’s amazing golazo yet? Please can someone fly her gf out to Australia so she can celebrate Alba Redondo-style, instead of settling for heart-shaped gestures!

Who have you been enjoying watching so far, and who do you fancy to make it through the knockout stages? 

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Sally

Sally lives in the UK. Her work has been featured in a Korean magazine about queer people and their pets, and a book about haunted prisons. She never intended for any of this to happen.

Sally has written 79 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. The amazing thing about Linda Caicedo is still that she’s played and scored (!!) in THREE WORLD CUPS this year: the U17s, the U20s and now the senior cup. That kid is an absolute baller and I can’t wait to see what she serves up next.

    I can watch her goal against Germany over and over again and never grow tired of it.

    https://twitter.com/FOXSoccer/status/1685603188316004352

    I dunno who I’m picking between her and Bunny Shaw’s Jamaican side, though. That squad’s overcome so much, I want to see them go further…and that backline has been absolutely stellar.

  2. Hello, I’m so excited to see Colombia being mentioned on this article! As a Colombian, I would really really appreciate it if you were to fix the typo where it says “Columbia” instead of “Colombia”

  3. There has also been direct moments of concern.

    Following the prominent photos of Leah Williamson wearing the rainbow captain’s armband during England’s Euros win last year and the prospect of the OneLove armbands at the Qatar men’s World Cup last year, FIFA followed their clamping down of the armband statements at the men’s world cup by setting FIFA approved “missions” (read: corporate sentiments in Corpspeak) for the captains to wear at this point. This is also why Ali Riley having her nails painted in the raimbow and trans flag colours was such a mjiddle finger to FIFA. They regulate the bodies of female athletes, and they regulate their speech.

    Secondly the journalist from BBC World Service who asked the Moroccan captain Ghizlane Chebbak about homosexuality being illegal in Morocco and if there are gay players in the squad, effectively asking her to put herself and teammates in danger. In 2023, major outlets are still failing the safeguarding of a minority and a major failure in journalistic ethics.

    This is all alongside the disruption and distractions that multiple teams have faced from the failings of their football federations. It feels like almost every institutional issue is present within this world Cup, each team faced with a different maelstrom.

    The beautiful stories of Colombia, Jamaica, Nigeria should be held up as stories of defiance by their players. They’ve succeeded DESPITE their federations. As Alex Scott pointed out, being a female footballer is a fight before you even step on the pitch.

    Here’s to the rest of the World Cup being everything that makes it the global game – it’s truest and most beautiful form.

  4. This world cup was so much fun to watch until now, and the knock out games continue to be great.

    As a fan of the German team Columbia’s win hurt a lot, but Linda C’s goal was incredible. Now I hope they get far and we’ll get to see more of her beautiful footwork!

    And honestly, both Marocco and Columbia deserved to lead group H. A great time for women’s football internationally! I hope this carries through to the next world cup.

  5. The 2023 World Cup has indeed been remarkable in its unexpected outcomes and diverse representation. With the expansion to 32 teams, it’s no wonder that we’ve witnessed unprecedented levels of chaos during the group stages. The upsets and triumphs from underestimated nations have truly added a unique flavor to the tournament.

    Japan’s resurgence, despite being somewhat overlooked, has been a standout feature. Their clinical finishing and meticulous preparation have propelled them forward, exemplified by their impressive dismantling of Spain with a 4-0 victory. Sweden’s professionalism and Colombia’s sensational wins against South Korea and Germany have also caught the attention of fans worldwide.

    The rise of African nations has been another captivating aspect. With a record four African teams in the group stages, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa have showcased their prowess. Morocco, in particular, has made history as the first North African and Arab nation to reach the World Cup Finals, and South Africa’s first-time advancement further adds to the excitement.

    Even the debutantes and smaller teams have contributed to the competitive spirit of the tournament. The expansion to 32 teams has led to more balanced matches, avoiding the lop-sided results of previous editions. The fact that even debutant teams like Zambia, Ireland, and Haiti have made their mark with wins and solid performances reflects the overall growth of women’s football.

    While some higher-ranked teams like Canada and Brazil faltered, the emergence of new talents and nations, like Jamaica, has brought about a changing of the guard. The disappointment of legends like Marta and Christine Sinclair has been balanced by the elation of teams like Jamaica, showcasing the dynamic nature of the sport.

    Looking ahead to the knockout rounds, the draw has presented some intriguing scenarios. Australia’s path seems more favorable now, with several top-ranked teams exiting early. However, England, France, and other wildcards remain formidable opponents. On the other side of the bracket, the hyper-competitive nature is shaping up with teams like the USA, Sweden, Japan, and more, making the path to the final a true test of skill.

    Finally, the visibility and contributions of LGBTQ+ athletes have been undeniable highlights of the tournament. With a significant number of goal-scorers identifying as LGBTQ+, the presence of these athletes on the global stage is a testament to the diversity of the sport. Moments like Ruesha Littlejohn’s refusal to shake hands due to personal history, Alba Redondo’s celebratory kiss with her girlfriend, and Linda Caicedo’s dedication of her goal to her girlfriend all showcase the authenticity and pride that these athletes bring to the competition.

    In summary, the 2023 World Cup has provided a rich tapestry of surprises, underdogs, and diverse stories that truly reflect the evolving landscape of women’s football on the global stage.For your help if you visit or want to visit UAE and need a translator that hhelps you then you should be visit here https://uaetranslation.ae/legal-translation/

    • Is this comment an advert to go to the UAE?! Where being gay is illegal and punishable by death?!? WTAF?!?!? The lone 3 sentences about LGBT+ players is a rewrite of the previous AS article!? The whole comment is basically writing their own review as if Sally’s whole article WHICH WE ARE READING isn’t good enough and needs to be rewritten?!

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