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Here Come The Girls! Superheroes from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

✦ The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was a knock-out success, producing superheroes aplenty and charting the way forward for the beautiful game to develop and prosper.

It’s been said many times before that not all superheroes wear masks or capes and that was certainly the case at the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The month-long football extravaganza was an overwhelming success that found a new audience and united a nation like never before and, for that reason alone, everyone associated with the occasion emerges as a superhero!

The manner in which the tournament was organised and broadcast to the world was a testimony to the warm embrace of both nations and the wonderful cities and their people that hosted the month-long festival. People who never really had any interest in the world game suddenly found themselves caught up in the hype and fever, especially in Australia as the mighty Matildas team excelled to reach the semi-final stage. That game alone against the Lionesses of England on August 16 was the most watched TV event in Australian history, with a staggering 11.5 million people tuned in at some point, almost half of the population of some 25 million, and an average audience of 7.13 million.

“The Matildas have rewritten the history books,” said free-to-air host broadcaster Channel Seven’s head of network sport Lewis Martin. “Australia was captivated last night as the Matildas played their hearts out and did us all proud.”

It's been said many times with Women's Football before that not all superheroes wear masks or capes and that was certainly the case at the recent FIFA Women's World Cup | Brilliant Online
The Matildas performed heroically at the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil. Photo Credit : Arck Photography Andy Cheung

Close to two million tickets were sold throughout the tournament, a record, and almost 500,000 more than initial targets. Packed stadiums were treated to some incredibly entertaining games and wonderful displays by teams from all over the world, with shocks aplenty, triumphant underdog stories and a clear validation that the women’s game is not only here to stay but to grow immeasurably.

Role models in Women's Football

So many teams and individuals emerged as superheroes and the impact on young girls the world over cannot be emphasised enough as a new breed of role models emerged brightly and confidently into the public consciousness. Sam Kerr, Cortnee Vine, Mary Earps, Yui Hasegawa, Lauren James, Olga Carmona, Aitana Bonmatí, Salma Paralluelo, Linda Caicedo and many, many others are now the names on millions of youngsters’ lips across the globe, whose heroics on the pitch will now be copied in parklands, fields and beaches from Tokyo to Cameroon, from Rio De Janeiro to Paris, and beyond. Time for the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and many other luminaries in the men’s game to step aside as the girls now have heroes of their own!

So many teams and individuals emerged as superheroes and the impact on young girls the world over | Women's Football | FIFA Women’s World Cup. | Brilliant Online
Olga Carmona scores the winning goal for Spain in the final against England. Photo Credit : Arck Photography Andy Cheung

Of course, the eventual winners Spain emerge with the most credit as overall champions, playing a brand of football that was enterprising and easy on the eye. Their captain Carmona scored the winner in a tense final against England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 20. However, her elation soon turned sour as she learned after the final whistle that her father had passed away, creating a maelstrom of emotions in the skipper. The day after the final Carmona dedicated her World Cup triumph to her father.

“I have no words to thank you for all your love,” she tweeted. “Yesterday was the best and the worst day of my life. I know that you would like to see me enjoy this historic moment - that is why I will be with my companions - so that from wherever you are, you know that this star is also yours, dad.”

For not only her exploits on the pitch in leading her country to their first world title, Carmona demonstrated such poignant elegance and respect of it during tragic times that she inequivocably emerges as a true superhero.

Spain champions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.  | Brilliant Online
Spain celebrates becoming World Champions. Photo Credit : Arck Photography Andy Cheung

It was Carmona’s teammate Aitana Bonmatí who emerged as the main superhero on the pitch and who was bestowed the Golden Ball Award for best player of the tournament. The Barcelona star, already a Ballon d’Or winner, dictated play through the midfield and demonstrated an understanding and execution of the game not too dissimilar to former celebrated male compatriots Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

England’s players also emerged with great credit, demonstrating throughout the tournament exactly why they are current European champions with a series of smart and resolute displays. Lauren James possesses undoubted quality and was on course to be recognised as the star player of the tournament before a petulant stamp on an opponent in the match against Colombia saw her red-carded and subsequently miss two games as the team progressed, with manager Sarina Wiegman reluctant to change a winning side meaning James did not start the final against Spain. Still, she will learn and undoubtedly improve, in talent and behaviour, and is unquestionably a role model for so many young fans in her homeland. Elsewhere, goalkeeper Mary Earps emerged with great credit for an outstanding tournament overall, even though her penalty save in the final game ultimately proved futile. She was awarded the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper and for most clean sheets throughout the tournament.

Goalkeeper Mary Earps awarded the Golden Glove award at the 2023 FIFA women's world cup | Photo credit: Andy Cheung Arck Photography as featured in Brilliant-Online
England goalkeeper Mary Earps was awarded the Golden Glove award. Photo credit: Andy Cheung Arck Photography

Everyone loves an underdog!

However, it could be argued that the most profound impact of the tournament was felt in the co-host country Australia. Football has always struggled to gain national recognition, kind of like the poor cousin to bigger, traditionally established sports such as AFL, NRL, rugby and cricket. Even netball, swimming, hockey and volleyball were considered more prominent by many. However, the performances of the Matildas has elevated the beautiful game to an altogether different level, engaging an audience that was admittedly previously reluctant, even suspect, to indulge. Everyone loves an underdog and Australia is no different. The fact the Matildas weren’t given too much of a hope of impressing prior to the tournament yet ultimately finished fourth – the best ever finish by an Australian male or female team in world football – captivated millions who found themselves jumping on the bandwagon and enjoying the ride to the semi-final. As CNN reported, “the ability of relative outsiders to make it that far has elevated Australia’s Matildas to hero status. Statues are being built, money is being granted, facilities upgraded and murals designed as a reminder of how they captured the imagination of the nation.”

Matildas has elevated the beautiful game to an altogether different level | FIFA women's world cup | women's football | Brilliant Online
Matildas captain Sam Kerr in action. Photo Credit : Arck Photography Andy Cheung

Speaking ahead of the third-place game against Sweden on August 19, Matildas captain Sam Kerr said, “It really feels like we have brought the nation together over football, which some people might’ve said we were crazy if we had said this would happen a year ago.” An ode posted by a fan called LittleJemmings on Facebook seemed to beautifully capture the reflective feeling post-match. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the furore can be sustained effectively to ensure the game grows and prospers both within female and male domains, but make no mistake, the Matildas have done an incredible job of shifting and driving momentum and everyone associated with the team can rightfully be declared a superhero.

Huge statement

Women’s football has made a huge statement, with the tournament generating revenue close to US$900 million, meaning that the future should be very bright indeed. There’s no doubt that the superheroes on the pitch will encourage many, many more young girls to take up the sport, while the women’s professional leagues continue to develop and prosper globally. As CNN states, “In the wake of the Matildas’ historic run, the Australian government stepped forward with 200 million Australian dollars for women’s sport – not just football – on top of the 357 million Australian dollars in its post-tournament plan, Legacy ’23. The government’s “Play Our Way” money will be used to “promote equal access, build more suitable facilities, and support grassroots initiatives to get women and girls to engage, stay, and participate in sport throughout their lives,” the government said in a statement.”

Women’s football has made a huge statement, with the tournament generating revenue close to US$900 million FIFA Women's world cup | Brilliant Online
Women’s football has made a huge statement and the future of the game looks very bright. Photo Credit : Arck Photography Andy Cheung

Aussie star Sam Kerr weighed in with her own post-tournament thoughts in the same article in regards to what is needed for the game to develop in the correct manner moving forward: “We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding. We need funding everywhere. The comparison to other sports isn’t really good enough, and hopefully, this tournament kind of changes that because that’s the legacy you leave – not what you do on the pitch. The legacy is what you do off the pitch.”

Kerr is 100% correct and the hopes are that the game can continue to flourish. The bar has been set and it has been set high. Once the dust settles it will be the impact of the superheroes who played their hearts’ out for their respective countries during a wonderful month of football that will be most telling. Ultimately, the true act of a superhero is not only performing incredible achievements but inspiring others to do likewise, to motivate the next generation to be better versions of themselves and to dream to succeed. All the players from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup can hold their heads high knowing they collectively achieved this and so much more.


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