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Written by Oluwaseun Oyediji

As we bid 2023 farewell, a lot of events have characterised the year in women’s football especially the historic 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the signs of growth in the game in Africa plus groundbreaking events in Europe.

With the above, it is worthwhile to look back at the major events that shaped women’s football in the year under review in no particular order.

Spain rule the world

Australia and New Zealand staged the ninth edition of the Women’s World Cup as the first co-hosted competition as far as the tournament is concerned since 1991 and crowned a new champions.

This tournament was the first to feature an expanded format of 32 teams from the previous 24, replicating the format used for the men’s World Cup from 1998 to 2022. The opening match was won by co-host New Zealand beating 1995 winners, Norway at Eden Park in Auckland on 20 July 2023 and achieving their first Women’s World Cup victory.

Spain were crowned champions after defeating reigning European champions, England 1-0 in the final. It was the first time a European nation had won the Women’s World Cup since 2007 and Spain’s first title, although their victory was marred by Luis Rubiales kiss.  

Spain became the second nation to win both the women’s and men’s World Cup since Germany in the 2003 edition. 

Luis Rubiales kiss Jennifer Hermoso in World Cup final

After the final whistle of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the then Spanish Football Association President, Luis Rubiales was spotted grabbing his crotch while standing in the authorities’ box near Queens Letizia and next to her 16-year-old daughter Infanta Sofia.  

On the pitch after the win, Rubiales lifted and carried player Athenea del Castillo over his shoulder.

During the medal presentation, Rubiales forcibly kissed Spain’s all-time top-scorer Jenni Hermoso on the lips after grabbing her by the head with both hands. Hermoso said shortly afterwards that she did not expect nor like the kiss when asked about why it happened, to Spanish radio and television, and in a social media video recorded in the locker room, saying “I didn’t like it” then “but what am I supposed to do?”

After this, Rubiales entered the players’ locker room, reportedly throwing his arm around Hermoso and joking about marrying her in Ibiza.

The kiss was considered the main incident, due to its nature and because it was captured by the cameras of FIFA’s official coverage as part of the live broadcast.

The aftermath of the incidence led to the suspension of Rubiales as Spanish FA President by FIFA as well as the sack of Jorge Vilda as the Spanish women’s national team coach and has since appointed as the coach of Moroccan senior women’s national team.

France’s Selma Bacha, left, and Australia’s Kyra Cooney-Cross compete for the ball during their friendly soccer match in Melbourne, Friday, July 14, 2023, ahead of the Women’s World Cup. (AP Photo/Hamish Blair)

2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup of Records

Apart from Spain winning their first world title, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup witnessed some outstanding events to be remembered for.

Zambia’s Barbara Banda scored the 1,000th goal of the Women’s World Cup. Her team did not qualify from the group stage but the record will remain in the player and debutant’s memory.

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Japan's Miyazawa and Spain's Aitana Bonmati smiled home with the highest goal scorer and Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Record winners, United States Women's National Team (USWNT) bowed out at the tournament in the Round of 16 for the first time in their history at the tournament.

Germany also joined with a group stage ouster at the expense of Colombia and debutant, Morocco.

African representatives also had a historic tournament as three out of the four teams made it to the Round of 16. Nigeria, South Africa, and Morocco qualified for the last 16 while Zambia bowed out in the group stage.

Legends bowed out

Some legends of the game retired from international football before and after the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

USWNT players, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz, and Ali Krieger called it time on their careers after the tournament.

South African captain, Janine Van Wyk also joined them in retiring from the round leather game alongside Canadian legend, Christine Sinclair.

Sweden's most capped player, Caroline Seger also retired in December after the team's UEFA Women's Nations League (UWNL) clash with world champions, Spain.

In April, the Netherlands Van der Gragt announced her retirement and joined AZ Alkmaar coaching staff

Dzsenifer Marozsan had earlier retired ahead of the World Cup before the German team crashed out in the group stage while Brazilian legend, Marta looked to have played in her final FIFA Women's Woirld Cup as Brazil bowed out from the group stage.

Joining them in the group of players ending their international careers is Estefania Banini of Argentina, who said it's time to make way for younger players.

Indomiatble Sundowns reclaim CAF Women's Champions League

South African champions, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies won their second CAF Women's Champions League title with a 3-0 win over debutant and Moroccan vice champions, Sporting Club Casablanca in Ivory Coast.

After winning the maiden title in 2021, Sundowns lost the 2022 finals to Moroccan champions, ASFAR FC and avenged that loss with a hard fought 1-0 win in the semi final to set up a final clash with another Moroccan side.

A 3-0 win over SC Casablanca made it three CAF Women's Champions League titles for Jerry Tshabalala's side in a flawless manner.

The team played five games, scored ten goals and conceded none in Ivory Coast.

Tshabala after winning the title anticipates winning the intending FIFA Women's Club World Cup whenever the competition gets underway.

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FC Barcelona reign supreme in Europe

Spanish side, FC Barcelona won their second UEFA Women's Champions League crown in a dramatic scenario, coming back from 2-0 down to record a 3-2 win against Germany outfit, Wolfsburg at the Philips Stadion, Eindoven.

Ewa Pajor and Alexandra Popp scored in the first half; Patri Guijarro scored twice in the first five minutes after the break before Frida Rolfo netted the winner.

The LigaF champions appeared to be overawed by the occasion once again as they went 2-0 down in the first half, offering shades of the 3-1 humbling by Lyon in the 2022 final.

Ewa Pajor - who finished as the Champions League's top scorer - scored her ninth goal of the competition as she took advantage of some sloppy play from Lucy Bronze to see Wolfsburg ahead inside three minutes. Alexandra Popp added a second just before the break.

But all of the Germans' good first-half work was undone in five minutes after the break. Patri Guijarro scored twice (48th and 50th minutes respectively) as Barcelona - the pre-match favourites - hauled themselves level.

Their epic comeback was completed in the 70th minute. After some comical defending from Wolfsburg, Frida Rolfo fired home to secure another Champions League title, following up on their 2021 victory.

As we count down to 2024 with lots of anticipating tournaments head, trust us at Bettitude blog to always keep you abreast the latest developments and updates in women's football come 2024.

We wish you a prosperous 2024.

Kindly Email: keepup@bettitude.com

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