The year 2023 is coming to close and it produced so many memorable moments in women’s football. While the bad has been mixed in with the good, it feels better to end the year on a high note and focus on the good instea.
Here are some of the best moments in women’s football in this calendar year:
1. Spain reach the pinnacle of football at the World Cup
For as long as we have known the Spanish team, they have always featured technicians in their team. However, they couldn’t seem to find a way past the Round of 16 no matter who they placed on the pitch. 2023 was a different story.
The emphasis placed on the domestic league led to the rise of FC Barcelona, and then Real Madrid followed suit, providing Spain with the nous needed to perform at the biggest stage. While Spain’s crown jewel, Alexia Putellas, wasn’t as heavily featured for them this year, Aitana Bonmatí stepped up to take the team on to their first World Cup trophy.
Other notable stars for Spain include Mariona Caldentey, rising star Salma Paralluelo and the only goal-scorer in the final Olga Carmona. It was a well-deserved win for Spain and one the players should be allowed to saviour and revel in for a long time.
2. Crowds in Australia and New Zealand bring an explosion of colour to the World Cup
Keeping in theme with the World Cup, the impact that it had on both neutrals and fans alike on the ground in Australia and New Zealand cannot be overstated. Both countries had engaged crowds from the first whistle to the last, and every team that played was represented with joy, colour and sound.
In previous World Cups, not every match would be as vociferous unless a major nation was playing but this time around, both Australia and New Zealand brought the noise no matter who was playing. Neutrals came out in droves to support teams that weren’t necessarily their home countries while fans of every team provided a backdrop of engagement that we haven’t seen at a Women’s World Cup yet. With the next host still not announced yet, we hope that what both Australia and New Zealand managed to accomplish is only the beginning and that future hosts will be just as good or even better from now on.
3. Barcelona win the Champions League once again
After being completely dismantled in the first half of the 2022 UEFA Women’s Champions League final, Barcelona came back with a vengeance this year. They made light work of their group games and then proceeded to roll on past AS Roma and Chelsea to reach their third final in three years.
Unlike the previous final, Barcelona were able to rally back after going 2-0 down against VfL Wolfsburg thanks to goals by Patri Guijarro and Fridolina Rolfö. Once again, like for Spain later on that summer, Bonmatí and Caldentey proved pivotal to Barcelona’s triumph and helped their team win club football’s biggest trophy.
4. Chelsea win their their third consecutive FA WSL title
Once again, Chelsea were champions of England as they marched to their third league title in as many years. While Arsenal and Manchester United tried to hold them off, Chelsea’s depth in quality proved to be too much and they ultimately came back from being behind for most of the season to win the league.
Beth England and Sam Kerr were Chelsea’s top scorers but it was Guro Reiten’s performances from out wide that truly pushed Chelsea to the top. The Norwegian was in scintillating form, and alongside Lauren James who broke through this year, provided the likes of England and Kerr with the creativity they needed to be put through on goal.
5. Gotham cap their return with a NWSL Championship
After finishing at the bottom of the standings last season, NJ/NY Gotham FC returned this season with a new mindset and a determination to not repeat last season’s mistakes. Led by Ali Krieger in her final season as a professional player, Gotham got back into the playoffs and navigated their way to the NWSL Championship final.
Lynn Williams and Midge Purce, who had been the catalysts for Gotham’s change in fortunes, then turned on the style in the NWSL Championship final to make sure that Gotham finished at the top of the podium when all was said and done.
Full credit should go to not only the players and head coach Juan Carlos Amorós, but also to GM Yael Averbuch, and all those behind the scenes who helped catapult Gotham to new heights this season. They have shown what any team in the league can do if all the right pieces are put into place, and given the room to succeed.
6. Legends of the sport bid adieu
The world’s stage said goodbye to Megan Rapinoe, Marta, Christine Sinclair, Dzsenifer Marozsán, Shirley Cruz, Janine van Wyk, Stefanie van der Gragt, Ali Krieger, Sophie Schmidt and Caroline Seger. Rapinoe and Seger have hung up their boots for good while Marta and Sinclair still plan on playing for one more season with their club teams.
The World Cup didn’t go as any of these players would have wanted. Marta and Sinclair exited at the group stage with Brazil and Canada respectively, Rapinoe crashed out with the USWNT in the Round of 16, van der Gragt and the Netherlands lost in the quarter-finals, and Seger then had to watch from the bench as Sweden succumbed in the semi-final to Spain.
We will never see the likes of these players again on the biggest stage of football but they have undoubtedly left their mark on the sport. Whether it was on the pitch or off it, every one of these players looked to push the sport forward in any way they could. They leave it in a better place than they found it and can leave with their heads held high.
7. Young stars make their mark
The World Cup brought a spotlight on young stars in the making. While those who watch the sport more closely would’ve been well aware of these players, the World Cup gave them their biggest platform to date.
Salma Paralluelo gave Spain the incisiveness they had been missing up top for a long time, Lauren James was at her creative best for England, Linda Caicedo captured the imagination for Colombia, and so many other young players came to the forefront for their countries at the World Cup. Those players have seemingly gone on to develop their games at club level and will be most certainly starring for their clubs and countries for years to come.
8. Aitana Bonmatí wins the Ballon d’Or
After Alexia Putellas had won two consecutive Ballon d’Ors for Barcelona, this year Aitana Bonmatí took the honours as she not only stepped up in Putellas absence for their club but also on the national team.
While the Ballon d’Or can be a contentious award, this time around there were no arguments against Bonmatí’s triumph as she truly had been the best women’s player on the planet for the calendar year. She was instrumental in Barcelona’s club treble and then went on to help Spain become World Cup champions for the first time in their history. At 25 years old, Bonmatí hasn’t even reached the peak of her career and will probably be in the conversation for the Ballon d’Or for years to come.
What were some of your favourite moments from this year?