Chelsea had more players to begin play at the 2023 Women’s World Cup than all but one other team, Barcelona, and now that half the teams are gone and we enter the knockout rounds in the last 16, that’s still true, with no fewer than 13 Blues remaining in action.
Leading the way are of course England quintet Lauren James, Millie Bright, Jess Carter, Niamh Charles, and new signing Hannah Hampton, with James absolutely lights out so far in her two starts with three goals and three assist. It’s LJ’s world, we’re just living in it.
They will take on unbeaten Nigeria, who advanced from Group B at the expense of Olympic champions Canada.
The winners of Group B were one of the hosts, Australia, and they will hope that Sam Kerr can finally play when they take on Denmark (and Pernille Harder, who once formed one-third of a fearsome Chelsea attack alongside Kerr and Fran Kirby).
One of the more anticipated games of the first knockout round will be rampant Sweden taking on a struggling USWNT. Zećira Mušović and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (and recently departed Magdalena Eriksson) will look to add to the USA’s misery. Only one team scored more goals than Sweden in the group stages.
That one team were Japan, for whom Maika Hamano has yet to feature. They will take on Guro Reiten and Maren Mjelde and the rest of their Norway crew.
Aniek Nouwen (Netherlands) and Ève Périsset (France) round out the Chelsea representation. The Dutch will take on surprise package South Africa while France will test themselves against Morocco, who managed to reach the second round despite losing their first game, 6-0 to Germany — who in turn failed to advance (though not nearly as shockingly as Brazil failing to do the same!).