What I'm getting into: The World Cup is almost here!

With so many lovely stories and so much insightful journalism out there, I thought I'd take a moment to shout out some of the stuff I've been enjoying.

Mmmmmm. The sweet final few days before a World Cup.

Your fridge smiles back at you as you pin the wall chart on it with magnets. Suddenly, you’re an expert in Morocco’s preferred formation thanks to the big juicy broadsheet preview supplement.

Soon, you’re researching where you can catch players from the Philippines national team when they’re with their club sides.

A wave of content washes over you. The days feel long. Without football, there’s still time. Soon, it’s matches, matches, matches. Every day matches.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to keep up with everything. I want to read it all when it comes to World Cup articles, features, podcasts, analysis, and content. Big or small I love it.

So in the name of helping other people get through their reading and listening lists, here are my 11 favourite pre-World Cup things to get into this week:

1. ‘This is for Katie’ by Naomi Girma

Link: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/posts/naomi-girma-katie-meyer-uswnt-fifa-world-cup-stanford-soccer-mental-health

A raw, candid, and personal piece for the Players’ Tribune that sees the U.S. women’s national team defender open up about her friendship with the late Katie Meyer. The two were teammates at the University of Stanford between 2018 and 2021. There, they won the 2019 NCAA National Championship together.

Warning: It’s an emotional read. And does involve the topic of suicide.

2. ‘How Haiti, amid ‘living hell’ back home, became the ultimate Women’s World Cup underdog’ by Henry Bushnell

Link: https://sports.yahoo.com/haiti-womens-world-cup-060458748.html

A long read that goes into detail on Haiti’s journey to the World Cup under the backdrop of gang violence and instability in the country. Bushnell spoke with many players on the team to unpack what it means to represent the struggling country. The pride and the pain. I for one am so excited to see this Haitian team who have overcome so much play this summer.

3. ‘Racheal Kundananji is ready to lead by example for young girls in Zambia’ by Esther Owusua Appiah-Fei

Link: https://equalizersoccer.com/2023/07/18/racheal-kundananji-is-ready-to-lead-by-example-for-young-girls-in-zambia/

A great read that brings you closer to one of the Copper Queens’ stars. Kundananji tells Appiah-Fei that a few years ago she didn’t even know Zambian had a women’s football team. Now she’s playing as a professional in Spain and heading to the World Cup.

4. ‘Savannah DeMelo on her surprise World Cup call-up’ by Claire Watkins

Link: (video below)

Watkins is one of my favourite journalists in the United States that covers the NWSL and national teams. Her one-on-one video interviews and written features with the USA World Cup squad are great. But her time with the burgeoning DeMelo is the one that intrigued me most.

5. ‘The 2023 Women’s World Cup players to watch — and what makes them so special’ by Samantha Lewis, Kate Newton, Thomas Brettell, and Alex Palmer

Link: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-17/fifa-2023-womens-world-cup-best-player-data/102529722

What a collab. This interactive scroll-through piece on ABC.net is a dream. What I love about it is that it’s not too dense or intimidating for newcomers to the analytics side of the sport, but it’s pretty juicy for the heads too. The whole thing is gorgeous as well. Top marks.

6. ‘2023 Women’s World Cup: 10 Players to Watch’ by Yash Thakur

Link: https://theanalyst.com/eu/2023/07/2023-womens-world-cup-players-to-watch/

There are a lot of these kinds of articles out (and they’re all great, we need to highlight players) but Yash is a great analyst who’s work on Opta’s site is helps dive a little deeper into the bright stars we know and love.

7. ‘World Cup Previews’ by Counter Pressed Podcast

Link: (Audio below)

The lovely squad over at the Counter Pressed podcast dropped four previews episodes, diving into every single group at the World Cup plus two extra-long individual episodes for England’s Group D and the USA’s Group E. Some of my absolute fave talkers when it comes to football. Highly recommend taking a drink every time they say the word “vibes”.

8. ‘Between Two Worlds’ by Megan Reyes

Link: https://between-two-worlds.simplecast.com/

This really moved me. It’s a personal tale all about being Filipina-American and loving football. Reyes is a gifted storyteller who really immerses you in her world. It touches on the untold history of Philippines soccer and the rich worldwide diaspora linking many of the players who will be representing the women’s national team at the World Cup.

9. ‘Our USWNT XIs vs Vietnam’ by Diaspora United

Link: https://diaspora-united.beehiiv.com/p/du-uswnt-xis

Courtney Stith and Andre Carlisle are often found cackling because their smart and funny and they know a lot about football. Their extremely genuine and dreamy podcast Diaspora United is expert football takes with an emphasis on highlighting Blackness within the game. For the World Cup, they have a new newsletter and it’s going to be great. The first edition is all about the USA XI. My feelings on that lineup = same, same.

10. Mary Fowler: 'I want to look back on my career and see that I've done more than just play football' by Isobel Cootes

Link: https://sport.optus.com.au/news/all/os59535/wwc-mary-fowler-youngest-matildas-more-than-football-fifa-womens-world-cup-2023

Probably my favourite player on this Matildas team. Cootes did a really nice job with this profile capturing the moment, the past and the future in this profile. Fowler’s maturity on the pitch belies her age. And the same goes for her personality off it. A superstar not in the making. Here, now.

11. ‘The Big Interview: Desiree Ellis’ by Rich Laverty

Link: (below)

I am loving the Substack the ‘Women’s Football Chronicles’ not only because of the fantastic contact book that Laverty is accessing, but also due to the astounding volume of the thing. There are plenty of hearty reads to check out on his site but this personal sit down with Ellis was something I hadn’t seen anywhere. Keep up the great work Rich! Go subscribe.

The Big Interview: Desiree Ellis
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A couple more honourable mentions:

This was all getting a little bit USA heavy, but do check out these majestic player profiles too:

Inside Sinead Farrelly’s Gotham FC comeback after harrowing abuse and a 7-year hiatus — with the World Cup next by Jenna Tonelli

The quiet leadership of OL Reign’s Alana Cook by Susie Rantz

With new mindset, Ashley Sanchez is ready for the USWNT spotlight by Jason Anderson