Anyone who followed the sport prior to the kick-off of the Women’s World Cup in Canada knew how much of an occasion it was going to be. What has often surprised England fans in particular, however, is the sheer volume of support that has gotten behind the team, even in the early hours of the morning. As Jacqui Oatley pointed out, 2.4 million people were watching England’s Semi-Final against Japan at its peak. The sheer enthusiasm surrounding the team is something that has drawn people in, not only into watching the home side but also into watching their fellow competitors.
I for one have been hooked since the start, to the point where I am concerned that my sleeping pattern is now permanently altered. Yes there have been teams early on where the overall standard of play is somewhat lower than the major nations, but the quality of play on show has often been outstanding. What has also impressed many a viewer is the level of commitment to the cause, with players such as Laura Bassett taking a shiner and Alexandra Popp playing a full game despite getting a gash to the head.
With the final coming up, and the tournament nearly at the end, here are some of the players that have stood out to me over the duration of the World Cup.
Lucy Bronze (23, Manchester City Ladies)
5 games, 2 goals, 0 assists
No list of outstanding performers at this World Cup would be complete without Lucy Bronze. The right-back has been a key part of England’s campaign, having started all of their matches other than their group game against Colombia. The fact that Bronze has been able to keep fellow full-back Alex Scott out of the starting line-up, epitomises the level of her performances.
Defensively Bronze is one of the strongest, but this tournament has also highlighted her prowess in front of goal. Her 20-yard winner in the game against Norway will be one of the best goals of the tournament and her second against Canada in the Quarter-Final was another that was neatly put away. Her two goals this tournament put her on a par with some of the strongest attackers and biggest names in the world including Christine Sinclair and fellow Brits Fara Williams and Karen Carney. Considering Bronze needed knee surgery earlier this year, her comeback has been astounding and she has subsequently shone on the world stage.
Megan Rapinoe (29, Seattle Reign FC)
5 games, 2 goals, 1 assist
Rapinoe has been one of the USA’s strongest performers this World Cup, despite missing a game through suspension. In their opening game against Australia, Rapinoe scored twice. In their third game against Nigeria she delivered the corner kick on which Abby Wambach scored the lone goal. Against Colombia, Rapinoe’s great pass into space for Alex Morgan won the USA a penalty, even though it was missed. She was later denied a penalty herself, but then went on to win another that was converted by Carli Lloyd. Her inch-perfect passes are things of beauty and the USA playmaker is not afraid to run at opponents or hold up the ball until she can pick out a teammate. As the player who has created a large number of chances for the USA thus far, Rapinoe will play a key role in the final.
Aya Miyama (30, Okayama Yunogo Belle)
6 games, 2 goals, 2 assists
Despite a questionable penalty technique displayed against England in the Semi-Finals, the Japanese captain has been an important player for the side. The midfielder has created the most goalscoring chances so far in the World Cup, at 21, and subsequently plays an important role in the team. Miyama is technically gifted and has been awarded with the player of the match award on several occasions in the World Cup. Her back-heel attempt against Australia would have been a contender for goal of the competition had it gone in, but it does demonstrate the confidence and technical ability she possesses. With her ability to control the midfield, together with her quality of passing with both feet, she will be important for the Japanese against the USA.
Lady Andrade (23, PK-35 Vantaa)
4 games, 2 goals, 0 assists
Potentially a controversial choice, especially amongst USA fans, but Andrade has shown glimmers of talent in this year’s World Cup. Despite being ranked #28 in the world, and only making it to the last 16 in the competition, Andrade has made an impact for her country Colombia. Technically she is very skilled and after her performance against France in the group stages, more knew her for her football talents. Just search on YouTube for her performances against France, England and the USA (three of the biggest teams in the world) and you’ll find several examples of her making defenders look silly.
Ramona Bachmann (24, FC Rosengård)
4 matches, 3 goals, 1 assist
Bachmann played a huge role in getting World Cup debutants Switzerland out of the group stages. Her runs against Japan have been particularly memorable, and demonstrated her outstanding dribbling ability. While the end product was often lacking, Bachmann’s confidence in taking on opponents was vastly enjoyable to watch. At 24 years of age, there is much more to come from the player many people have heralded as the female Messi.
Amandine Henry (25, Olympique Lyon)
5 matches, 1 goal, 0 assists
If only for her outstanding goal against Mexico, Henry deserves to be on this list. That would not be giving her enough credit, however, as the holding midfielder is one of the best in the game. With stars like Louisa Necib and Elodie Thomis amongst the ranks, it is easy to miss players like Henry who operate deeper in the midfield. Henry’s passing ability and work rate is outstanding and despite only finding the net once, although in great fashion, she was more often than not a vital link in creating a goal-scoring opportunity.
Eugenie Le Sommer (26, Olympique Lyon)
5 matches, 3 goals, 2 assists
Going into the World Cup, Le Sommer and her French counterparts were expected to be the biggest challenge to the England side in the group stages. Their 1-0 victory, due to a Le Sommer wonder-strike, proved that point and with three goals and 2 assists to her name this time around, showed exactly what she was capable of. Le Sommer has been a force to contend with and never stopped working for the team. Her run for France’s third goal against South Korea epitomised the kind of player she is, taking on several players before setting up a teammate. Even though she may be on the small side, she under no circumstances should be underestimated as what she lacks in height she more than makes up for in speed.
Lisa De Vanna (30, Melbourne Victory)
5 matches, 2 goals, 1 assist
De Vanna was a constant threat for Australia, and scored big goals for the side against the USA and Sweden. The pacey forward was amongst the most consistent for her side and one of the key contributors to their World Cup run. The captain’s passion was also faultless, especially shown after her goal against Sweden. At 30 years of age, this may be De Vanna’s last World Cup but if it is she put in performances to be proud of.
Julie Johnston (23, Chicago Red Stars)
6 matches, 0 goals, 1 assist
The USA team have only conceded one goal in the entire World Cup competition so far. With statistics like that, it is easy to see why they have made it into the World Cup final. Defensively, Hope Solo is one of the biggest names in football and at times has shown her talent in this competition. More often than not, however, it has been her defenders that have prevented any real chances opening up. Despite conceding a penalty against Germany last time out, Johnston has been a key member of the USA defence together with Sauerbrunn. Johnston is also effective going forward and aerially one of the strongest. As one of the youngest members of the squad, she will also be one of their most important players for years to come if she maintains the form she has demonstrated over the duration of the World Cup.
Celia Sasic (27, 1. FFC Frankfurt)
6 matches, 6 goals, 1 assist
Her missed penalty is what she has become known for in recent times, but Sasic is currently the top goalscorer of the tournament going into their final game against England. At times Sasic has been known to ignore where the ball is going and simply focus on getting in the right position in the box. It is this that has often resulted in her finding the net on several occasions. Sasic has shown that she possesses the strength and finishing ability to compete with the best, and has arguably been the most complete forward of the competition.
Steph Houghton (27, Manchester City Women)
6 matches, 1 goal, 0 assists
As an England fan I may be somewhat biased, but Houghton has led the England side in an inspirational fashion deserving of a place on this list. Together with Laura Bassett at the back, Houghton has been a rock for the English side not only impressing with her strength and composure, but also demonstrating her goal-scoring ability with a headed goal against Norway. Houghton will be one of the key players if England are to beat the Germans and finish in 3rd place.
Wendie Renard (24, Olympique Lyon)
5 matches, 0 goals, 0 assists
The French captain had a great tournament anchoring the back line for her team. At 5ft 11 inches tall, Renard is one of the most intimidating defenders in the game and marshalled England in the group stages particularly well. Her passion for the game was also demonstrated against Germany after she converted her penalty.
Gaelle Enganamouit (23, Eskilstuna United DFF)
4 matches, 3 goals, 1 assist
Together with Gabrielle Onguene, Enganamouit made an impression as part of the Cameroon team from the off. While having one of the more memorable haircuts of the competition, the striker also possesses enviable pace, power and scoring ability. This was particularly highlighted in their 6-0 trouncing of Ecuador where she achieved a hat-trick.
Carli Lloyd (32, Houston Dash)
6 matches, 3 goals, 1 assist
It would be easy to pick out all members of the USA team, due to the sheer talent they possess amongst their ranks. In a USA team that has been known more for its defensive prowess than goalscoring ability this time around, however, it has been Carli Lloyd that has taken the plaudits. The USA captain has now got over two-hundred caps to her name, and has been awarded the Player of the Match for the side’s last three matches. Not only has Lloyd contributed on the goal front, her industrious work rate makes her a key member of the squad. As Abby Wambach herself has stated, “She’s having the tournament of her life.”
This list is by no means exhaustive. The likes of Louisa Necib, Clare Rafferty, Becky Sauerbrunn, Aya Sameshima, Hope Solo, Katie Chapman, Elodie Thomis, Anja Mittag and Meghan Klingenberg could all have also been included and again that’s only naming a few. If anything, this World Cup has done an amazing job at showing the world exactly what talent exists in the sport. I have thoroughly enjoyed the tournament and am looking forward to finding out who finishes on top!