MANCHESTER, England — The brightest talents in women’s soccer will be on show at the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Alex Morgan is out to win a third straight World Cup with the United States and England’s Lucy Bronze is looking to become a world champion after helping the Lionesses’ win the European Championship last year.
Ada Hegerberg will carry Norway’s hopes and Alexia Putellas is back from the injury that kept her out of action for nearly 10 months and ruled her out of the Euros.
Here are 10 of the top players to watch out for at this year’s tournament.
ALEX MORGAN (UNITED STATES)
Heading into her fourth World Cup, Morgan is already a two-time winner, an Olympic gold medalist and one of the biggest stars in the history of the women’s game. The tournament in Australia and New Zealand will be a chance to add to the forward’s legacy if she helps the U.S. become the world champion for a record third time in succession. No men’s or women’s team has ever won the World Cup three times in a row. Now 34, Morgan keeps making a mark on the field. The four-time CONCACAF Player of the Year played her 200th game for her country last year and won the golden boot in the NWSL in 2022 after finishing as the top scorer with 15 goals for San Diego Wave. She has won 11 major tournaments with the U.S. and was also a Champions League winner with Lyon. Having won so many honors in her career, she is looking to add another World Cup in what could be her final appearance on this stage.
CHRISTINE SINCLAIR (CANADA)
No soccer player, male or female, has scored more international goals than Canadian legend Sinclair’s 190 for her country. Canada coach Bev Priestman has described Sinclair’s “incredible humility” — but there is nothing humble about an incredible career that just keeps on going. Ready to appear in her sixth World Cup at the age of 40, Sinclair remains as determined as ever to achieve more. She resisted the temptation to hang her boots up after Canada won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021. It was her fourth Olympics representing her country. Sinclair has reimagined her game as her career has advanced, moving from a center forward to a more withdrawn role as she continues to produce at the top level. A three-time NWSL Champion with the Portland Thorns — most recently in 2022 — she is a 14-time Canada Soccer Player of the Year and has won 319 caps. A World Cup winner’s medal is missing from her collection, but that could all change at this year’s tournament.
SAM KERR (AUSTRALIA)
The first Australian to score a hat trick in the men’s or women’s World Cup, Kerr could be in the reckoning to win the golden boot at this year’s tournament. She scored five in 2019 and was the leading scorer at the Asia Cup in 2022 with seven goals. The forward is Australia’s all-time leading scorer — surpassing Tim Cahill with 63 goals in total. Kerr is used to racking up the titles with her club team Chelsea. She has won the English league title four years in a row, as well as three FA Cups and two League Cups. Kerr has been named Women’s Footballer of the Year in England for the past two seasons. Captaining Australia to World Cup glory in front of her home fans would be the ultimate achievement. She is certainly one for the big occasion — most recently scoring the winner in the FA Cup final against Manchester United in front a record crowd at Wembley Stadium. She has scored 10 goals in seven domestic cup finals.
WENDIE RENARD (FRANCE)
As part of Lyon’s all-conquering team, Renard has won 16 French league titles and eight Champions Leagues. Add to that 10 more French Cups and Renard is arguably France’s greatest women’s footballer. But it looked like she would be absent from this World Cup after announcing in February that she was stepping back from the national team, saying she could “no longer support the current system.” France coach Corinne Diacre was fired in March and Renard was recalled by new coach Herve Renard, meaning she will be back in the heart of the defense as her country tries to win the biggest prize in women’s soccer.
ADA HEGERBERG (NORWAY)
It is a measure of Hegerberg’s rare talent that she has been described as women’s soccer’s answer to Lionel Messi. But given that she is from Norway, perhaps Erling Haaland is a more suitable comparison for the forward. After all, she is a lethal goal-scorer, just like the Manchester City striker. Her total of 59 Champions League goals is a record for the competition. And she has averaged more than a goal per game for her club Lyon, winning eight French league titles and six Champions Leagues. Hegerberg was the first ever female winner of the Ballon d’Or and will perform at the World Cup after ruling herself out of selection for her country for five years up to 2022 due to what she considered a disregard for women’s soccer in Norway.
Concerns hang over the six-time FIFA player of the year as she approaches her sixth World Cup. “I don’t know whether she will be in the starting lineup. She could come off the bench as well,” said Brazil coach Pia Sundhage. Marta, 37, is still working her way back to her best after a knee injury. She had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament last year, leading to an 11-month absence from the national team. Having never won the World Cup, this could be her final chance for the Orlando Pride forward to lift the trophy. Brazil fans are likely to be anxious about Marta’s fitness. As her country’s all-time leading scorer with 117 goals, she could be vital to Brazil’s hopes.
It takes a special player to wear Brazil’s No. 9 shirt and Debinha is worthy of that honor. The two-time Copa America Femenina winner also represented her country at the World Cup in 2019 and at two Olympics. A top class goal-scorer, the forward is blessed with speed and creativity and provides the cutting edge for Pia Sundhage’s team. At club level, she won two NWSL championships and three NWSL Shields with the North Carolina Courage and was the NWSL Championship Most Valuable Player in 2019. She now plays for Kansas City Current.
ALEXIA PUTELLAS (SPAIN)
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner missed out on last year’s European Championship because of a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament just days before the tournament. While she is back playing again — and lifted the Champions League with Barcelona in June — it remains to be seen how much of an impact she will be able to have at the World Cup. Putellas’ injury kept her out for nearly 10 months and she has only made six appearances for Barca since her return. In that sense, it will be an achievement just to make the tournament, and her presence gives fans the chance to watch one of the best players in the world. The winner of two Ballon d’Ors, midfielder Putellas has helped Barca to two Champions League titles in three years and seven Spanish league crowns.
ALEXANDRA POPP (GERMANY)
After the heartache of the Euros, Popp is hoping to make up for that at the World Cup. The Germany striker became the first player to score in five consecutive games at a Women’s European Championship last year and hit six in total to fire her country to the final. But she then suffered the misery of missing out on the game against England at Wembley after suffering an injury during warmups. She watched from the bench as England won 2-1 through extra time. Popp also suffered defeat in this year’s Champions League final, losing 3-2 to Barcelona after leading 2-0. But she has enjoyed plenty of success in a highly decorated career. Her trophies include three Champions League titles, seven German league championships and an Olympic gold in 2016.
LUCY BRONZE (ENGLAND)
A serial trophy-winner, England defender Bronze finally tasted glory in a major international competition at last year’s Euros. And if the Lionesses are to follow that up with a World Cup title then Bronze is likely to be crucial. The right back has won seven league titles in three different countries with Liverpool, Manchester City, Lyon and Barcelona. She heads to the World Cup on the back of winning the Spanish title and the Champions League with Barca, the fourth time she has lifted European club soccer’s biggest prize in the women’s game. In 10 years since her England debut, she has won 103 caps and established herself as one of the top players in the world. Bronze has described the feeling of winning as addictive and that has clearly been a motivation in such a highly decorated career.
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