Fierce Rivals

Fierce Rivals

By June 6, 2019 Issue 15, USWNT

Although the U.S. team is stacked with world-class talent, there is no clear-cut favorite at this year’s world cup. At least five other countries are in with a real chance of stepping on to the field at Stade de Lyon on July 7 to fight for the biggest prize of all. Here are some of the greatest female footballers on the planet, all of whom are prepared to do everything they can to stop the Americans from winning again.

Dzsenifer Marozsán

Dzsenifer Marozsán

Germany (27, Olympique Lyonnais)

As captain, she led Germany to a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics, making her team one of the favorites for the World Cup. Marozsán’s ability to read the game has allowed her to score 32 goals in 89 games for her country.

Wendie Renard

Wendie Renard

France (28, Olympique Lyonnais)

The vocal central midfielder and captain of France learned to play by kicking a plastic bottle around the beach in Martinique, where she was born. She’s a passionate and committed player with a work ethic second to none.

Vivianne Miedema

Vivianne Miedema

Netherlands (22, Arsenal)

Miedema is considered one of the most dangerous strikers in Europe. Her killer instinct has delivered 53 goals in 68 matches for her country. She was recently named Women’s Player of the Year at the London Awards.

Daniëlle van de Donk

Daniëlle van de Donk

Netherlands (27, Arsenal)

The skillful midfielder has become a fan favorite and vital part of the Dutch team with her attitude and world-class quality. Her work supporting Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema has been outstanding and bodes well for their international partnership.

Amandine Henry

Amandine Henry

France (29, Olympique Lyonnais)

Long considered one of the game’s outstanding midfielders, Henry is at her peak. After a year with the Portland Thorns in the NWSL, she returned to Lyon in 2018.

Ji So-yun

Ji So-yun

South Korea (28, Chelsea)

Ji is the all-time top scorer for the South Korean women’s national team with 53 goals. When she signed for Chelsea in 2014, her new coach Emma Hayes said, “Ji is one of the best midfielders in the world and our fans will love her.” Turns out she was right.

Shanice van de Sanden

Shanice van de Sanden

Netherlands (26, Olympique Lyonnais)

Stylish and instantly likeable, the dynamic Dutch striker has been terrorizing defenses with her explosive pace and shooting skills for years. Playing in this World Cup may finally bring her the wide recognition she deserves.

Lucy Bronze

Lucy Bronze

England (27, Olympique Lyonnais)

Strong and intelligent, the Northumberland-born Bronze, according to England head coach Phil Neville, is “the best player in the world.” His dilemma: Does he play her at right back, or use her power in midfield?

Alexandra Popp

Alexandra Popp

Germany (28, VfL Wolfsburg)

Physical and competitive, Popp has been used at several positions for the German team and is equally at home in midfield or on the wing. She’s won two Champions Leagues, four Bundesliga titles, and five German Cups with VfL Wolfsburg.

Sara Däbritz

Sara Däbritz

Germany (24, Bayern Munich)

A member of her country’s Olympic gold medal-winning team in 2016, Däbritz has been playing for Germany since she was 18. A thoughtful midfielder, she’s scored 10 goals in 59 appearances for her country.

Amel Majri

Amel Majri

France (26, Olympique Lyonnais)

Lyon’s French-Tunisian defender recently won her club’s Lion d’Or Award celebrating local athletes, as well as her fifth Champions League title and Division 1 Féminine title in 2018. She has 38 caps for France.

Sarah Bouhaddi

Sarah Bouhaddi

France (32, Olympique Lyonnais)

With three consecutive Best Woman’s Goalkeeper in the World awards under her belt, Bouhaddi is at her peak. Add five Champions League wins and nine league titles, and all she’s missing is the biggest prize of all: the World Cup.

Christine Sinclair

Christine Sinclair

Canada (35, Portland Thorns)

Canada’s long-serving captain now has 180 international goals in 278 games for her country. This leaves her just five away from breaking Abby Wambach’s record of 184 goals. That's achievable in France if Canada get past the group stages.

Kim Little

Kim Little

Scotland (28, Arsenal)

An immense talent, Little will be remembered by NWSL fans for three success-filled years at Seattle Reign. The attacking midfielder has continued her development since returning to Arsenal, and her goals helped propel Scotland to their first World Cup appearance.

Steph Houghton

Steph Houghton

England (31, Manchester City)

As captain of Manchester City and England, center back Houghton is considered one of the greatest woman players of all time. She led her country to victory in the recent SheBelieves Cup and has won 103 caps for England.

Marta

Marta

Brazil (33, Orlando Pride)

The greatest female player of all time? She’s been named the FIFA World Player of the Year a record six times and continues to be a major force on the Brazil team. She’s also the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for women and girls in sport.

Toni Duggan

Toni Duggan

England (27, Barcelona)

One of the first women from England to play abroad, Duggan is always challenging herself to improve. She sees her move from Manchester City to Barcelona as another step toward achieving her ambitions.

Sam Kerr

Sam Kerr

Australia (25, Perth Glory, Chicago Red Stars)

The Golden Girl for a new generation of Matildas fans, Kerr is generally acknowledged to be one of the top three woman footballers in the world, and she is already the U.S. NWSL’s all-time leading scorer.

Saki Kumagai

Saki Kumagai

Japan (28, Olympique Lyonnais)

Known for her precision and calmness, the Japan captain’s temperament makes her the perfect penalty taker. The ultimate perfectionist, she’s played 100 times for her country.

Fran Kirby

Fran Kirby

England (25, Chelsea)

When Kirby scored in England’s 1-0 friendly win over Brazil last year, her coach Phil Neville proclaimed her superiority to six-time World Player of the Year Marta: “I’d take my No. 10 over Brazil’s No. 10, that’s for sure.”

Eugénie Le Sommer

Eugénie Le Sommer

France (30, Olympique Lyonnais)

This creative midfielder makes most lists of the top-five players in the world. She has played 152 games for France, scoring 67 goals. Her prolific goal scoring is equally impressive in club football; she has 153 goals for Lyon.

Caroline Graham Hansen

Caroline Graham Hansen

Norway (24, VfL Wolfsburg)

The silky winger is an old-school dribbler, tormenting defenses throughout Europe. Her disappointment when Norway failed to qualify for the 2015 tournament has fueled her ambition to see her country succeed in France.

Nilla Fischer

Nilla Fischer

Sweden (34, VfL Wolfsburg)

Fischer admits that this World Cup, her fourth, will be her last, but she’s still a defender of the highest quality captaining one of the world’s most prestigious clubs. She’s also part of Uefa’s #WePlayStrong campaign.

Maren Mjelde

Maren Mjelde

Norway (29, Chelsea)

The Norway captain leads by example, but when she needs to make a point she’ll speak to her teammates calmly and constructively. Her stoppage-time goal against PSG propelled Chelsea into the Champions League semifinals.

Jody Taylor

Jody Taylor

England (33, Seattle Reign)

The charismatic Taylor has 17 goals in 38 games for England. She returned to the Lionesses for the SheBelieves Cup in February after a long spell out with injury. Her impact was instantaneous as she created two assists in the final victory against Japan to give her country a massive psychological boost before going to France.

Andressa Alves

Andressa Alves

Brazil (26, Barcelona)

Known simply as Andressa, she scored Brazil’s only goal in the recent SheBelieves Cup loss to England (wearing a snazzy pair of boots personally sent to her by Neymar).

Asisat Oshoala

Asisat Oshoala

Nigeria (24, Barcelona)

The three-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year burst onto the international scene at the 2015 World Cup when she scored the Super Falcons' first equalizing goal against Sweden in an exciting 3-3 tie.

Lieke Martens

Lieke Martens

Netherlands (26, Barcelona)

Martens, who has already played 100 games for her country, modeled her playing style on Ronaldinho. She told The Players’ Tribune that she also spent hours practicing the Cruyff turn. She’s a player for the big occasion.

Almuth Schult

Almuth Schult

Germany (28, VfL Wolfsburg)

Replacing a legendary goalkeeper like Nadine Angerer is not easy, but Schult did so with great style in 2016, playing every minute for Germany as they won their first-ever gold medal in women’s Olympic football. She’s been a fixture ever since.


This article originally appeared in Issue 15 of Eight by Eight. As an independent magazine it’s your support that enables us to continue bringing you the stories from around the football world. We hope you’ll buy the issue and join us.

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