The Women’s World Cup is fast approaching as the countdown begins for the opening game between New Zealand and Norway on Thursday 20th July. 32 nations will battle it out to win the most prestigious title in the women’s game in the tournament co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Will the USA retain their crown? Will the Lionesses recreate their Euro’s triumph? Or will we see one of the giants of Africa, Asia and South America write their names into the history books? One thing that we know for sure is, it’s the World Cup, anything can happen.
The stage is well and truly set for all the stars to showcase their talents as they all aim to book their nations a spot in August’s final. Let's take a look at a few names to look out for throughout the tournament:
First on the list is Australia’s Sam Kerr. The prolific center-forward has established herself as one of the very best since joining Chelsea in 2020. The blues star has flourished since arriving in West London by boasting an impressive scoring record of 54 goals in just 67 appearances.
As well as being influential on the pitch, Kerr’s talents have led to her becoming a major driving force off the pitch in promoting women’s football as she became the first-ever woman to be on the cover of EA Sports FIFA.
The Matilda’s captain is also their highest-ever goal scorer and they’ll be hoping that Kerr can show off her goals-scoring prowess on the biggest stage.
Next up, Sam Kerr’s Chelsea teammate and England international, Lauren James. James, the sister of Chelsea men’s star Reece James, has recently emerged as one of the brightest young stars in the women’s game.
The 21-year-old is known for her effortless ball control and dazzling dribbling as she cemented herself as a standout in Emma Hayes’ Women’s Super League-winning Chelsea side.
James’ influential performances resulted in her being nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2021, despite only featuring six times due to injury.
This will be James’ first sniff at a major international tournament with England and the Lionesses will be hoping she will bring her club-winning pedigree onto the main stage to drive their nation to glory.
Another player that is destined to grab the headlines this summer is the USA’s Megan Rapinoe. The 38-year-old will be appearing in her fourth World Cup having won the competition twice already.
Rapinoe is well known as one of the most influential people that women’s football has ever seen. She publicly came out as gay in 2012 and has been vocal on societal issues in sports such as racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as leading the campaign for equal pay for the USA women's and men’s teams.
The American has enjoyed an illustrious career on the field as she enjoyed a star-studded campaign in 2019 in which she won FIFA’s Best Women’s Player of the Year, a Ballon D’or as well as the Golden Boot and Golden Ball at the World Cup in France in which she captained her country to the prize.
The stalwart has announced that she will retire after the tournament so it is fair to say that she will be certainly looking to go out on her marvelous career on a high.
Another star to look out for at the tournament is France’s Grace Geyoro. The PSG captain has established herself as one of the very best midfielders in the game in recent years.
The French star made waves in Euro 2022 as she became the tournament’s first-ever player to score a first-half hat-trick against Italy. Geyoro’s club performances saw a world record bid submitted by Chelsea rejected by the French team which shows how highly rated she is by all parties.
The versatile midfielder will be hoping to be the key to unlocking defences as she pushes her nation forward.
Last, but not least, another player who will be in the limelight at this summer’s competition is Morocco's Nouhaila Benzina.
The Moroccan international is set to make history as she becomes the first player to wear a hijab at the World Cup. Benzina is determined to make a statement to promote inclusivity for all athletes as she will be the only one out of 736 players to wear a hijab on-field.
As well as making a statement that will be displayed worldwide, the 24-year-old will also be aiming to showcase her on-the-ball talents on the biggest stage as she represents the Atlas Lionesses in their first World Cup appearance.
Author: Adam Khanna