Instead of a traditional “5 players to watch” for the World Cup we’re going big and giving you 11! However, we’re going one step further and breaking it down into Young Players to Watch (keep an eye out later this week) and who we think is going to be the star performer in each group.
Group A – Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria)
Three-time winner of CAF’s African Women’s Footballer of the Year, Oshoala is about as close to a “household name” as you can get when it comes to female African footballers. Having just completed a transfer to Barcelona after a memorable cameo for the Catalans at the Women’s Champions League final, it’s clear Oshoala is just getting warmed up for the year.
In a hard to call group with France, Norway and South Korea, it’s clear the honours are there for whoever dares and Oshoala is exactly the type of player who will see the showpiece tournament as a chance to shine and lead the Super Falcons to relative glory.
Group B – Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany)
One of the best number 10’s in the world, it’s hard to remember a time before Dzsenifer Marozsán and her brilliance on the ball for Germany and Lyon. Not quite the heartbeat of the Germany team, Marozsán remains Germany’s most crucial player this summer, the team boosted by what she can produce in midfield.
Whether link-up play or a devilish freekick, Marozsán is the last player anyone in the Chinese, Spanish or South African teams wants to be closing down, the midfielder feeding off of the space that far too many give her. With a clean touch and light feet, if you give Marozsán, she’ll take a mile and be gone before you know it. On her day, she’s a golden ball winner.
Group C – Khadija “Bunny” Shaw (Jamaica)
Hotly tipped to be the breakout star of the entire World Cup, Bunny Shaw already has fans across the world purring, expecting big things of her this summer, no matter how un-favoured Jamaica are.
In a group with Australia, Brazil and Italy there is a cacophony of world class players Shaw will find herself against this summer. However, there is such a level of excitement around the 22-year-old, you already get the sense more people will be expecting to see her rise to the levels of Marta and Sam Kerr and leave them gasping for more. A hungry striker who drops back to defend when the Reggae Girlz are behind the ball, the work-rate of the youngster is enviable, her prowess and maturity on the ball something else.
Group D – Erin Cuthbert (Scotland)
Across the Argentina, England and Japan teams there is no one player that stands out and screams, “Look at me, I’m here!” quite like Erin Cuthbert does for Scotland.
Still just 20-years-old, Cuthbert has had a transformative season for Chelsea, going from being a promising player with potential to one of the most feared attackers in WSL. Brimming with confidence, the rising question isn’t “Where can Cuthbert score from?” but rather, “Where can’t Cuthbert score from?” Happy to take a punt from range and increasingly deadly from distance, the attacker is happy to float around the attacking third, picking her moment to help a move progress or pull the trigger herself.
Scotland aren’t a one-woman team but Cuthbert is one woman you won’t want to take your eyes off of.
Group E – Lieke Martens (Netherlands)
Lieke Martens… Vivianne Miedema… Lieke Martens… Vivianne Miedema… Two incredibly different players for the Netherlands, two who remain vital to their respective clubs and two who could easily make the difference this summer. Up against a Canada team without a huge amount of spice, a New Zealand team that is still waiting to get out of their World Cup group and a Cameroon team who remain a wild card, it’s the proven Dutch side that people will look to race to the front of the pack.
To do so, the entire squad needs to gel and find the same kind of rhythm they had over the Euros and this is where Martens has the edge over her compatriots. Although Miedema was only 18-years-old when she played in her first World Cup in Canada, the Dutch goal-machine has yet to have a standout tournament. Conversely, Martens seems to live for the big stage, the first ever player to score for the Netherlands at a Women’s World Cup, the Barcelona front woman carried her electric domestic form over to the Euros in 2017.
The player of the tournament two years ago, the 26-year-old won’t need to “turn it on” this summer, a subconscious switch flipped when it comes to the biggest stages.
Group F – Megan “Pinoe” Rapinoe (USA)
In a group that has a considerable drop from the top two seeds to the bottom two, it’s hard to see either Chile or Thailand upsetting the applecart – although Christiane “Tiane” Endler is certainly a player everyone should keep on their radars. Which means we have one of 46 players who could be the star in the group and although Sweden have a team bursting with players more than happy to stand up and be counted, it’s the experienced Americans who I think will just have the edge.
With this is mind, there is no player who possesses the X-factor in the US team quite like Megan Rapinoe. Although Pinoe is another of the aging players in an aging squad, she still roves around the pitch like a woman in her 20s, hungry to make her mark on the game. Having made the headlines in recent years for political reasons, the 33-year-old has shown she’s still full of game-changing moments and could easily be the one selling newspapers for what happens on the pitch this summer.
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