24 teams, 52 matches and a best 11? Sounds a little tricky after the summer we’ve just had, but here’s our team of the tournament (with one or two eyebrow-raisers)
Goalkeeper: Sari van Veenendaal (Netherlands)
Not having a truly eye-catching or stand-out match until the tournament moved south to Lyon, clubless van Veenendaal pulled off stunning save, after stunning save to keep the Dutch in the semi-final before repeating the trick in the grand final. Ultimately beaten by Megan Rapinoe from 12-yards before Rose Lavelle scored a sublime solo goal, van Veenendaal’s performances belied her lack of form, having been warming the bench most of the season for Arsenal.
Left-back: Merel van Dongen (Netherlands)
Not the first name to spring to mind when thinking about the Dutch team, van Dongen was one of the surprise packages of the tournament. With Kika van Es struggling with an injury she picked up just before the World Cup kicked off, the Real Betis woman was given her chance in the squad, her performances not earthshattering but consistent in a tournament of inconsistency. Her hard work in the unorthodox Dutch defence not to be overlooked.
Centre-back: Nilla Fischer (Sweden)
One day Nilla Fischer will retire and people who put together team of the season/team of the tournaments are going to have a slightly harder job. The Swedish stalwart is a guilty of inconsistencies over her playing career, but this summer was yet another vintage one from the 34-year-old. Not the most agile, Fischer remains the immovable wall for Blågult, her header off of the line in the third place match a clearance that typifies the frustration the opposition feels when they square off against the experienced defender.
Centre-back: Abby Dahlkemper (USA)
Another surprise package of the group stage, Dahlkemper was the quiet rock at the back for the USA. Whenever the reigning world champions were in trouble at the back, the Courage defender was there to snuff out the danger and keep Alyssa Naeher’s job to a minimum. A player who only seemed to get worse the more she was praised, Dahlkemper’s World Cup didn’t finish on the strongest of notes for her (despite the winner’s medal), yet for her work when her teammates were slack earlier in the tournament, the 26-year-old silenced her doubters.
Right-back: Hanna Glas (Sweden)
As unfortunate as Jessica Samuelsson’s injury problems have been for the fullback, Sweden were handed a boost with the emergence of Hanna Glas. Arguably Eskilstuna’s best player over the 2018 season, the defender more of a plodder than a spotlight-grabber, the 26-year-old has made sure everyone watching the tournament this summer will remember her name. Like van Dongen, Glas doesn’t jump off of the pitch and scream in your face, but she rarely puts a foot wrong, a canny defender and hard-working runner, Glas’ modest style epitomises the Swedish team.
Left midfield: Rose Lavelle (USA)
At 24-years-old, it only makes sense that this is the first summer we’ve seen Lavelle at a World Cup, yet it also feels like the wily attacker has been around for years, the Spirt woman not one to have a lucky run with injuries. A footballer that is best without restraints, if the question is, “What on earth will the US do when Rapinoe, Morgan, Heath, Press and Lloyd retire?” Lavelle humbly stands off to the side, offering every answer whilst distractedly tweeting about her dog, Wilma.
Centre midfield: Jill Scott (England)
If Nilla Fischer is a rock for Sweden, Jill Scott must be Stonehenge for the Lionesses; bigger in person and as crucial a part of England as tea and crumpets. For England (and Manchester City) fans, it’s probably best not to think about what happens after Scott hangs up her boots, but for now, at 32, Scott still looks like she has another decade in her legs. One of the few (pure) box-to-box midfielders in women’s football, the midfielder has a knack for being everywhere, all the time, tireless and relentless over 90 minutes.
Centre midfield: Sam Mewis (USA)
As a fetching grey t-shirt [somewhere in Rennes] proclaimed; Sam Mewis, Tower of Power. Like Scott, Mewis is… well, she’s tall. But she’s a vital part of the spine of the World Cup winning team, a player that reads the game well, she can dictate the game for the Americans whilst providing a vital shield for the backline.
Right midfield: Kosovare Asllani (Sweden)
Not the same player who left Kristianstad in 2012, Asllani’s ups and downs off of the pitch have defined who she’s become on it. A mature and confident attacker, the 29-year-old has flourished back in her native Sweden since returning to Linköping in 2017, her form seamlessly carrying over into the national team where she shoulders a great deal of the pressure as she always has. Picking up injuries and knocks every game, it’s almost a surprise that Asllani even started Sweden’s last match, let alone that she scored in it. Not the headline-grabber this summer, the Swede has undoubtedly been one of, if not, the best player of this World Cup.
Striker: Ellen White (England)
If Anthony Modeste had been born in Aylesbury rather than Cannes… One of the most in-form strikers anywhere in the world this year, Ellen White came within a snifter of the golden ball this summer. Not on penalty duty or one than can boast five goals against one of the weakest teams at the tournament, England would have struggled without ‘Ells (Bells) this summer. Much more than a poacher, the 30-year-old has been playing some of the best football of her career in the last two years, the Birmingham City departee showing no signs of slowing down.
Striker: Alex Morgan (USA)
A player whose tournament might have been lost in her goal celebrations (author’s note: it’s unfathomable that anyone can get angry at someone miming tea drinking), to the naked eye, Morgan’s contributions began and ended with her five goals (brace-trick?) against Thailand. Although the 30-year-old might have made friends with the turf in France a little too often, she has done a large amount of grunt work for her team, a happy decoy to let Rapinoe and Heath find space.
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