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Best players at the Women’s World Cup

Over 700 players will converge on Australia and New Zealand this month, representing 32 national teams at the biggest women’s World Cup ever.

Ahead of the tournament, we’ve picked out 10 superstars to watch, including players who’ve played at multiple World Cups before as well as up-and-coming youngsters set to grace the world’s stage for the very first time.

Note, it has been limited to a maximum of one player per county.

Sophia Smith – United States

The back-to-back World Champions have plenty of stars in their ranks, but 22-year-old Sophia Smith has quickly established herself as, possibly, the first name on Vlatko Andonovski’s teamsheet.

Back in November 2020, Smith became the first player born in the 21st century to represent the USWNT, coming off the bench in a 2-0 friendly win over Netherlands at Rat Verlegh Stadion.

Since then, she’s scored 12 times in 30 international appearances, including netting against England at Wembley and Germany in New Jersey last year.

In the NWSL, Smith has scored 31 goals since joining Portland Thorns as the number one draft pick in 2020, named the league’s MVP last year, breaking the deadlock in the Championship win over Kansas City Current.

Compared to other NWSL players, Smith ranks in the top 2% for shots, shot-creating actions, progressive carries and successful take-ons.

In other words, she’s a winger who can score goals, dribble past defenders and provide assists for teammates, with this set to be the tournament she announces herself to the watching world as, possibly, the best around.

Sam Kerr – Australia

There are officially 66 deadly species of animal in Australia, a number that should be increased to 67 whenever Sam Kerr is around.

Her scoring record for the Matildas is frankly ridiculous, taking her tally to 63 goals from just 120 caps against England in London back in April.

In January 2022, she netted five times in an 18-0 Asia Cup victory over Indonesia, with her second goal in that match making her the highest-scoring Australian of all-time, surpassing Tim Cahill’s record.

On the club side, only six players have scored more FAWSL goals than Kerr’s 54.

Meanwhile, she’s also record-scorer in NWSL history, while only Michelle Heyman has scored more often than Kerr in the A-League, extraordinary to rank so highly in three leagues simultaneously, and she’s only 29!

In a generally solid if not spectacular Australian side, Kerr is the difference maker as the co-hosts target a first-ever World Cup semi-final appearance.

Alexia Putellas – Spain

A lot of the players in this listicle could claim to be the best player on the planet, but Alexia Putellas has the silverware to back that up, having won the last two Ballon d’Or Féminin awards.

With Barcelona, Alexia 18 major trophies including two Champions Leagues, scoring in the 2021 final win and coming off the bench in June’s final, in which Barça came from 2-0 down to beat Wolfsburg.

The latter was one of just six club appearances she made all season, after heartbreakingly rupturing her ACL the day before Spain’s Euro 2022 opener a year ago.

So, this’ll be the first time Putellas gets to play at a major tournament since Spain emerged as serious contenders in the last couple of years.

Alexia will be found in midfield, alongside club teammate Aitana Bonmatí, who’s also excellent by the way, joining attacks and chipping in with plenty of goals.

Alessia Russo – England

England have plenty of world-class operators in their squad and, while Alessia Russo isn’t there just yet, she’ll be hoping to take her game to that next level at this tournament.

At last summer’s European Championships, that the Lionesses won of course, Russo came off the bench in all six matches around the hour mark, after the now retired Ellen White had worn down the opposition defence.

Now, Russo is vying for a starting spot with Rachel Daly, who was deployed at left-back during the Euros, but was the top-scorer in the FAWSL last season, leading the line for Aston Villa.

So, Russo isn’t even a guaranteed starter in Sarina Wiegman’s team, but she is certainly a key player.

Earlier this month, the 24-year-old swapped Manchester United for Arsenal on a free transfer, ending months of speculation around her club future.

For England, Russo has scored 11 times in just 22 caps, famously firing home a back-heal against Sweden last summer, most-recently on target against Korea Republic in February.

This is an impressive record, but Russo is more of a facilitator than a goal-poacher, which could be ideal for Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly, Lauren James and Ella Toone, who will all be looking to play-off a centre-forward.

Wendie Renard – France

It’s not all about strikers and attackers; let’s show some love for all the defenders out there!

When it comes to centre-back, very few can claim to have been as good as consistently for as long as Wendie Renard.

She is a one-club player, having spent her entire career at Olympique Lyonnais, winning 34 major honours since her debut in 2006, including the Champions League a ridiculous eight times.

For les Bleues, Renard is their most-capped player of all-time, scoring 34 times in 145 appearances, which isn’t bad for a defender.

At 187cms (6 ft 2 in) tall, Renard is dominant in the air in both boxes, so expect her to bully centre-forwards, and chip in with a headed goal or two.

Sara Däbritz – Germany

Midfield is certainly the strongest section of Germany’s team, thanks in no small part to Sara Däbritz.

Alongside Lena Oberdorf and Lina Magull, this midfield trio at Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s disposal might just be the best of any team at this competition.

For Däbritz herself, she’s represented three of Europe’s biggest clubs, Bayern Munich, PSG and now Lyon, winning Euro 2013 and Olympic Gold in 2016 with Germany, now looking to complete the set.

The 28-year-old is a goal-scorer from midfield, whilst her stats are also off the scale for progressive carries, shot-creating actions and successful take-ons.

Christine Sinclair – Canada

You’ve now entered the absolute legends section of this article, with the next two players in this listicle very much deserving of that tag.

Christine Sinclair is the most-capped player, male of female, in the history of football, set to win her 324th cap at this tournament, having netted a frankly ridiculous 190 goals for Canada already.

Assuming the 40-year-old features, she’ll appear at a seventh edition of the World Cup, aiming to become the first player of any gender to score at six different World Cups.

Despite her age, Sinclair remains les Rouges’ primary attacking threat, nominally deployed as the number nine but she will drop deep, with Jordyn Huitema, Adriana Leon and others bursting in behind from wide positions.

This’ll be her World Cup farewell, although with Christine Sinclair you can never say that for sure, so can she break records and lead Canada to glory?

Marta – Brazil

Marta too will join Sinclair in featuring at a sixth World Cup, with fellow-Brazilian Formiga the only player to have appeared at seven.

Now 37, Marta was the face of women’s football long before the recent boom, representing clubs in Brazil, Sweden and USA, whilst scoring 115 times in 175 caps for the Seleção.

She was the top-scorer at the 2011 World Cup with seven, winning the player of the tournament award the the golden boot, but not the trophy, with Brazil beaten 2-0 in the final by Germany.

It seems unlikely that the Copa América champions will get that far this summer, but Marta could still break plenty of records and is always worth watching.

Caroline Graham Hansen – Norway

Norway are one of just four nations to have won the World Cup before (USA, Germany & Japan the others) and their hopes of repeating that rest on the shoulders of two superstar attackers.

Ada Hegerberg is their most-recognisable figure, as the inaugural Ballon d’Or Féminin winner in 2018, but Caroline Graham Hansen comes into this World Cup in better form.

The 28-year-old is undeniably one of the best wingers in the world, having been a key figure for an all-conquering Barcelona team for years, starting June’s Champions League Final win.

Graham Hansen’s dribbling statistics are off the scale, making her not only one of the best, but one of the most exhilarating players to watch.

Fridolina Rolfö – Sweden

Sweden are one of the favourites to win this World Cup, but trying to pick their outstanding player is very tough.

We’ve gone with another Barcelona star, Fridolina Rolfö, who’s already picked up two Olympic silvers with her country and a World Cup bronze, still searching for that illusive first gold.

Rolfö did win the Champions League for the first time this summer, featuring in a third final, and she was the one who scored the winning goal for Barça in Eindhoven.

For the Blågult, she’s set to lead the line, with an array of excellent attackers set to be deployed in-behind.

Women’s World Cup 2023 full fixture list & schedule

Note: times shown are BST

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Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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