While the average football fan might be able list a dozen names of male superstars in their sleep, they’d likely find a surplus of fingers counting the women players they know.
Women’s football isn’t considered glamorous like the men’s game which is inundated with ludicrous transfer fees, advertising contracts, and salaries, creating mega stars recognizable all over the world. Instead, their salaries are small (and so are their winnings — $2million to the winning team as opposed to $35million for the men), leaving their commitments to their careers hinging purely on their love for the game.
Bereft of overrated talent disconnected from reality, women’s football is filled with thoroughly likeable characters and fewer instances of diving and play acting. As the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off on 8 June, with France playing South Korea, here are a few players to keep an eye out for.
Alex Morgan – The Veteran
Morgan’s name is familiar to the most casual of women’s football followers, often being mentioned in the context of ‘all time greats’. The American superstar spearheads the attack for the defending champions and odds-on favorites to win; Morgan’s own run of form — scoring 28 times in her past 33 caps — playing no small factor in the bookies’ reckoning. Fearlessly aggressive at the goalmouth and deft with both feet, the world will be watching closely as she takes the stage in her third World Cup.
Mana Iwabuchi – The Rising Star
Japan enter the 2019 world cup with a chance of making it to 3 finals in as many tournaments, along with defending champions USA. At only 26, Mana Iwabuchi, Japan’s star forward, plays in her third World Cup this year and has already tasted victory in 2011. Like their male counterparts, the Japanese women’s team is among Asia’s most prolific, making up for their smaller physical stature by technically outworking their opponents – something Iwabuchi would be all too familiar with as a 5’1.5” forward. Japan come to the tournament on the back of their AFC Women’s Asian Cup victory, in which Iwabuchi played full-time in all of Japan’s matches and scored 2 goals.
Lieke Martens – The Golden Girl
Since participating in the previous World Cup in Canada — their first ever — the Leeuwinnen have seen a surge in successes and it didn’t come by chance. This ascent that has coincided with the rise of a generation of strong footballers, embodied perfectly by their 26 year old playmaker Lieke Martens. The midfielder inspired her team to victory in the 2017 UEFA European Championship and the 2018 Algarve Cup, winning the Golden Ball in the former and being named Player of the Year in 2017. Martens scored the Netherlands’ first ever World Cup goal in Canada-2015 where the team made it to the round of 16 – a performance they will be keen to better this time around.
Samantha Kerr – The Maverick
Headers, volleys, strikes, tap-ins… you name it, Sam Kerr’s probably scored it. The versatile Australian has gone on to win the Golden Boot in the past two editions of the NWSL (Australian League) and was even named the Best International Female Footballer at the ESPY Awards in 2018.
Considered one of the most lethal strikers in the game alongside Ada Hegerberg, the latter’s noted absence will leave spectators looking to Kerr for the fireworks.
With the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg sitting out the World Cup, Kerr could be potentially be the most lethal striker on showing.
Having advanced to the quarter finals in the previous three editions, the Matildas will be looking for that elusive semi-final berth this time around and it’s sure to make for great viewing.
Jordyn Huitema – the Rookie
When Canada hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2015, Jordyn Huitema was only 14 years old, but already a champion, having won the U-15 CONCAF Cup the previous year. She made her international debut in 2017, when Canada played the Algarve Cup and impressed, in their run to second place in the senior CONCAF Cup in 2018. With 6 goals in 16 matches, the lanky forward’s pace and footballing instincts will add teeth to a Canada team that’s going from strength to strength.
As the Women’s World Cup kicks off, France is set to turn festive, with rallies and events such as the Festival of Football being held all across the nation. The tournament promises to crown new heroes and provoke many inspiring stories and we cannot wait!
Isaac is currently in the middle of an existential crisis, contemplating the profound and profane in equal earnest.