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FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, news, best players, who to watch, young stars, Sam Kerr, Megan Rapinoe, Alexia Putellas, Keira Walsh

736 players will compete in the Women’s World Cup 2023, which begins this Thursday in New Zealand and Australia – and there’s no shortage of superstars.

We’ve picked out ten players that could light up the tournament, from young stars set to explode onto the world stage to legends of the game who have dominated the game for decades.

And we’ve restricted it to just one player per nation, so we’re not just writing about our awesome Aussies!

WOMEN’S WORLD CUP PREVIEW PODCASTS – LISTEN NOW!

PART ONE: Preview of EVERY group and which players could catch your eye

PART TWO: Three burning Matildas questions and why their Group B rivals are a threat

Matildas set up camp at Brisbane base | 01:34

THE COMPLETE PREVIEW

EVERY SQUAD: 736 players, one trophy — Every World Cup squad locked in

MATILDAS SQUAD: What you need to know about every Aussie

MONTH OF MADNESS: All 64 World Cup fixtures and full Matildas schedule

FULL PREVIEW: Every team and every group explained!

Alexia Putellas (Spain)

The 29-year-old attacking midfielder is considered by many to be the best women’s footballer in the world.

Winner of the Women’s Ballon d’Or in each of the last two years, in February she retained her crown as The Best FIFA’s Women’s Player for 2022, despite missing the second half of the year with a serious knee injury.

Barcelona star Putellas is the first woman to reach 100 caps for Spain and they badly missed her creativity and goals at the 2022 European Championship, where they lost to eventual champions England in the quarter-finals.

Putellas was among the Spanish players demanding change within the national side, but did not join in with 15 players who last year asked not to be called up, amid differences with coach Jorge Vilda and the Spanish football federation.

Sam Kerr (Australia)

We’d be crazy not to include her.

If the co-hosts are to go far at the World Cup they will need Chelsea forward Kerr firing on all cylinders.

The 29-year-old Australia skipper made her international debut aged just 15 and has played over 120 times for her country, averaging a goal every other game. She scored five times at the 2019 World Cup.

Her numbers are just as impressive at Chelsea, hitting 29 goals in 38 appearances this season.

Kerr is such a big name at home that she was Australia’s flag-bearer at the coronation of King Charles.

Ange’s first press conference for Spurs | 28:48

Megan Rapinoe (United States)

She needs little introduction as the most instantly recognisable player in women’s football.

The attacker has played 199 times for the United States, scoring 63 goals and making 73 assists. She has won the World Cup twice and Olympic gold in 2012, as well as the Ballon d’Or Feminin as the best player in women’s football.

Now Rapinoe plays in the United States for OL Reign.

She is set for retirement at the end of this season and is something of a fading force at 38, but she remains the face of women’s football for the casual fan.

Off the field, the openly gay Rapinoe is outspoken on a number of issues that go beyond sport, including advocating for LGBTQ rights and equal pay for women.

That saw her earn the USA’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Rapinoe is one of women’s football’s most recognisable stars.
Rapinoe is one of women’s football’s most recognisable stars.Source: AFP

Keira Walsh (England)

England’s hopes of winning the World Cup for the first time have taken a hit with the injury loss of several key players, putting even more onus on midfielder Walsh.

Barcelona snapped her up from Manchester City for a reported 400,000 pounds last September, a world record for a woman footballer.

With her passing, reading of the game and ability to win the ball back, Walsh was instrumental in Sarina Wiegman’s England winning the Euro on home soil in 2022.

She was named player of the match when England defeated Germany 2-1 in the final at Wembley in extra time.

Ada Hegerberg (Norway)

The Norwegian was the first winner of the Women’s Ballon d’Or, in 2018, and is a prolific striker with leading French side Lyon.

Her Norway career has been stop-start, however. She withdrew from the international scene in 2017, citing concerns over the inequality of treatment given to men’s and women’s teams by the Norwegian federation. She only returned last year.

The 28-year-old forward has also been dogged by injuries.

But when on form and firing she is one of the best players in the world, and averages more than a goal a game for her club.

She is the all-time top scorer in the UEFA Women’s Champions League with 59 goals.

Marta (Brazil)

A legend of the game and firmly in the conversation for the greatest player of all time, the 37-year-old is heading to her sixth World Cup.

In 2019 she became the first player – men’s or women’s – to score in five different World Cups, something which was matched later that tournament by Canada’s Christine Sinclair, who is also appearing at this tournament.

Cristiano Ronaldo subsequently reached that incredible mark in 2022 in Qatar, but no-one can match Marta’s record of 17 World Cup goals.

She had a season-ending ACL injury in 2022 but is back to guide a young Brazil team still searching for their first World Cup triumph.

Marta has recovered from a horror injury to reach her sixth tournament.Source: AFP

Khadija Shaw (Jamaica)

31 goals in 30 games for Manchester City last season has Shaw, known as ‘Bunny’, ready for a breakout World Cup campaign.

Shaw played every minute of Jamaica’s maiden World Cup campaign in 2019 despite an injury that saw her perform well below her best. This time around, she’s out to lead the underdog ‘Reggae Girlz’ to some big upsets in a group featuring France and Brazil.

With a nickname ‘Bunny’ was given to her by her brother, Shaw will be key for Jamaica – both with her goalscoring nous and her work off the ball drawing defenders with her to create space for teammates.

At just 26, she is Jamaica’s all-time top scorer for men’s or women’s football with 56.

Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria)

If there’s one player the Matildas must be wary of when they face Nigeria in the Group Stage, it’s Oshoala.

The 28-year-old is a five-time African player of the year and also became the first African to be nominated for the Ballon d’Or Feminin.

That’s not her only slice of history.

The Barcelona striker won the Women’s Champions League in 2021 – becoming the first African player to do so – before repeating the feat this year, despite missing out on the final due to injury.

That was after moving to Liverpool in 2015 then Arsenal, making her the first African player in England’s top flight.

She struck 21 goals in 28 league games for Barcelona this season and five in nine in the Champions League, and scored for Nigeria at the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.

With over 100 goals in four seasons at Barca, the goalscoring machine will be a huge concern for the Australian defence.

Linda Caicedo (Colombia)

There are plenty of incredibly talented teenagers at this World Cup – four 16-year-olds, three 17-year-olds, and a full dozen 18-year-olds. But arguably the most promising of the lot is Caicedo.

Her first coach, Diego Vasquez, recently told AFP she is: “one of those people touched by God, who were born for this.”

It was clear from a young age that Caicedo was a prodigy. As a 14-year-old she debuted for Colombian team America de Cali – yes, the senior team. She topscored in that maiden season in 2019 and helped the club win their very first league title.

She debuted for the national team that same year, and has since soared into prominence as one of South America’s most talented players of any age.

Caicedo’s last 12 months have been simply incredible, playing at the U17 World Cup, U20 World Cup and for the senior team in the Copa America.

She scored an equal-best four goals at the U17 tournament and was awarded the Silver Ball as the tournament’s second-best player after captaining the team to Colombia’s first-ever final in a World Cup (any age, men’s or women’s).

At the Copa America, she guided Colombia to an incredible runners-up finish to Brazil, scoring the winner against Argentina in the semi-final, and was awarded Player of the Tournament as a 17-year-old.

She sealed a move to Real Madrid in January, but there’s plenty more to come from a young star who thought her career was finished after being diagnosed with cancer as a 15-year-old.

Colombia’s Linda Caicedo is a lightning rod for her national team.Source: AFP

Alexandra Popp (Germany)

Germany is the only team outside of the US to have won more than a single World Cup, but the world number two side is somewhat flying under the radar ahead of this tournament, with Euros winners England viewed as second-favourites behind the American juggernaut.

But Popp is a genuine superstar and is out to deliver Germany a first World Cup since they went back-to-back in 2003 and 07.

Popp is a sensational striker, physical and hardworking as well as clinical in front of goal, but can also play as a midfielder.

She captained Wolfsburg to the domestic double this season – her SEVENTH league title in Germany – and took them to the Champions League final against Barcelona.

Germany might have a young team, but Popp has the experience and a stacked trophy cabinet to boot: Olympic gold, Champions League winner, Euros runner-up, and of course the seven women’s Bundesliga titles.

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