The Fifa Women’s World Cup has just speeded by: it seems like it kicked off just last week, but we are already in the semi-finals. While Spain emerged victorious in the first of those, reigning European champions England take on the hosts Australia in Sydney today. The winners will meet in the final on Sunday, and you can catch the matches live on DD Sports on the telly and also stream it on FanCode.
This World Cup has been phenomenal for the women’s game. Not only has it broken attendance records but also broadcasting ones, with a record number of people watching the game on television or on streaming services. It has also witnessed the highest number of goals ever in the history of the competition, and the standards the women are setting have shattered all previous peaks. While every footballer and fan who showed up has done their bit for the beautiful game, five footballers stand out in particular when it comes to leading the charge for women’s football in this tournament.
Linda Caicedo, 18, Colombia: Colombia’s historic charge to the quarter-finals was led by the teenager Linda Caicedo, who plays club football with Real Madrid in Spain. Colombia, the lowest ranked team in the last eight, eventually lost to England but not before dumping out the mighty Germans by beating them 2-1. The opening goal, curled into the far corner by Caicedo, was a thing of beauty and is easily among the pick of the goals of the tournament. It is not her just finishing skills that terrifies defenders. She is fast, can run at defenders with the ball, has fast feet and is capable of quick change of directions that can leave defenders trailing in her wake. She is only 18 and will grow and become stronger and more skillful. That is an exciting prospect for women’s football.
Mary Fowler, 20, Australia: Mary Fowler was also eligible to play for Ireland, but she chose Australia, and the Aussies have made full use of the forward’s talents. Fowler has been a star in a team that lost its biggest talisman Sam Kerr to a calf injury just before the tournament kicked off. She played football on the beach with her brothers to entertain herself, while growing up in western Australia, because the family didn’t have a TV. She made her debut for Australia as a 15-year-old against Brazil, and despite not being a household name, she plays for the star-studded Manchester City in the Women’s Super League (WSL), where her opportunities have been limited. However, with the dribbling skills, the defence-splitting passes and a good shooting radar, that she has shown in the tournament, she is likely to start more often in the upcoming WSL season. She is a team player, goes about her business quietly and doesn’t shun her defensive duties either.
Hinata Miyazawa, 23, Japan: Japan were on a roll in the group stages and made easy work of Norway in their Round of 16 match. By then, Miyazawa had announced herself loud and clear with five goals and one assist. The midfielder, who loves running in from the flanks with devastating speed, especially during counter-attacks, completely destroyed Spain in their last group game. Miyazawa is a member of Japan’s Under-18 World Cup winning squad and plays in the local WE League. Before this tournament, she had flown under the radar, partly because Japanese football doesn’t have a global following. All that hardly matters now, as the 23-year-old is leading the Golden Boot race and might just end up winning it.
Daphne van Domselaar, 23, The Netherlands: At the Euros last year, Domselaar was the back-up goalie who was thrown into the deep end after the first choice goalkeeper got injured during a game. Since then, van Domselaar has made the position her own. While the Dutch had a good run at the World Cup, scoring plenty of goals and reaching the quarter-finals, they were often saved their defensive blushes by their young goalie’s brilliance. She is a great shot stopper, but is also confident with the ball at her feet, attributes that make her the quintessential modern goalkeeper. She was especially brilliant in the Round of 16, where she single-handedly shut South Africa out, for the entire game. She is switching from the Dutch club FC Twente to Aston Villa in the WSL this season. Typically, goalies peak later and play longer, so she can very well feature in four more World Cups.
Lauren James, 21, England: Chelsea and England footballer Reece James’ baby sister, Lauren James has now firmly stamped her name across the football world, not least because of her straight red during the Round of 16 game against Nigeria. Although she was suspended from the quarter-finals and will also sit out the semis, James has already done her bit by scoring three stunning goals, and creating another three for the Lionesses. James made her league debut for Arsenal at the age of 15, and has also played for Manchester United, and now Chelsea. An extremely talented footballer, if England win today, she will certainly start the final.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.