The 2019 Women’s World Cup begins tomorrow, and we are fired up about it. We’ve looked at all 24 teams in the tournament already, so it’s time to dig down and identify the ten most important players in this World Cup.
Note the word “important” here. These are all great players on this list, ten of the very best alive, but they are ranked not only by their skill but by their importance to the team. Roughly: How would the team fare without them? Can anyone approximate what they do?
I’ve also limited it to one player from each team for this list, mostly to give people some looks at people from different nations, and also because it’s a made-up list, and who really cares?
Let’s get to it:
10. Wang Shuang, China
China didn’t qualify for the World Cup in 2011, but other than that blip, they’ve made at least the quarterfinal in every World Cup over the last two decades, including the final in 1999, when they memorably lost to the USWNT. This team plays well at this tournament, and while they’re young and don’t have the attention of some of the other squads, they do have Wang Shuang, a creative midfielder who plays her club ball for PSG, and scores bangers.
9. Kim Little, Scotland
Scotland has not traditionally had a great soccer team. They were longshots for even qualifying for this tournament, but now they’re here, and that means we get to see Kim Little. She’s dominated in NWSL, she’s dominated in FA Women’s National League, and if Scotland does anything this tournament, it will be with Little pulling the strings.
8. Lucy Bronze, England
Lucy Bronze is England’s best player, though it’s unclear if she’ll play her preferred right back position or central midfield for England at this World Cup. Wherever she is, England will be relying on her to create chances and shut down opponents.
7. Christine Sinclair, Canada
Sinclair is 36, and doesn’t have the trophy cabinet of some of the other players on this list. But she just keeps scoring goals for Canada, something she’s done for years and years. She may not be able to beat defenders with pace anymore, but she’s still a beautiful passer of the ball, and takes every chance that comes her way.
6. Saki Kumagai, Japan
Saki Kumagai will most likely anchor Japan’s back line in this World Cup, and is easily her team’s leader and most important player. She’s also played in the midfield, but the team will need her to keep things organized, and she should be able to make some incisive passes from deep.
5. Tobin Heath, United States
Tobin Heath is at five on this list just because she’s surrounded by so much talent, and the USWNT has several players who could come fill in for her and do a good job. But not as good a job. Heath has progressed from a tricky technical player to one of the most devastating attackers in world soccer.
4.Lieke Martens, Netherlands
Netherlands are good, and Lieke Martens is their most important player. The former FIFA World Player of the year is now running the show for Barcelona. She loves to operate in a left wing role, where she can beat people to the touch line or — her specialty — cut in and score at will.
3. Dzsenifer Marozsán, Germany
Marozsán might be my favorite player to watch. A gifted #10, I give her one of my top compliments I give to soccer players: She isn’t afraid to try s@#%. Incisive passes, beautiful touches, a flair for the dramatic, Marozsán provides Germany a creative spark that can break a game wide open.
2. Sam Kerr, Australia
Kerr just scores goals. Everywhere she goes. Against anyone. At rates that are kind of preposterous. Australia doesn’t have a ton of talent outside of their front line, but with Kerr and teammate Caitlin Foord, I say without hesitation: They can score against anyone. Without Kerr in the team, I don’t think Australia gets out of the group. With her in the team, they could make a final.
1. Wendie Renard, France
Kerr may be more important to her squad than Wendie Renard, but I’m not sure one player has more on her shoulders entering this tournament. France is the host nation, and Renard is their most important player. A 6’2″ center back, Renard is just as dangerous scoring goals off set pieces as she is at shutting down opposing attackers. She will be tasked with providing on both ends, and if she’s playing at the top of her game, France could lift the trophy at home.