Ten Players to Watch at the Women’s World Cup
Updated: Jan 1
Kicking off in just a few days, the 2019 Women’s World Cup features the deepest and most impressive field that we have ever seen. There are too many great players to count. Hopefully, you’ve read some previews of the big names, especially this fantastic one from Kim McCauley and the team at SB Nation. Those lists are full of players who will be the defining factor for their team–players like Sam Kerr, Christine Sinclair, Dzsenifer Marozsán, Asisat Oshoala, and so on.
But there are a whole lot of players that won’t necessarily show up at the top of those lists, but who will still be critical contributors. I want to identify some of those names: the players who probably are not the key contributor for their team, but who still deserve a fair share of attention.
Ashley Lawrence (Canada)
Canada’s Swiss army knife can play virtually anywhere and make a real difference. She has most commonly been used as a fullback, a role which highlights her defensive abilities and exceptional workrate. But she can also play as a wingback or wide midfielder, with more license to drift inward and playmake. And at times she even slots as a pure central attacker. That sort of flexibility is critical to a Canada team that strives for maximal tactical flexibility, often switching formations in midstream. With Lawrence able to move so freely into what role is needed, she gives them maximal capacity to adapt to circumstances without having to make a substitution.
Jennifer Beattie (Scotland)
Beattie will work with Rachel Corsie to form one of the most dependable central defensive pairings in the whole tournament. In addition to her stalwart defensive capabilities, Beattie may be even more important for her ability to play as a ‘modern’ center back. Her skill on the ball will allow Scotland to play a more expansive and possession-oriented game, and could be the key to getting their excellent attackers the time and space they need to work their magic.
Fran Kirby (England)
Kirby is a mercurial player, who often seems to drift out of games, and can be frustrating for fans to watch. But she’s also one of the smartest readers of the game in world soccer—a purveyor of impossible through balls and clever slipped passes, who pops up when you’ve almost forgotten about her, turns on a dime and settles the ball into the far corner. Against teams who will give them some space to play, Kirby could be the key difference-maker for England.
Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)
Sauerbrunn is opposite of a flashy player, with her strongest defensive skill being simple positional awareness. She rarely goes in for a last-ditch tackle because she’s already waiting there when the attack arrives. Her mission is to close things down before they ever have a chance to develop. On a team overloaded with attacking players, her ability to hold the defense together will be essential if they hope to make a deep run. She won’t get one-tenth of the coverage that some other US players will receive, but there might be no single player who is more critical to the team’s success than Sauerbrunn.
Sara Däbritz (Germany)
Always a wonderful playmaker, Däbrtiz has increasingly added goal-scoring to her arsenal, and has also developed into a far more physically resilient player. She’s got one of the best left foots in the game, and is coming off the best season of her career at Bayern Munich. She’s also just completed a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain for the upcoming season, which suggests a player ready to challenge herself at another level. Dzsenifer Marozsán deservedly gets all the headlines, but in Däbritz Germany have a second world-class midfielder, one who often flies unjustifiably under the radar for international audiences. But that may be about to change.
Alexia Putellas (Spain)
Putellas is one of those players who sees angles that no one else can find, weaving passes through gaps the size of a postage stamp. If Spain live up to their ‘dark horse’ potential in this tournament, Jenni Hermoso will likely be the one scoring the goals that help them get there. But Putellas will be the one further back, orchestrating the symphony that helps it all come together.
Konya Plummer (Jamaica)
The biggest story on this Jamaica team is Khadija Shaw. And for good reason. She’s a generational talent, and has every chance to become one of the great strikers in the game. But don’t sleep on Konya Plummer. Jamaica’s captain at the ripe old age of 21, Plummer is an excellent defender—a good ball-winner and a sturdy presence in the air—and will play a huge role in organizing the Jamaica defense. For a team that will likely spend much of the tournament without the ball, that may be the single most important role.
Lina Hurtig (Sweden)
It’s not even certain that she’ll be able to play significant minutes, since she has struggled constantly with injuries. But if healthy, Hurtig might be the difference-maker. Sweden have long needed a creative wide player who can stretch the opposition and develop more sophisticated attacks. That’s Hurtig. If they get the best from her, they will likely also get much more from their strikers, helping provide the goals that might otherwise be in short supply.
Delphine Cascarino (France)
With less than a dozen caps, Cascarino is a relative newcomer to the French team, but she has already made a huge impression. The Lyon striker is coming off a breakout season with the best club team in the world, and has been able to parlay that into significant time with her country as well. Attacking from the wing, she brings pace and technical ability, as well as a clinical ability to put away chances. France is spoiled for options in the attack, but it certainly seems like Corinne Diacre will call on Cascarino quite a bit.
Yui Hasegawa (Japan)
Japan won the 2011 tournament and reached the final in 2015, but they’ve spent the past few years undertaking a significant overhaul. The youth revolution has left Japan looking far weaker that you’d expect from a World Cup finalist, but it has also breathed new life into the team. At just 22, Hasegawa has no experience with the great Japan teams of previous tournaments, but will also not weighed down by those expectations. Like most Japanese players, she is skillful on the ball. But unlike many of her compatriots, she also has a sharp cutting edge, and may provide some of the directness that Japan sometimes lacks.