2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: USWNT’s Sophia Smith leads list of 10 players to watch ahead of Thursday kickoff

2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: USWNT’s Sophia Smith leads list of 10 players to watch ahead of Thursday kickoff

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2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: USWNT’s Sophia Smith leads list of 10 players to watch ahead of Thursday kickoff

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The most competitive Women’s World Cup yet is set to kick off on Thursday. It’s also poised to be an ideal stage for some of the world’s best players to show off their skills. From newcomers ready for a breakout tournament to veterans who hope to play their best during the prime of their careers, here’s a look at which players are expected to make a name for themselves in Australia and New Zealand.

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Sophia Smith

USA • F • #11

ClubPortland Thorns

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Smith may be a World Cup newcomer, but she’s expected to skip past the learning curve as one of the U.S. women’s national team’s undisputed starters in attack. The 22-year-old forward steadily earned a starting spot over the last year after impressing for club and country, and is on a hot streak — Smith has 10 goals and five assists for the Portland Thorns so far this season.

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Sam Kerr

OFF • F • #20

All eyes will be on Kerr, who hopes to continue her reputation as one of the best goalscorers in the world at a World Cup on home soil. The 30-year-old is coming off a 29 goal season across all competitions for Chelsea and will be the make-or-break factor for the co-hosts, who are considered a dark horse contender to win the whole thing.

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While Marta embarks on her World Cup swan song and a crop of rising talent hope to break out, this tournament is Debinha’s time to shine. The versatile forward can be counted on for goals and stylish plays, which will make her one of the most entertaining players to watch at the World Cup. The 31-year-old will be crucial to Brazil’s chances as they aim to improve upon Round of 16 exits in 2015 and 2019, and potentially win their first World Cup.

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Lena Oberdorf

GER • M • #6

The two-time World Cup winners spent the last four years refreshing their squad, with Oberdorf leading the new guard. The 21-year-old defensive midfielder skillfully disrupts opposition play and boasts an impressive ability to read the game, which will serve Germany well as they chase another title. Oberdorf also boasts plenty of experience at the highest levels of the game, too — she was on Germany’s 2019 World Cup team and 2022 Women’s Euro squad.

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Walsh is flying high since Barcelona signed her for a record transfer fee last summer, and is quickly developing a reputation as one of the game’s best central midfielders. The tactically proficient 26-year-old is skilled both in defense and attack, which arguably makes her England’s most important player at the World Cup.

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Alexia Putellas

ESP • M

Putellas has won the last two Ballon d’Or awards and is indisputably one of the best attacking midfielders in the world, but has spent much of the last year recovering from an ACL tear. She only returned to play in April, so fitness is a concern for her and Spain, but if she is ready to go, she will be a force to be reckoned with. If not, expect Aitana Bonmati to pick up some of the slack, much like she did for Barcelona last season.

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Barbra Banda

ZAM • F

ClubShanghai Shengli

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The Zambian forward dazzled at the Tokyo Olympics when she became the first woman in the tournament’s history to score back-to-back hattricks, and seems poised to give her opponents a run for their money yet again. Just take a look at recent results: she scored twice as Zambia picked up a shock 3-2 win over Germany earlier this month.

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Ada Hegerberg

NOR • F • #14

After skipping the 2019 World Cup while fighting for equal treatment from Norway’s FA, the star forward returned to the fold before the 2022 Women’s Euro. She will be eager to score at this World Cup after failing to do so at last year’s tournament when Norway was eliminated in the group stage, as will teammate Caroline Graham Hansen.

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Yui Hasegawa

JPN • M

ClubManchester City

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The creatively-minded Hasegawa has exactly what a team looks for in an attacking midfielder, and boasts experience on a Japan team full of young talent. If the 2011 champions make a deep run Down Under, Hasegawa will most likely be the on-field leader that will help Japan re-emerge on the world’s biggest stage.

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Kadidiatou Diani

OFF • F

ClubParis Saint Germain

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France has only had three months to work with new coach Herve Renard, who replaced Corinne Diacre after Diani and two of her teammates criticized Diacre and the federation for a lack of professionalism. The forward’s recent form, though, will serve as a nice building block as Renard aims high with a talented France team — she scored 30 league goals for Paris Saint-Germain last season, and is skilled both as a winger and a center forward.



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2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: USWNT’s Sophia Smith leads list of 10 players to watch ahead of Thursday kickoff

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