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2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Six players to watch

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup gets underway in Australia and New Zealand this month, with the world set to tune in for what promises to be a competitive tournament down under.

The USA will be targeting a third consecutive triumph and record-extending fifth crown, but will face strong challenges from nations including England – buoyed by European Championship success last summer – Spain and Germany.

Ahead of the tournament’s kick-off on July 20, we’ve profiled six players to watch out for.

Alexia Putellas – Spain

Putellas is arguably the finest footballer in the women’s game right now and has recovered from an ACL injury in time to form part of Spain’s challenge at the 2023 World Cup.

The 29-year-old became the first footballer to win the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Award, the Ballon d’Or Féminin, and The Best FIFA Women’s Player in the same season in 2021, before repeating the achievement the following year.

No player had previously won any of the individual accolades in successive years, before Putellas’ performances for Barcelona earned her an iconic hat-trick in consecutive campaigns.

The midfielder’s knee injury saw her miss the majority of Barcelona’s treble-winning season last term, but having returned to club action in April she will hope to have found enough fitness and rhythm to star at the World Cup. Spain’s record appearance maker, she could be decisive as La Roja look to be crowned world champions for the first time.

Sam Kerr – Australia

Australia’s hopes will be largely pinned on the performances of Sam Kerr after the forward’s fine season for Chelsea.

Kerr will captain the co-hosts at the World Cup after another season of goalscoring excellence for the Women’s Super League champions. The 29-year-old scored 29 goals in all competitions as Chelsea won the title for a fourth consecutive campaign, before adding the FA Cup to secure a domestic double.

Her record now stands at an outstanding 90 goals in 116 games for the west Londoners, a return which underlines her standing as one of the game’s greatest goalscorers. The Matildas’ record scorer with 62 international goals, Kerr will need a strong tournament if Australia are to reach the latter stages on home soil.

Alex Morgan – USA

Alex Morgan might have reached the latter stages of an illustrious career but the USA forward remains an effective weapon for the world champions.

Morgan has scored 121 goals in 207 appearances for the national side and will arrive in Australia and New Zealand after a strong 2022 season for San Diego Wave. The 34-year-old scored 20 goals in 25 games during the expansion side’s debut campaign in the National Women’s Soccer League and has five in 11 in 2023 to date.

Her experience and goal threat will be crucial in the absence of the injured Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario, as Morgan prepares for her fourth World Cup alongside Megan Rapinoe. That duo tied for six goals during the USA’s 2019 triumph.

Kiera Walsh – England

Kiera Walsh was a contender for the Player of the Tournament award as England’s Lionesses were crowned champions of Europe last summer, missing out on the accolade to team-mate Beth Mead.

Mead’s absence for the World Cup will make Walsh’s performance even more important this summer, as the 26-year-old looks to build on a treble-winning debut season at Barcelona.

The defensive midfielder will be one of the first names on the team sheet for Sarina Wiegman’s side, who will be quietly confident of success. England set a number of records on route to winning the Euros last summer, including for most goals scored (22) at a finals and biggest win (8-0 against Norway).

England have the firepower to challenge for a first World Cup success, but Walsh’s screening of the backline and assurance in possession will be just as key.

Ada Hegerberg – Norway

Ada Hegerberg will return to the world stage after ending her self-imposed exile from international football last year.

Hegerberg is one of the finest forwards in the game and was the first recipient of the Ballon d’Or Féminin in 2018, but called time on her international career in 2017 over her disillusion with the treatment of the women’s game by the Norwegian Football Federation.

The 28-year-old returned last year and marked her first game back with a hat-trick, since extending her international record for Norway to 43 goals in 76 games.

A six-time winner of the UEFA Women’s Champions League and the competition’s all-time record scorer with 59 goals, her return dramatically improves Norwegian hopes of bouncing back from a disappointing Euro 2022.

Khadija Shaw – Jamaica

Jamaica will start as rank outsiders on their second appearance at the Women’s World Cup, but in Khadija Shaw boast a talent capable of making her mark at the finals.

Shaw has had a sensational season at Manchester City to score 31 goals in all competitions, earning the club’s Player of the Season accolade and extending her record in English football to 50 goals in 58 games.

Affectionately nicknamed “bunny”, the 26-year-old is Jamaica’s all-time leading scorer with an absurd record on the international stage. She has 56 goals in just 38 caps and will arrive at the World Cup as one of the form players, after netting 13 in her last nine games for the Reggae Girlz.

The level of competition will be significantly increased in Australia and New Zealand from CONCACAF qualification, but Shaw will be confident she can mix it with the best this summer.

Read – Eight brilliant players who played for AC Milan and Chelsea

Read Also – Six Premier League players who need to kick on this season

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