So, we’ve come to the end of the group stages at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Who seems to be enjoying themselves? Who’s stood out so far? Here’s one take on some of the stand-out performers so far in the competition, built into a fictional starting eleven. There are also some ‘shout outs’ to players who would be vying for a place on the bench of this round one Super-team.
GOALKEEPER – Christiane Endler, Chile
Chile were not expected to do well at the tournament, but Endler has been exceptional in goal for her country, keeping a below-par Sweden at bay for 80 minutes before going up against tournament favourites USA where she was outstanding. The PSG stopper has made every type of save in the book, demonstrating agility, bravery and great anticipation. There are higher rated international keepers who haven’t yet had much to do in France. Christiane has been VERY busy, behind an inexperienced backline at this level, and has left the world in no doubt about her quality.
Just ahead of: Vanina Correa, ARG / Peng Shimeng, CHN / Laura Giuliani, ITA
RIGHT FULL BACK – Ellie Carpenter, Australia
At just 19-years old Ellie Carpenter has announced herself on the world stage with a string of dynamic performances down the Matildas right wing. She’s a terrific athlete with pace that frightens opponents at one end of the pitch yet allows her to recover ground if her winger slips away from her at the other. She gives her team great attacking options, offering quick passing exchanges with the midfield to move defenders around, or to head for the by-line to provide Sam Kerr and co. with fizzing crosses.
Just ahead of: Marion Torrent, FRA / Kelley O’Hara, USA / Ashley Lawrence, CAN
LEFT FULL BACK – Giulia Gwinn, Germany
The SC Freiburg midfield has belied her 19 years and limited international experience with excellent displays for Die Nationalelf. Why is she in at left back? Well, while Giulia started in a midfield role against China, she moved to full back when Carolin Simon picked up a knock. Since then she’s offered width both as a defender and a midfielder and been a top performing player in every match, chipping in with the winning strike against the Steel Roses. A good passer, she’s mobile with great technique and has genuine ground speed.
Just ahead of: Tamires, BRA / Kika van Es, NED / Crystal Dunn, USA
CENTRE BACK – Griedge Mbock Bathy, France
At 5’8” tall, Griedge works in the metaphorical (and perhaps literal?) shadow of her Olympique Lyon partner, Wendie Renard, but has been entirely more consistent so far at this World Cup. She’s a powerful defender with excellent recovery pace to deal with quick strikers, good in the air and a strong competitor. Mbock Bathy doesn’t overcomplicate the game, quietly going about her business but having a hugely positive impact on a team that is built to attack from full back areas. She’s the insurance policy when they do this.
Just ahead of: Abby Erceg, NZL / Maria Thorisdottir, NOR / Abby Dahlkemper, USA
CENTRE BACK – Steph Houghton, England
I didn’t think I’d get an England player into this line-up originally but, where other centre backs started strong but have let mistakes creep in over the three matches, Steph has steadily improved. She demonstrated her world class credentials against a lively Japanese side in England’s final group game. Not the quickest, it’s Houghton’s positioning and anticipation of dangerous situations that makes her so difficult to play against. She’s an outstanding leader of the line, strong physically and mentally and has a good range of passing not typically associated with central defenders.
Just ahead of: Marina Hegering GER / Kadeisha Buchanan, CAN / Sara Gama, ITA
RIGHT MIDFIELD – Amandine Henry, France
So far, Henry has looked the best player at the tournament, leading by example with powerful displays in midfield. Clearly the ‘poster-girl’ for the French assault on the world title, she takes the support of the partisan crowds and turns into positive energy that enables her to raise her performance levels. Extremely influential on games, she is accomplished on the ball when driving attacks, makes great decisions in and out of possession and works relentlessly hard when defending. Always looking to be involved and give teammates an option you’ll see her crop up everywhere on the pitch, chipping in with goals and assists.
Just ahead of: Rose Lavelle, USA / Jackie Groenen, NED / Virginia Torrecilla, ESP
LEFT MIDFIELD – Sam Mewis, USA
Pretty much the entire US midfield could vie for this team based on displays so far, but Jill Ellis’s team haven’t had the toughest set of Group games. So, Mewis gets the nod for her terrific strength, athleticism and power – both as an attacking force where she’s always looking to ghost into the box; and when defending to press the opposition high up the field and win the ball back quickly. Mewis is one of the taller players at the World Cup which makes her a problem for opponents at set pieces and she’s also not frightened to shoot from outside the box.
Just ahead of: Janine Beckie, CAN / Fridolina Rolfö, SWE / Guro Reiten, NOR
CENTRE MIDFIELD – Sara Däbritz, Germany
Something we’re seeing at this World Cup is that the top women are able to adapt to playing a range of roles, offering tactical flexibility in preparing for team selection and, if required, changes during the 90 minutes. Däbritz is no exception. German-made with a great engine (perhaps not surprising then), Sara is a terrific box-to-box midfielder who can get beyond her forward line to score goals and create attacking overloads; but is equally adept in a defensive midfield role breaking up opposition play and getting Germany moving the right way with incisive forward passes.
Just ahead of: Lindsey Horan, USA / Sherida Spitse, NED / Manuela Giugliano, ITA
RIGHT WING / FORWARD – Gabrielle Onguéné, Cameroon
Onguéné has caused problems for all her opponents so far at this World Cup. She can play either side of an attacking three and leads her team from the front by offering the kind of pace and tenacity that causes particular problems for defenders that might prefer a bit more time to dwell on the ball. She chases lost causes and gives her team an outlet when they are under pressure, providing a focal point of chaos when Cameroon are on the counterattack. Her goal against the Netherlands typified how she’ll always gamble on a defensive error.
Just ahead of: Kadidiatou Diani, FRA / Nikita Parris, ENG / Shanice Van de Sanden, NED
LEFT WING / FORWARD – Debinha, Brazil
Despite the more familiar names in Brazil line-up, Debinha Miri has offered more attacking threat than any of her teammates in the tournament so far. She’s a livewire who can play on either side of the pitch and possesses the kind of skill, speed of thought and trickery that bamboozles defenders. She’s averaged 10km per game so far at this tournament which tells you a lot about her fitness and work ethic – but it’s when Debinha is on the ball that she comes alive, taking players on and driving at the heart of the defence at pace to open up opportunities for her strikers.
Just ahead of: Barbara Bonansea, ITA / Eugénie Le Sommer, FRA / Beth Mead, ENG
CENTRE FORWARD – Alex Morgan, USA
The players Alex Morgan has pushed ahead of in this in this section have 12 goals between them including two hat-tricks. This may not be the most popular choice with readers given that she scored all five of her goals against Thailand, but here’s an extraordinary individual talent who delivers performances that plug-in perfectly to Coach Jill Ellis’s unyielding need for team focus. Morgan has already shown us a wide range of clinical finishing – left foot, right foot, headed – movement that’s impossible for defenders to track for 90 minutes and technical ability on the ball to rival anyone in the competition.
Just ahead of: Cristiane BRA / Sam Kerr, AUS / Ellen White, ENG / Vivianne Miedema, NED