While the US Women's National Team enters the 2019 Women's World Cup as a favorite once again, this year's tournament is by no means a coronation (host country France has a rocky history with that kind of thing, anyway). Several countries (including the hosts) have a chance to take home the hardware, and they'll be led by some all-world talent. Here are the international players to watch in 2019.
- Club: Orlando Pride
- International Caps: 133
- International Goals: 110
- Career Club Goals: 276
Marta’s international career may be nearing its close, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t still dominate the proceedings. She still has flair in spades, a knack for picking out the right ball at the right time, and maybe the best left foot soccer has ever seen.
Doubts linger as to Marta’s health after she picked up a thigh injury, but if she’s on the pitch, she’ll be the straw that stirs the caipirinha for Brazil. Regardless of whether Marta's up front, in the hole, or on her favored right wing, she’ll be the fulcrum for any attack Brazil launches. If Brazil is to snap out of its 9-game losing streak, they’ll need the veteran to be anywhere and everywhere with some Marta magic.
Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany)
- Club: Olympique Lyon
- International Caps: 90
- International Goals: 32
- Career Club Goals: 75
Germany has an embarrassment of riches in its attack, but Dzsenifer Marozsán stands above the rest. When she’s not scoring goals and dropping dimes for the national team, you can find Marozsán playing for the best club team in the world, Olympique Lyon, with whom she just captured a treble, winning the league, national cup, and Champions League.
The 5-foot-7 Marozsán is a powerful player with the ability to finish or find her teammates with either foot. It’s not entirely clear what formation Germany will use at the World Cup, but the one sure thing is that Marozsán will be making things move from the middle of the attack.
Lieke Martens (Netherlands)
- Club: Barcelona
- International Caps: 102
- International Goals: 42
- Career Club Goals: 87
Martens plays for Barcelona, loves cutting it in onto her stronger foot, and makes defenses pay attention to every movement, which sounds a little like another all-world player who shares her initials.
The 2017 FIFA Player of the Year is a menace from wide positions who can detonate defenses with pace. Whether she’s destroying her defender by cutting in off the left wing or running in between the channels to open up a defense, Martens is a dynamo. While the Netherlands are in no way short on attacking talent, they'll rely on Martens not only to score, but to open up the rest of the pitch for her teammates.
Her last time at the World Cup, Martens scored the first ever World Cup goal for her country. This time around, the Netherlands will be hoping she can do even more.
Ji Soyun (Korea Republic)
- Club: Chelsea
- International Caps: 115
- International Goals: 54
- Career Club Goals: 49
Chelsea’s dagger will be asked to do the heavy lifting for Korea’s attack. Ji is a true number ten who will play behind the striker in Korea’s 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1. She’s a delightfully skilled technical player. While her highlight reel doesn’t have the flash of a Marta, her tight control in contested spaces makes her a joy to watch. Ji keeps the ball on a string and is very comfortable taking defenders on one-on-one in the attacking third.
But what may set Ji (and Korea) apart is her deadly skill out of set pieces. Whether it’s taking free kicks direct or picking out runners, dead ball situations for Korea have extra teeth when Ji's standing over the ball.
Korea has its weak spots at the back, so Ji and her right foot will have a job to do to keep pace with the other teams in their loaded group.
Sole Jaimes (Argentina)
- Club: Olympique Lyon
- International Caps: 13
- International Goals: 6
- Career Club Goals: 22
Jaimes is a classic striker. She plays with her back to the goal, holding up play and allowing the attack to build around her.
Jaimes is perhaps at her best as a dangerous target off set pieces and crosses. Measuring in at six feet tall, she's an imposing presence on the front line. She’s tenacious in the air and is incredibly difficult to bump off her mark. What she lacks in pace she makes up for in strength, work rate, and a conveniently placed cannon where a right foot would normally go.
That's not to say Jaimes isn't skilled. She has the flair and panache requisite for a South American striker. Take this audacious chip.
Christine Manie (Cameroon)
- Club: CFF Olimpia Cluj
- International Caps: 63
- International Goals: 10
Christine Manie is a defender, but she tends to show up in the attacking third when the team needs her most. Her extra time goal in the CAF 2019 African Women’s Cup of Nations sealed Cameroon’s place in the Women’s World Cup, just another milestone moment she delivered.
In 2014, it was Manie whose extra time strike punched Cameroon’s ticket to their first ever World Cup. And in 2012, she played a key role in helping Cameroon knock off Nigeria to qualify for their first ever Olympics.
Manie is a steady hand at the back who brings plenty of experience to a squad that will need it if they are to score some upsets in France.
Christine Sinclair (Canada)
- Club: Portland Thorns
- International Caps: 281
- International Goals: 181
- Career Club Goals: 88
Christine Sinclair is Canadian Soccer. She made her debut on the national team in 2000 as a 16-year old, and has gone on to accomplish just about everything a player can.
281 international appearances and 181 goals later, and Sinclair is prepping for yet another World Cup, which will probably be her last.
Sinclair is just 3 goals shy of tying the all-time goals record set by Abby Wambach, and to score that many, you have to do it in just about every way possible. Sinclair can strike from distance, and has a way of popping up at the right place at the right time. She’ll marshal the front lines for a Canadian side leaning on veteran savvy more than speed or flair.
Stina Blackstenius (Sweden)
- Club: Linkopings FC
- International Caps: 43
- International Goals: 10
- Career Club Goals: 124
Dedicated fans of the USWNT might remember the name Blackstenius, and probably not too fondly. It was her goal that sent the Yanks packing at the 2016 Olympics.
Blackstenius has shoes to fill for Sweden, who don’t have the elite striking option they’ve had in years past. If Sweden wants to do some damage, Blackstenius will surely have a large part in it. She’s a pure striker and a finisher first. She’s accurate with either foot and can be a danger off crosses and on set pieces as well.
Sweden’s DNA as a defense-first team is as strong as ever. That puts even more emphasis on every attacking opportunity they find. A poacher of Blackstenius’ quality is a linchpin to that gameplan.
Rasheedat Ajibade (Nigeria)
- Club: Avaldsnes
- International Caps: 21
- International Goals: 3
- Career Club Goals: 1
There aren’t a lot of teenagers who are expected to play a major part in the World Cup. Rasheedat Ajibade isn’t most teenagers.
Ajibade is one of the brighter young talents out of Africa, and will be looking to introduce herself on the global stage in her first ever World Cup after impressing as captain of the Nigerian U-20 squad.
Ajibade will be asked to provide a creative lift off the bench as a super sub. The good news is that she might well be the most creative player at the tournament. As Africa’s freestyle football champion, Ajibade has a tight handle, and natural feel. Injecting pace off the bench in the hopes of creating a late goal will be her job, and Nigeria will need her to do it well.
Sam Kerr (Australia)
- Club: Chicago Red Stars
- International Caps: 77
- International Goals: 31
- Career Club Goals: 131
Sam Kerr can do it all.
Speed? Got it. Strength? Check the box. Technique? Yup. A dangerous target in the box? Maybe the most dangerous there is. Anything you can ask of a striker, Sam Kerr will do for you, and she’ll do it as well as anyone can. A brief look at YouTube will give you a litany of absolutely silly goals.
She’s won just about everything there is to win individually, including four straight domestic Golden Boot titles. She scores for fun, and now she leads the front line of the most dangerous Australian team to date. If Australia wants to commit to the whirling dervish of a 4-2-4 formation they used against the United States in a 5-3 barnburner, Kerr will have to be at her very best.
Wang Shuang (China)
- Club: Paris Saint-Germain
- International Caps: 94
- International Goals: 25
- Career Club Goals: 48
Wang Shuang is a delightfully talented forward with a bag of tricks and a penchant for perfect passes. Whether sitting farther back to dictate the play in front of her, or leading the front line, her delicate control makes her by far the most dangerous part of the Chinese side.
Shuang only recently made the move to play in Europe, but hasn’t wasted any time in impressing, notching 7 goals and dishing 8 assists for Paris Saint-Germain. Her role on the Chinese squad will more or less be whatever she decides it to be. She’s given tremendous leeway to freelance and find her route into the game.
Fran Kirby (England)
- Club: Chelsea
- International Caps: 40
- International Goals: 13
- Career Club Goals: 100
Fran Kirby is another classic number 10. If Phil Neville and England commit to the 4-2-3-1 lineup that allows Kirby to work in the hole between the lines, there’s no reason Kirby can’t be the best player at the World Cup.
With Jordan Nobbs unavailable due to injury, even more of the onus for creativity is put on Kirby’s plate. With a strong holding midfield behind her, Kirby should be able to be adventurous with her positioning to put opposing defenses under pressure.
Kirby is the strongest player on an English side which has more quality talent than any other World Cup team it's put forward. England is still trying to bury its reputation as a cagey, route-one style team, and no one exemplifies their future better than Kirby, who is as skilled and technically sound as they come.
Jody Brown (Jamaica)
- "Club": Montverde Academy
- International Caps: 12
- International Goals: 8
Want to feel old? Jody Brown was born in 2002. She’s 17 years old. And she has 8 international goals to her name.
When she’s not going to high school at Montverde Academy in Florida—which she does, as she is still just seventeen years old—she’s busy tearing up CONCACAF pitches with blazing speed. She already has performed in big matches, netting a brace in the crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Panama.
She might be lacking in the strength department, but Brown's sky-high potential is immediately evident as Jamaica enters its first ever Women's World Cup.
Yuka Momiki (Japan)
- Club: Nippon TV Beleza
- International Caps: 24
- International Goals: 8
- Career Club Goals: 8
Yuka Momiki is ready to break out. At just 20 years old (and standing at just 5-feet tall), Momiki isn’t the most established player on one of the strongest teams in the field, but she might well be the most dangerous.
The sawed-off midfielder has pace that can shrink the pitch. Whether that’s on the wings looking to ping a ball in with her left foot, or in quick bursts between the lines to open up a defense, Momiki’s speed kills.
Coupling that speed with a pristine first touch takes Momiki from a danger to the opposition to a talisman for Japan. Teams may try to rough her up physically to take her out of the game, but you can’t keep Momiki quiet for long.
Rosie White (New Zealand)
- Club: Chicago Red Stars
- International Caps: 100
- International Goals: 24
- Career Club Goals: 59
Not many 25 year olds have 100 international caps. Rosie White does. She’s already had a decade of national team experience for New Zealand, and will be looked to for scoring punch. White is a physical presence with dangerous shooting power.
It wasn’t that long ago that White was recovering from surgery on both her feet while her NWSL team folded at the same time. She’s made it back onto the pitch and has some heavy lifting to do if New Zealand is to make it out of the group stage. Expect a lot of deep defending from New Zealand while looking to hit White with a long ball over the top.