The eight players set to light up the Women’s World Cup - including Chelsea and Arsenal stars

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We’re just a few days away from the beginning of one of the biggest football shows on earth – the Women’s World Cup gets underway when co-hosts New Zealand take on Norway on Thursday morning (as far as us Brits are concerned, anyway).

With the USA aiming for a historic third consecutive crown, England trying to build on their stunning win at the European Championships and plenty of other countries in with a serious shout of lifting the biggest prize in the women’s game, there’s no shortage of storylines to keep the narrative ticking over – but today, we’re going to start the build-up by focussing on some of the most exciting players on show.

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From established superstars to wonderkids to comeback queens with a point to prove, here are eight of the players to keep your eyes on as the tournament unfolds…

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Trinity Rodman

With the great Megan Rapinoe retiring at the end of the season and Alex Morgan now 34, there’s room in the American front line from a new star – enter Rodman, daughter of the eccentric and erratic basketball star Dennis. At just 21 years of age, she’s a rising power in United States soccer and already something of a celebrity – but this will be her first chance to prove her worth on the biggest stage.

An electric wide forward with a swift change of pace, great feet and an eye for a killer ball, she’s more provider than goalscorer but has already found the net four times for the national team, including a brace against Wales in a recent warm-up match. The kind of player who always gets involved in the game, seldom stays quiet for long and can terrorise opposing defences on her day – and only likely to get better from here.

Alexia Putellas

Reigning and two-time Ballon d’Or and FIFA Best Player of the Year, unquestionably one of the greatest in the game and playing in her absolute prime as part of a superb Spanish midfield – Alexia (as she is often simply referred) is her national captain and one of the stone cold superstars of the tournament.

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Despite not playing up front, she’s a lethal presence around the box with a frankly ridiculous 126 goals in 281 league games for Barcelona, and at 29 has already passed a century of international caps. She may not have been involved in this tournament at all, however, after supporting the 15 Spanish players who refused to play under coach Jorge Vilda citing mental health concerns and worries over his management of the side – Alexia was injured at the time, so didn’t directly take part in the mutiny – but has been brought back into the fold in time to shine on the world stage. Despite the infighting (Vilda remains in charge), the presence of one of the best in the world at her absolute prime makes Spain possible contenders.

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Sam Kerr

The undisputed superstar of the Australian side, FIFA23 cover star Kerr has scored 54 Women’s Super League goals for Chelsea since arriving in 2020 and goes at better than a goal every other game for the Matildas, most recently netting against England in a friendly win back in April.

She’s one of the most lethal strikers in the world with the ability to score from practically everywhere, an impressive aerial presence and has the knack of drifting effortlessly away from defenders to create space and chances. In other words, she’s pretty much the complete striker. With home soil advantage and the crowd behind them, Australia could be another contender for the title – and Kerr could well be one of the stars of the whole show.

Asisat Oshoala

Nicknamed “Seedorf” after Clarence, five-time African Player of the Year Oshoala is nevertheless a striker – one with blistering pace, a penchant for headed goals and lethal finishing instincts, as evinced by her record with Barcelona, a cool 83 goals in 89 La Liga F matches.

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Playing for Nigeria, the target will be reaching the quarter-finals, something her country has never done before – and they’re in the same group as Australia, the Republic of Ireland and Canada, so that won’t be a straightforward task, especially given recent tensions between players and management. With Oshoala in the starting line-up, however, they have a weapon that can unsettle any defence and a woman who can be relied upon to take pretty much any chance that falls to her.

Alessia Russo

With star player Beth Mead and captain Leah Williamson both absent with cruciate ligament injuries – and talismanic striker Ellen White now retired – England will need someone to step up to the superstar plate if they want to repeat their Euro 2022 heroics. Russo’s time could well be now.

Newly signed by Arsenal from Manchester United, Russo is one of the best strikers in the game and a predatory finisher with superb instincts, as demonstrated neatly by her audacious backheeled goal against Sweden in last year’s semi-final. 24 years old and with just 22 caps to her name, she’s already found time to record England’s fastest ever hat-trick (11 minutes) and make a pretty substantial mark in the public consciousness, but with White out of the way this is surely her chance to step up and make a big noise. If she’s packed her shooting boots, England have a chance.

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Lena Oberdorf

Named Young Player of the Tournament after Germany’s run to the Euro 2022 final, 21-year-old Wolfsburg midfielder Oberdorf has already become the beating heart of a seriously good German side and is in the process of establishing herself as one of the game’s finest midfield generals.

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A defensive midfielder who seems to read plays as easily as a book, she’s a turnover machine, one of the best tacklers in Europe and a handy passer who makes efficient use of the ball to build attacks once she’s taken the ball away from the opposition – something she rarely fails to do. She’s practically pressure-proof while applying plenty of her own, one of the best in the game in one-on-one situations and rarely fails to control the centre of the park. A huge weapon in Germany’s arsenal.

Linda Caicedo

18-year-old Caicedo is the next big thing to come out of Colombia and has already earned a transfer from her homeland to Real Madrid, bagging her first couple of goals for the Spanish side this year. She made her professional debut at the age of just 14 for América de Cali, which tells you how long people have been keeping a keen eye on her development.

An extremely well-rounded forward with a superb touch, she’s great with the ball at her feet and has an iron will – something she’s had to have, as she has already survived ovarian cancer. Unlikely to be bowled over by her first appearance on the big stage, and could well show the rest of the world why she’s rapidly becoming a star back in South America.

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Ada Hegerberg

In 2022, former Ballon d’Or winner Hegerberg finally ended a self-imposed five-year exile from the Norwegian national team, a result of a dispute with her federation over treatment of the women’s game in the Nordic country. That cost her a place at the 2019 World Cup – and the rest of us a chance to watch her – but now she’s back and ready to show everyone that she’s still one of the best in the world.

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A powerful striker, she has scored more than a goal a game for Lyon since joining in 2014 and can score goals from nothing, hoovering up half-chances as she bullies opposing centre-backs. Her record is beyond question, but a cruciate ligament injury in 2020 robbed her of almost a year of football, and she’s only played 21 league games since – so she arguably still has an axe to grind, and perhaps even a Ballon d’Or crown to reclaim. Helping Norway get into the latter stages of the tournament would be a pretty good way to start that particular task.

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