The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup promises to be an exciting and competitive event, with many talented players vying for glory and recognition.
Women’s soccer has come a long way since the first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in China in 1991. The tournament, which featured 12 teams and was won by the United States, was a milestone for the sport that had faced many challenges and barriers throughout history. Since then, women’s soccer has grown in popularity, quality, and diversity, with more countries participating, more fans watching, and more stars shining on the global stage.
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, is the ninth edition of the tournament and the first to feature 32 teams, an expansion from the previous 24.
The tournament will also be the first to be held across two confederations, as Australia is in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and New Zealand is in the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). The tournament kicked off on July 20, 2023, with the opening match between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park in Auckland, and will conclude on August 20, 2023, with the final at Stadium Australia in Sydney.
Here are some of the key players to watch for the teams who've qualified for the elimination round of 16 for the tournament, and who've already proven themselves to be among the best in the world.
Alexia Putellas (Spain)
The reigning FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or winner, Alexia Putellas is the captain and leader of both Barcelona and Spain. The 27-year-old midfielder is a creative and versatile playmaker, who can score goals, provide assists, and dictate the tempo of the game. She was instrumental in Barcelona’s historic treble-winning season in 2020-21, scoring 18 goals and registering 15 assists in all competitions. She also helped Spain qualify for their third consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup, scoring six goals in eight matches. Putellas will be aiming to lead Spain to their first major trophy at the international level.
Pernille Harder (Denmark)
Pernille Harder is one of the most prolific and consistent strikers in women’s soccer. The 29-year-old forward plays for Chelsea in England, where she has won two FA Women’s Super League titles and reached the UEFA Women’s Champions League final. She is also the captain and all-time top scorer of Denmark, with 72 goals in 130 appearances. She led Denmark to their second FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance, scoring seven goals in six matches during the qualifying campaign. Harder will be hoping to replicate her club form at the international stage and guide Denmark to their first knockout stage appearance at the tournament.
Sam Kerr (Australia)
The third-place finisher for both the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or awards, Sam Kerr is a household name in women’s soccer. The 28-year-old forward is a lethal goal scorer, who has won multiple golden boots in Australia, United States, and England. She currently plays for Chelsea alongside Harder, forming one of the most formidable attacking partnerships in the world. She is also the captain and record scorer of Australia, with 48 goals in 95 caps. She helped Australia qualify for their eighth FIFA Women’s World Cup as co-hosts, scoring five goals in four matches during the qualifying round. Kerr will be looking to lead Australia to their best ever finish at the tournament, surpassing their quarter-final exits in 2007, 2011, and 2015.
Lauren James (England)
Lauren James is one of the rising stars of women’s soccer, who has impressed with her skill, speed, and flair. The 21-year-old forward plays for Chelsea in England, where she reunited with her former club and brother Reece James in 2021. She previously played for Manchester United, where she became the club’s top scorer and was nominated for the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year award in 2020. She is also a key member of the England national team, making her senior debut in 2022 and scoring four goals in 14 appearances. She helped England qualify for their sixth FIFA Women’s World Cup, scoring three goals in seven matches during the qualifying campaign. James will be eager to showcase her talent at the biggest stage and help England win their first world title.
Other players to watch