Ranking Top 50 Players at the 2015 Women's World Cup

Andrew Gibney@@gibney_aFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2015

Ranking Top 50 Players at the 2015 Women's World Cup

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    We are now only days away from the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, and it promises to be a wonderful tournament that will hopefully take the women's game to another level.

    For just over a month, the world's eyes will feast on the best players the game has to offer, and there will also be the chance for nations rarely mentioned to show how far they have come in the last four years.

    Japan are the reigning world champions, but they will face pressure from Germany, USA, France and a few other hopeful teams when the tournament kicks off on June 6.

    The process of selecting the top 50 could have been different. It would have been acceptable to choose players from five or six teams and claim they are the best players in the world.

    However, that would not have been half as much fun, and the next slide contains an explanation of the criteria used to decide the final list.

The Ranking Criteria

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    There will be players in Canada who capture the imagination who don't play for the biggest and best countries, but that is what the World Cup is all about. It's the names you didn't know before the tournament that you will end up remembering.

    For the first time there are 24 teams in the Women's World Cup, and we have selected at least one player from each country, as well as picked out some of the other talented players who are sure to make an impact in Canada.

    To have a chance of making this list, the athlete must have made some level of impact for her club or country in both the last year and in qualifying for the tournament.

    We were looking for the players who would not only make a difference this summer but would make people sit up and take notice.

    We whittled down an original list of around 100 names to 50 players who will take part in this summer's World Cup. Let us know who we got right and who we left out.

    All appearances and goals taken from official FIFA squad list.

Notable Absentees

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    Nadine Kessler
    Nadine KesslerAssociated Press

    We can't go any further without mentioning Nadine Kessler. She is the current FIFA Women's Ballon d'Or holder, and although Marta and others made a strong case, Kessler deserved the award.

    She underwent a second bout of knee surgery back in March, which ruled out Germany's captain from gracing the world's stage in Canada.

    Elsewhere in the Germany squad, Fatmire Alushi of Paris Saint-Germain will miss the tournament as she is pregnant.

    Australia coach Alen Stajcic caused an uproar when he didn't name Kate Gill in his final squad. She is the Matildas' all-time leading scorer, but the coach said it was due to the form of her teammates.

    Nominated for the BBC Women's Player of the Year award, Kim Little of the Seattle Reign will have to watch at home with the rest of her Scottish teammates. They lost in a two-legged playoff to Netherlands.

    Another blow to the tournament will be the absence of Norway's talisman, Caroline Graham Hansen. The Wolfsburg star has also been ruled out with a knee injury.

50. Kanjana Sung-Ngoen: Thailand

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    Kanjana Sung-Ngoen knows all about pressure. Come June, she will feel the weight of a nation's expectations on her shoulders, but she has been there before.

    The 28-year-old is already a hero in Thailand. She scored twice in the 2-1 win over Vietnam that sealed the fifth and final place offered to Asian teams at the World Cup.

    "It was sheer madness, because we were playing on their turf," said Sung-Ngoen about the May 21 match in Vietnam, via the Bangkok Post. "Their fans were everywhere, and it was quite stressful. I suppose it must have been even more stressful for the Vietnamese team to carry such expectation from the fans."

    In their first-ever World Cup, the pressure is off Thailand and Sung-Ngoen, but with her pace, creativity and ability to cut in from the flanks, there is hope for one more moment of glory.

49. Gaelle Enganamouit: Cameroon

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    Gaelle Enganamouit made headlines around the world when she scored from the half-way line after three seconds in a Serbian league match, but there is more to the 22-year-old forward than a 16-second YouTube clip.

    As a 19-year-old, she was part of the Cameroon squad that travelled to England for the 2012 London Olympics, but it was in qualifying for the World Cup in Canada that she made a more telling impact.

    Cameroon may have lost 2-0 to Nigeria in the final of the African Women's Championship, but in scoring three goals, Enganamouit impressed. She is tall but quick along the ground and shows a calm head when put under pressure.

    Coach Carl Enow Ngachu believes her excellent listening skills help her understanding of the game, adding that she is someone who can handle complicated situations, while her size causes multiple problems for opposition defenders.

    This powerhouse Cameroon side will be keen to find a way out of Group C, and with Enganamouit spearheading the attack, don't count out the Lionesses causing a shock in Canada.

48. Manon Melis: Netherlands

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    Netherlands are the underdogs to escape Group A at the World Cup, but any success they are likely to enjoy will come through the deadly Manon Melis.

    Regarded as one of the fastest players in the world, she is a clinical striker who loves to play on the shoulder of the last defender. Once she is past you, it's hard to stop her.

    With 123 caps and 54 goals for her country, Melis will be keen to add to her reputation at her first World Cup. In the Swedish Damallsvenskan she has won countless individual awards and has topped the scoring charts three times on the way to three league titles.

    Her father, Harry Melis, was a former Feyenoord and Den Haag winger. He never played for the national team, so Melis is already ahead of him, but there would be more family pride if she could get on the scoresheet at the World Cup.

47. Ida Rebecca Guehai: Ivory Coast

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    It has been a meteoric rise for Ida Rebecca Guehai. The goal-scoring midfielder was captain of the under-20 Ivory Coast side that tried to qualify for the 2014 Under-20 World Cup.

    She is highly regarded in her homeland and went on to finish as the top scorer in Ivory Coast's Championnat National in 2014—she was then named Ivorian Football Federation player of the year.

    It was Guehai who scored the 85th-minute winner against South Africa in the African Women's Championship (as seen above)the goal that sealed her nation's place in their first-ever World Cup.

    This summer she gets to spread her wings further. The 20-year-old has moved to Kristianstads in Sweden, scoring twice against AIK on her debut. Now the world will get a chance to see what Guehai can do.

46. Denise Pesantes: Ecuador

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    They may have been the last team to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, but there is a chance that Ecuador could cause a shock this summer. If they do, you can guarantee Denise Pesantes will play some part in their success.

    She is undoubtedly the cog that makes Ecuador work. Formerly both a defender and a midfielder, Pesantes is now the cornerstone of their attack.

    In attack she has the ability to hold up the play, bring others into play and keep possession in tight areas. If she plays well, it inspires her team-mates with confidence and the opportunity to push forward into the final third.

    Pesantes is now 27 years old, and after representing her country at the South American Under-19 World Championship in 2004 at just 16, it has been a long journey to get to this point.

45. Yoreli Rincon: Colombia

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    As soon as you set eyes on Yoreli Rincon, it's easy to see she is a talented footballer. Comfortable with the ball at her feet, she is both electric and devastating.

    The Colombian was supposed to be the next Marta, but apart from playing in yellow and coming from South America, Rincon can still only dream of the comparison. The World Cup in Canada is her chance to shake off the doubters and show the world her undoubted potential.

    Her name has been known for what seems like an age, but at just 21 years old, time is still on her side.

    Rincon already has the experience of playing in Brazil, Sweden and America, but goals and consistency have been lacking.

    On her day, the little No. 10 can light up any game, but for her to fulfil her prophecy, we need to see more production this summer.

44. Rosie White: New Zealand

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    The No. 13 may be unlucky for some, but not for New Zealand's Rosie White. The burly striker has been part of the national team for six years, despite the fact she will celebrate her 22nd birthday when they kick off their tournament against Netherlands in Edmonton.

    White burst on the scene when she scored a perfect hat-trick against Colombia in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup at just 15 years old in 2008. Just 18 days later she scored another treble against hosts Chile in the Under-20 World Cup.

    Strong, direct and keen to shoot from distance, White will be crucial to the success of the Football Ferns. She may be young, but she has played plenty of tournament football and will be looking for more goals in Canada this summer.

43. Alina Garciamendez: Mexico

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    Born in California and raised in Texas, Alina Garciamendez brings the best of both states when she plays in the Mexican national team. She is tough, strong in the air and a leader on the pitch, but with the ball at her feet she is technically impressive.

    Garciamendez set a university record at Stanford, making more than 100 appearances. She never missed a match after joining in her freshman year in 2009.

    After less than a handful of games for German side Frankfurt, the central defender has gone back to Texas to study dentistry, but she remains one player who can add some bite to the Mexican defence.

    Up against England and France, if Las Tricolores are to have any hope of making it out of the group, they will need the 24-year-old to be their inspiration and leader.

42. Wang Shuang: China

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    Canada will be fully behind their home side when the World Cup kicks off on June 6, but they need to be wary of the threat China will bring to the opening game. One reason for that is the exciting talent of Wang Shuang.

    The 19-year-old recently swapped playing her club football in South Korea to return back home in order to fully prepare for this summer's tournament.

    Nominated for the AFC Youth Player of the Year in 2013, Wang has continued to impress with the ability to beat players off the dribble and create opportunities from wide positions.

    At just 17 she was called up for the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in 2012 and then followed that by scoring five times as China finished third in the AFC Under-19 Women's Championship.

    She has the guile and low centre of gravity that helps her glide past defenders, as well as the pace to stay in front of them. She is also deadly from set pieces.

41. Desiree Scott: Canada

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    Nicknames can often stick with a footballer, but for Desiree Scott, "The Destroyer" couldn't be more perfect. A seasoned international with nearly 90 caps, the defensive midfielder is now helping Notts County climb the Women's Super League table in England.

    People often compare her to Dutch legend Edgar Davids. It could be due to her hairstyle, but when you watch her, you can see that it's much more than just superficial.

    Speaking to BBC Sport, she implied that the move to the WSL has made her a tougher but better player: "My nickname might be 'The Destroyer,' but the tackles they put in kept me on my toes. The league helped me develop as a player and was definitely no walk in the park."

    Every team needs that one player who sets the tone and sparks passion, determination and energy from her team-mates, and Scott is the perfect example of this. She is the kind of player you hate playing against but love having on your team.

40. Jill Scott: England

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    If England's Lionesses want to achieve much more than they did in Germany four years ago, they will need to look to Jill Scott to lead, not just by example, but as a driving force in Mark Sampson's midfield.

    For both club and country, she has made herself a crucial element in the team. She has the ability to pick up the ball deep in the opposition half and push the pace, pulling her team into the final third.

    She's one of the best box-to-box midfielders in England's WSL, and it was clear to see the impact she has on the pitch when she recently served a three-match ban for Manchester City.

    Born in Sunderland, Scott combines steel with class and skill that make her a deadly opponent. In a blink of an eye she will turn defence into attack; she is the perfect complement to England's free-flowing pacy attack.

39. Katrina Gorry: Australia

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    Here's a warning to the other teams in Group D: Give Katrina Gorry space outside the box at your peril. If Lisa De Vanna is one of the Matildas' veterans at this tournament, Gorry is one of the young guns who are looking to announce their presence on the big stage.

    One way that Gorry will guarantee to do that is by beating unsuspecting defences with long-range daggers. Whether it is in the W-League with the Brisbane Roar or with Australia in the Asian Cup, leave this midfielder on the edge of the box, and she will punish you.

    Gorry's three goals in 2014 led Australia to the final, where they narrowly lost to Japan, but speaking to the AFC website after winning the AFC's Women's Player of the Year award, she remained humble. "When it came to shine I put some goals away, that's probably what pushed me to win this trophy, but at the end of the day I can't thank anyone more than my team-mates who helped this happen," Gorry said.

    It is that team ethic, plus the ability to score from distance, that makes her a huge weapon for Alen Stajcic.

38. Maren Mjelde: Norway

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    Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

    Norway have some excellent young players in their World Cup squad, but experience will be crucial in helping them blossom. That's where Maren Mjelde comes in.

    The 25-year-old has enjoyed spells in Germany with Turbine Potsdam and in Sweden with Goteborg, but now she is back in her homeland as the captain of Avaldsnes in the Toppserien.

    To say Mjelde is versatile would be an understatement. She has been playing in defensive midfield for the national team, but their leaky back line could see her move further back come the opening-group game against Thailand or in the crunch match against Germany.

    During the 2013 European Championships, she played right-back for the first time in her career. She helped her team pick up a win against Germany and was named in the team of the tournament.

    Mjelde is a leader no matter where she is on the pitch. For club or country she is a natural winner, and with the team missing Caroline Graham Hansen, that attitude may be just as important as the players tasked with putting the ball in the net.

37. Andressa: Brazil

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    Sometimes, teams have so much talent that they have to try to crowbar players into positions just so they have a role. For Brazil, Andressa Alves is an example of that.

    Known as either an attacking midfielder or forward, at 22 years old she is one of the new breed of Brazilian players who will eventually take over from Marta and Cristiane. However, at times she has had to play at left-back to find a place on the pitch.

    The former Sao Jose midfielder scored three times when Brazil qualified for the World Cup by winning the 2014 Copa America, and she will be an asset in the NWSL once the World Cup is over.

    "Andressa is a gifted player, has tremendous technical ability and is a goalscorer," Boston Breakers general manager Lee Billiard said, via the Bent Musket, when they announced her acquisition in November. "She is going to be a lot of fun to watch, and a problem to deal with for opposing teams."

    She's obviously versatile, but if she gets the chance to play farther forward this summer, she could help Brazil lift their first World Cup.

36. Mana Iwabuchi: Japan

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    Back in 2011, Mana Iwabuchi was the youngest player in Norio Sasaki's squad. Four years later that remains the same, but now she is ready to be a major part of Japan's success.

    She was involved in the build-up to the goal that knocked out hosts Germany, the country she now calls home. The move to Europe has helped take her ability to another level.

    "The biggest thing for me is the difference in speed," Iwabuchi told FIFA.com. "Not just in terms of running and passing, but also in switching from defence to attack once you've won the ball back and start going for the opponent's goal. It's faster than in Japan."

    Although Iwabuchi is small, she is also powerful. Her excellent first touch and ability to turn quickly help her beat players from close range.

    Four years ago she was a young hopeful; now she has the chance to become one of Japan's leading stars.

35. Cristiane: Brazil

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    Football has enjoyed some great partnerships over the years: Yorke and Cole, Shearer and Sutton, and Rush and Dalglish.

    You can add Cristiane and Marta to that list.

    For all the plaudits her team-mate receives for being one of the great women's players the game has ever seen, you can't have Marta without Cristiane.

    The 30-year-old is an excellent striker in her own right, which she proved as she finished as the top scorer in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, scoring five times. She fired another six goals to lead Brazil to qualification for this summer's tournament.

    When defences are too busy worrying about Marta, Cristiane uses her strength and guile to cause maximum damage. She has that beautiful and deadly combination of speed and power that helps her beat players out wide and cause havoc in the penalty box.

34. Lisa De Vanna: Australia

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    Going into the World Cup, Lisa De Vanna is on the verge of breaking the 100-cap mark, plus the odds are short on her adding to her 33 goals. However, Alen Stajcic turned the pressure up a notch by omitting fellow 30-year-old striker Kate Gill from the squad.

    Gill is the country's all-time top scorer, but now that role falls to De Vanna. Australia reached the quarter-finals in 2007 when at just 22 years old she scored four times. She still possesses the bursts of pace, and teamed with her determination and spark of life she brings to the side, that will help unlock most defences.

    Only two years have passed since De Vanna scored a wonderful overhead bicycle kick for Sky Blue FC and was nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award. That invention and X-factor could play a huge part in Australia repeating their place in the quarter-finals from four years ago.

33. Shirley Cruz Trana: Costa Rica

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    In 2013, Shirley Cruz Trana was voted as the best women's player in France, which is quite an achievement for the 29-year-old who hails from Costa Rica.

    After winning six league titles with Olympique Lyonnais, the central midfielder moved to the French capital for a new challenge. She is tenacious, hardworking and tireless in the middle of the park. France and PSG full-back Sabrina Delannoy, speaking to UEFA.com, labelled Cruz their "little [Marco] Verratti" and the best player she's played with.

    The comparisons are quite striking. With her low centre of gravity, she can spin, turn and accelerate away from opponents. She is a terrier and will constantly nip at a player's heels until she can wrestle the ball back and start an attack.

    It's fair to call her a deep-lying playmaker. Cruz is not a No. 10, but she is deft at spraying the ball around and creating chances with both feet.

    Cruz has been exceptional for both PSG and Lyon in France. Now she has a chance to show the world how far Costa Rican football has come since she left nine years ago.

32. Ramona Bachmann: Switzerland

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    There is little doubt that the Swiss Magician is going to be an absolute joy to watch at this World Cup. She is unpredictable both on and off the ball, and the 24-year-old has all the ability to guide the tournament debutants deep into the knockout stage.

    She has been compared to both Brazilian superstar Marta and countryman Xherdan Shaqiri, but she deserves credit in her own right.

    Bachmann has the power to charge past defenders with her physicality. She can use her quick feet to dance rings around the opposition, but she will then play a number of quick one-twos before you even contemplate trying to stop her.

    The incident with Rachel Brown back in 2010 showed a dark side, but it only helps to build the competitive aura around her. She desperately wants to win, and now she has the tools to destroy anyone who stands in her way.

31. Asisat Oshoala: Nigeria

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    It is testament to the growth of the Women's Super League in England that champions Liverpool were able to sign Asisat Oshoala this summer.

    She joined as Africa's Player of the Year and was named the best player at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup as she helped Nigeria finish as runner-up to Germany.

    After a slow start to life on Merseyside, Oshoala has begun to find her feet and is now showing WSL teams that she means business. Able to make huge darting runs forward, once she starts running, with her strong upper body, it's hard to stop her.

    Add her excellent technical ability and the 20-year-old is an exciting prospect who will be a huge part of Nigeria's success this summer and Liverpool's upcoming Champions League campaign.

    To cap off an excellent 12 months, she was recently named the BBC's Women's Footballer of the Year.

30. Homare Sawa: Japan

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    After helping Japan win a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, the iconic Homare Sawa called time on her career with the Nadeshiko.

    It was a huge blow. Her five goals in Germany, plus a crucial assist in the final, inspired their 2011 World Cup win. She has made the most appearances for her country and is the all-time leading goalscorer.

    Two years later, Sawa was back, scoring her 82nd goal as Japan won their first-ever AFC Women's Asian Cup. Injury kept her out for another year, but again she bounced back, scoring in a friendly against New Zealand.

    "I'm counting on her to be a pillar of the team, on and off the pitch," coach Norio Sasaki said, via Reuters, after picking Sawa for her sixth World Cup.

    "Her qualities are necessary for the Nadeshiko right now. Let me stress that experience is not all she brings. I'm selecting her on her present form and fitness."

    The 36-year-old has made a career out of using her pace and ability to charge up and down the pitch, but now she will have to lean on her experience and understanding with Aya Miyama to help Japan defend their crown.

29. Hope Solo: USA

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    Just like any good soap opera character, Hope Solo almost forces you to have an opinion on her. "No one's neutral about Hope Solo," Angela Tavares of Goal.com told the Atlantic's Jason Zengerle. "They either love her or hate her."

    Off the pitch, Solo has had her problems, but on the field she remains one of the best goalkeepers in the women's game, and that is the only thing that will matter when the USA line up in Canada this summer. Take away all the endorsements, issues with the law and her brash, outspoken side, and you still have a keeper who can help the United States lift the trophy.

    At the last World Cup in Germany, Solo was not only awarded the Golden Glove for her performances between the sticks but won the Bronze Ball, making her the third-best player at the tournament.

    Sixteen years have passed since the USA last won the World Cup, and if they are to stand any chance this year, they need Solo to create news stories for all the right reasons.

28. Ada Hegerberg: Norway

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    After two seasons in Germany with Turbine Potsdam, teenage sensation Ada Hegerberg could have been daunted at the prospect of joining Olympique Lyonnais in France.

    Measuring a striker's success is quite simple, and 26 goals in 21 games is nothing short of phenomenal, compounded by the fact that she is still only 19 years old.

    Just like her style on the pitch, it seems nothing can stop Hegerberg. At just 16 she became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Toppserien for Kolbotn. That earned her the move to Germany, and now she is about to take Canada by storm with her Norwegian teammates.

    Her strong upper body makes her a constant threat in the air, and it is difficult to shake her off the ball. She is an absolute terrier in the penalty area but is just as comfortable on the wings with the ball at her feet.

27. Eniola Aluko: England

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    There is nothing in the women's game that Eniola Aluko hasn't seen or done. This is the 28-year-old's chance to shine on the international stage.

    The Chelsea forward is blessed with blistering pace and the footwork to trouble both full-backs and central defenders. She can play out wide and use her intelligence to link up with teammates, or she can burst through the centre, leaving opponents for dead.

    During the qualification process, Aluko scored 13 goals in 10 games and has taken that form into this season's WSL campaign. Chelsea are top of the league and unbeaten before the break.

    Three seasons in the U.S. Women's Professional Soccer League sandwiched by two spells in England have seen her mature as an all-round impressive player.

    Aluko has yet to score at a World Cup, and watching her performances in the WSL this season, it would be a brave person who bets against her this summer.

26. Wendie Renard: France

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    In any photo of the France team, 6'2" Wendie Renard instantly stands out; however, she doesn't fade into the background once the game starts.

    One of the tallest players in the women's game, she is elegant when on the ball, as well as a constant threat from set pieces. Not many centre-backs scored five goals on the way to Canada, and it would be a safe bet to back her to add one or two during the tournament.

    Philippe Bergeroo made her captain when he took over in 2013, and the Lyon skipper embraced the responsibility, telling France Football (in French) that they obviously chose her because they love her personality, so why change?

    She has grown further in stature as France's leader and silenced the teacher from Martinique who told her there was no such profession as women's footballer.

25. Megan Rapinoe: USA

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    For the USA to be successful in Canada, they need Megan Rapinoe to be their lynchpin. The strikers won't score without her movement or creativity, and her fellow midfielders will be lost without her leadership and ability to read the game.

    Rapinoe has a football instinct that you can't teach. She can single-handedly take over a game and completely transform a team’s performance.

    The 29-year-old was key as the United States won gold at the 2012 Olympics, scoring three goals and adding four assists. As a team, they are much more effective when Rapinoe is playing in the attack.

    "It's about the spaces you can get into and what you do with the ball," she told Morty Ain of ESPN.com. "Some of the best soccer players in the world are really small and not the biggest, strongest athletes. When I was younger, my coaches gave me the freedom to be creative, and that's how I still play today."

24. Camille Abily: France

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    France's evergreen Camile Abily may be nearing the end of her career, but she has one goal left. She wants to win the World Cup with Les Bleus, and it's safe to say they have more chance with her than without her.

    Speaking with French magazine So Foot (in French), she suggested she had two to three years left before hanging up her boots. The 2017 European Championships could be her goodbye tour, so this summer she means business.

    The attacking midfielder scored four goals from France in qualifying, and her vast experience will be crucial both on and off the pitch. Abily is deadly off both feet and loves a shot from distance. She has made a career out of timing her runs into the box to perfection and getting on the end of crosses.

    She proved again this season, with 13 goals in 15 starts for Lyon, that she is as clinical as always. The 30-year-old will hope to go beyond the 150-cap mark this summer and pray it ends with her country's first-ever World Cup title.

23. Vivianne Miedema: Netherlands

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    Netherlands went into the qualifying for the 2015 World Cup hoping to join the tournament for the first time. Coach Roger Reijners made the call to give 17-year-old Vivianne Miedema her full international debut in the opening game against Albania.

    She would score a hat-trick in her second game.

    After she scored 41 goals in 26 games for SC Heerenveen in the BeNe League, Bayern Munich snapped up the teenage sensation.

    Being a talented Dutch forward playing for the German giants has led to comparisons with Arjen Robben, something Miedema was quick to dismiss.

    "Yeah, I get that a lot," she said with a laugh to FIFA.com. "But Arjen plays very differently to me. It's really cool to be compared to him but, as a woman, it's a bit strange to always be compared to a man. I'm Vivianne Miedema and I don't play like men do."

    One difference is that Miedema is excellent with both feet; however, they do have the same trait of creating chances when it seems the moment is lost.

    "When I get the ball in front of goal I don't overthink things," the clinical forward continued. "I know exactly what I need to do." After her 16 goals in qualifying, no one is going to argue with that.

22. Ji Soyun: Korea Republic

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    The woman known in her homeland of South Korea as "Ji Messi" is going to be one of the most enjoyable players to watch at this summer's World Cup.

    Her outstanding performances for Chelsea in the Women's Super League have helped the club sit at the top unbeaten at the break, and the 24-year-old was awarded the 2014 FA Women's Player of the Year and the 2015 PFA Player of the Year as a result.

    Chelsea coach Emma Hayes thinks this is only the start for Ji and that her player is set for great things. She told Sky Sports:

    She is at the development age and still needs to improve her game defensively. I think she’s also got to get a little tougher in one v one battles and improve the speed of her decision-making. But in time I think she'll do all of that and as I've said before, I'm sure she'll be nominated for the World Player of the Year in her career. If she keeps working at it I wouldn't be surprised if one day she is World Player of the Year.

    It is hard to argue with Hayes. Ji's low centre of gravity helps her jink past players at ease. She can play anywhere in the attack and is best allowed to drift around the pitch, looking for areas where she can exploit space.

    Ji is great at getting her teammates the ball in positions where they can make a difference. South Korea will need to be at their best to get out of Group E, but with Ji in their lineup, the sky is the limit.

21. Lara Dickenmann: Switzerland

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    Switzerland will play at the World Cup for the first time this summer, and Lara Dickenmann's 10 goals are a huge reason behind their successful qualification run.

    She has tasted great success at club level—seven league titles with Olympique Lyonnais, four Coupe de France trophies and two wins in the Champions League—but this will be her chance to play with her countrywomen on the biggest stage.

    Adored by the Lyon fans who call her their "Swiss Army Knife" due to her ability to adapt to all situations, Dickenmann would prefer to play centrally and as near the goal as possible, but she has been found on the left and right, even in defence.

    The 29-year-old has a direct style with pace to burn and is comfortable with both feet. She gives her all to pull back and support her teammates, but as soon as she wins the ball back, she tries to turn defence to attack as quickly as possible.

    For the Swiss team, she should get the chance to work up front with Ramona Bachmann, and that duo will cause problems to opponents this summer.

20. Lauren Holiday: USA

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    Just like her NBA point guard husband Jrue, Lauren Holiday loves nothing more than to get her teammates involved. She may have finished the 2013 season as the NWSL's leading scorer, but there's a reason why she is the all-time leader in assists too.

    "Her awareness on the field sets her apart from a lot of other midfielders in the world," said United States and club teammate Becky Sauerbrunn to Sports Illustrated. "She just sees things, spaces and seams. And she's got the technical ability to execute whatever she sees and have it happen. That's really special. Some players may have the awareness but not the execution. She has both."

    The 27-year-old has played all over the pitch for her country. From forward to the playmaker, she is now playing even deeper under Jill Ellis but still controls the game.

    She may not be the biggest name on the USWNT, but she is possibly the most important and could lay claim to being the most talented.

19. Eugenie Le Sommer: France

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    Ever since she asked for her first pair of football boots at just two years old, Eugenie Le Sommer has been a born goalscorer. Whether it's scoring all five goals in a 5-0 win as a kid or 29 in just 22 games for Lyon this season, the 26-year-old doesn't know any other way to play.

    She is small for a centre-forward, but when she is allowed to roam, her unselfish play and outstanding ability to change direction make her a nightmare to track. Le Sommer is blessed with great technique, which she uses to draw defenders in before a burst of pace takes her clear of most.

    Playing together for club and country, Louisa Necib and Le Sommer have a seemingly telepathic understanding, and they combine and swap positions almost seamlessly. Their styles complement each other well and helped Le Sommer score seven goals in qualifying for Canada.

18. Christine Sinclair: Canada

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    It would be fair to say 31-year-old Christine Sinclair has a lot on her plate this summer. She is the captain of her country going into a home World Cup. She has more than 200 caps for the Canucks since making her debut as a 16-year-old. Not to mention, she is an official ambassador for the tournament.

    Humble and down to earth off the pitch, Sinclair prefers to do her talking with her feet. With her right or left foot, the Portland Thorns striker can punish you from anywhere.

    She likes to impose her will on defenders, using her power and determination to get into areas where she has no right to be. She's technically gifted on the ball, but just like her personality, it's not flash; she's clever and sets the tone for this Canadian team.

    Sinclair has scored 153 goals in her international career. She won't catch Abby Wambach any time soon, but she is only five short of the legendary Mia Hamm.

    Don't bet against Sinclair rising to the occasion and breaking that record on home soil.

17. Amandine Henry: France

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    Whenever anyone talks about France's chances of winning a World Cup, it is the flair, movement and one-touch passing that catch the headlines. Behind their attacking freedom is the hard work and industry of Olympique Lyonnais' Amandine Henry.

    Regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the game, the 25-year-old brings her natural steel—born in northern France—to stop the opposition in their tracks.

    Henry is a terrier on the pitch. Her play is not reckless; she is not a bully. It is based on reading the game and being patient and methodical. She waits for her moment and then lets nothing stand in her way.

    She is not one of the most experienced players in the France squad with only 39 caps, but a bulging trophy cabinet, including eight league titles, means she is far from a novice.

    After she has been successful in hunting down the ball, she has the ability to turn and push the pace, transitioning defence into attack—plus she can even pick a pass with either foot.

    When it comes down to the knockout stages and the games are getting close, Henry is the type of player who can make the difference for Les Bleus.

16. Abby Wambach: USA

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    As the all-time international goalscorer in women's football, Abby Wambach has guaranteed her place in history. You can't argue with the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or and two Olympic gold medals, but her career is not complete.

    "My agent is here—he probably would kill me for saying this," Wambach told reporters when asked if she needed to win the World Cup to feel complete. "But right now, you're damn right I need it. It's all that I'm thinking about. It's all that's on my mind."

    If you had to bet your life savings on one striker scoring a goal this summer, you would have to pick Wambach to add to her 182 goals for the USWNT.

    Throughout her 242 caps, she has shown to be the ideal target for the United States attack. Her size, athleticism and ability in the air are still unmatched. Add in the vast experience she gives to the younger players, and she is indispensable.

    Wambach is a player for the big occasion. She scored seven goals as the United States won the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship—four of them came in the final against Costa Rica. When the USWNT needs her this summer, expect her to answer the call.

15. Nadine Angerer: Germany

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    Consistent, commanding, captain—those are just some of the words you could use to describe Germany's inspirational goalkeeper, Nadine Angerer.

    From youth striker to reserve goalkeeper, in 2014 she was the first 'keeper to ever be crowned FIFA's World Player of the Year—the first man or woman to receive the honour.

    Angerer won six major titles for Die Nationalelf without ever setting foot on the pitch. That all changed before the 2007 World Cup. Injury to Germany's No. 1, Silke Rottenberg, thrust the Turbine Potsdam 'keeper into the spotlight.

    She didn't let the opportunity pass her by. In keeping a clean sheet for all six matches at the tournament in China, Angerer became the first goalkeeper, male or female, to play an entire World Cup without conceding a goal.

    In the final, Germany would take on Brazil. The free-flowing side had scored 17 goals in five games. Angerer was up for the fight, denying the South Americans and even stopping a crucial penalty from their superstar Marta.

    "As a goalkeeper you are always happy when you save a penalty, but it was a special one because we were leading 1-0," she told CNN. "It was the final and world star Marta shooting a penalty against a nobody goalkeeper...it makes me proud. It was an important save."

    At the end of the year, the 36-year-old will hang up her gloves and retire from playing. Despite their power in attack, Germany's success will not be solely based on scoring goals. If they want to pick up their third title, it will come down to the stunning ability of Angerer.

14. Veronica Boquete: Spain

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    Spanish talisman Veronica Boquete has just completed a wonderful season with Bundesliga club Frankfurt. They may have finished third in the table, but with an injury-time winner against Paris Saint-Germain, they were crowned champions of Europe.

    However, that doesn't seem to be enough for the ambitious Boquete. In the lead-up to the World Cup, it has been announced that she has signed for Frankfurt's rivals and Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

    It is part of Bayern's ambition to conquer Europe, and they are getting a wonderful player to help them achieve it.

    Excellent with both feet, the 28-year-old is an outstanding playmaker for both club and country. With her vision, passing ability, hard work and touch of flair, she is the perfect player to lead Spain into their first World Cup.

    La Roja are an up-and-coming force in women's football. In 2004 Boquete helped them win the Under-19 European Championships. Eleven years on, she finally gets a chance to impress on the world's stage; don't expect her to let it pass her by.

13. Alex Morgan: USA

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    In 2012 Alex Morgan scored 28 goals in 31 games, won an Olympic gold medal in London and was voted as the third-best player in the world…but that still wasn't enough to be recognised by former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

    The United States has possibly the most dangerous attacking unit in women's football, with Morgan the focal point. The 25-year-old has struggled with injuries, missing USA's build-up games, but when she does make her return, she will be vital to her country's success.

    "She kind of came on as a super sub and now she's established herself as a starter, an integral part of our team. I think she's taken on more responsibility, more of a leadership role," said coach Jill Ellis to the Associated Press, via the New York Post.

    Morgan is the perfect triple threat. She is quick, has unstoppable power in her upper body and is deadly in front of goal with either foot.

    If you get too close, she will knock the ball past you and almost charge right by, but if you give her space and time, she will find the bottom corner with amazing accuracy.

12. Caroline Seger: Sweden

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    Even 20 years from now, if a Swedish player signs for Paris Saint-Germain, the instant comparison will be to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but make sure you don't do it in front of Caroline Seger.

    In an interview with Le Parisien (in French) just after signing for PSG, she was quick to distance any parallels drawn between her and the former Barcelona star. There are no obvious stylistic links. Seger is more of a team player. She will give her all for the cause but is deadly when allowed space to operate.

    PSG missed her terribly in the recent UEFA Women's Champions League final. They lost 2-1 to Frankfurt in the cruelest of fashions, and perhaps that 92nd-minute winner would not have happened had Seger been available.

    That's all ifs and buts. What is certain is the midfielder who scored five goals in nine games as Sweden qualified for Canada with a perfect record will be determined to lead her country to glory this summer.

11. Celia Sasic: Germany

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    Celia Sasic goes into the World Cup in a unique position. After winning the Champions League with Frankfurt, she has decided not to sign a new contract. Her agent, Dominik Kaesberg, confirmed to L'Equipe (in French) that she wanted to go into the tournament as a free spirit.

    The 26-year-old, with both Nadine Kessler and Fatmire Alushi out injured, will be one of Germany’s biggest hopes for goals this summer. With 42 goals in two seasons with the Bundesliga side, there is little doubt she is one of the players to watch in Canada.

    Sasic is big and powerful with good technical ability. She is absolutely dominant in the air, which she showed to great effect in this season's Champions League final. Before the end of the first half against Paris Saint-Germain, a lovely ball was played in to the back post, and Sasic was there to nod it perfectly back across goal.

    She predominantly scores with her right foot, but she can use both. As well as scoring nine goals on the way to helping Germany qualify for the World Cup, Sasic has shown great awareness in knowing when to pass and when to go it alone, often helping set her team-mates up for easy chances.

    Out to impress interested clubs, Sasic, like Germany, will be hungry for success this summer.

10. Anja Mittag: Germany

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    With the absence of both Nadine Kessler and Fatmire Alushi in Canada, the pressure will fall on the shoulders of Anja Mittag. It's nothing new for the 30-year-old who scored goals for fun during the World Cup qualifiers.

    After scoring the winning goal as Germany lifted the 2013 European Championships, she solidified just how important she is to Die Nationalelf during the qualification process, scoring 11 times in just nine games.

    Wherever you play Mittag—be it on the wing, as the No. 10 or at the front of the attack—she will find a way to score goals. Germany work hard to limit space to her opponents, and when they win the ball back, Mittag is already playing off the shoulder of the last defender, racing through on goal to finish with either foot.

    On the eve of the tournament, the 30-year-old signed with French side Paris Saint-Germain (source in French), leaving Rosengard after scoring 61 goals in 68 games.

    The Champions League finalists wanted a proven goalscorer, and you can back Mittag to add to her reputation as they try to live up to their tag as tournament favourites.

9. Lena Goessling: Germany

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    Sometimes in football, you don't realise what you have until it's gone. Last season, with Lena Goessling leading the Wolfsburg midfield, the club lifted the Bundesliga title and repeated their Champions League success of the previous year.

    As the German side tried to lift a third European title, they were faced with two games against Paris Saint-Germain for a place in the final. Without their midfield maestro, they would lose 2-0 at home, but with Goessling back, they beat the French side 2-1 in Paris.

    It is easy to miss someone of her quality. The 29-year-old is hardworking, quick with both her mind and her feet and can punish you from distance. As her attacking team-mates impress, Goessling adds security and keeps things tight.

    Able to both create and take chances, she is a superb influence in the midfield for both club and country. This summer, with Nadine Kessler out injured, Goessling will need to step it up and show why she is considered one of the best players in the game.

    Her injury meant that she could only play 17 of Wolfburg's 22 games this season; she scored six times and added three assists. They missed out on the title by just one point. Goessling's three goals in qualifying, plus her form in the past 12 months, have helped Germany move to the top of the women's rankings.

    She will be hoping she can go one further in Canada and add World Cup winner to her list of achievements.

8. Christen Press: USA

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    It seems strange to predict that Christen Press, at 26 years old, could be one of the tournament's breakout stars. Just as the world starts to discover who the American forward is, she hasn't long rediscovered herself.

    Successful in the college game and the now defunct WPS, Press thought her chances of achieving her goals of playing on the USWNT were gone, but an unexpected move to Sweden changed the course of her career and her life.

    "I played on a team that for the first time wasn't the best team in the league,” she told Nike.com. “We weren't expected to win. They had no expectations for me. I was just a random California girl who couldn't speak any Swedish. That lack of expectation and pressure gave me the freedom and spirit to really find my passion for the game again."

    That passion is what has launched her career to the next level. Making her debut for the national team in 2013, she scored twice and set up another in her first match against Scotland. Adding a third in her second match, Press became the first player to score three times in her first two games.

    The 23 goals she scored for Tyreso FF in 2013 saw her awarded the golden boot in the Damallsvenskan—the first American to ever manage it in the history of the league.

    Away from America, Press changed her style. Instead of relying on her explosive pace, she improved her vision, developed her understanding of the game and became a more technical player.

    Whereas the old-school USWNT players still rely on their raw power, Press has ushered in a new dawn, one that will hopefully lead to success this summer.

7. Nilla Fischer: Sweden

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    If Nilla Fischer can upset the odds and lead Sweden to their first World Cup victory, then the Whitney Houston fan will be heralded in Stockholm as the Queen of the Night.

    When you believe, there is nothing you can't achieve with a strong leader. After Fischer had played most of her career as a defensive midfielder, legendary Swedish coach Pia Sundhage converted her into a centre-back in 2013, and it has turned out to be a move of genius.

    It worked so well that Fischer was named Defender of the Year by the Swedish FA in 2013, and when Wolfsburg lifted the 2013/14 Women's Champions League trophy, the 30-year-old was on the short list for the 2013/14 UEFA Best Women's Player in Europe Award.

    Throughout her career, Fischer has demonstrated her tremendous ability in the air. Deadly from set pieces, her prowess has to be respected. Technically gifted, she is an organiser and an inspiration to her team.

    With Fischer on form, don't underestimate what Sweden could achieve this summer.

6. Carli Lloyd: USA

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    Going into her third World Cup, it is only at 32 years old that Carli Lloyd is starting to be recognised as one of the best players in the USWNT.

    Despite all the natural talent, Lloyd nearly gave up, and it was football guru and director of soccer operations for the Universal Soccer Academy, James Galanis, who turned her into a well-oiled football machine.

    Ten years on, and Lloyd is a much different player. Her mother said she always worked hard from a young age, but Galanis took her game to another level.

    "She doesn't switch off. She trains when no one is watching. She's on a mission 24/7," Galanis said, per Laken Litman of USA Today. "It's taken a while for the world to realize that she's the best all-around player in the world. She can do anything. Defend, attack, be a leader on the field, work box to box, score goals, win tackles…she can do everything."

    It's hard to argue, even with her 63 goals for the United States, that she is far from just a goalscorer. Quite often you will find she is the one bursting forward and creating chances—but she has the ability to put the game on her back and inspire her teammates to victory.

    "Carli is the mentality of this team," said goalkeeper Hope Solo, per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated. "She holds everybody accountable: You get in hard for tackles, you win balls, you do what you can to help this team. And she doesn't let you get away with anything less. That's a true leader."

5. Aya Miyama: Japan

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    Despite Japan being crowned world and AFC champions, the two-time AFC Women Player of the Year Aya Miyama remains as humble as ever. She is a shining example to the team and a worthy captain. Going into this summer's tournament, the 30-year-old has clear targets but a fresh approach.

    "Our goal is to win this World Cup," Miyama told FIFA.com. "We will play (hard) to achieve it. But we should shrug off the state of mind as defending champions and start as underdogs. We should challenge (the rivals) to become champions."

    Once she replaced Homare Sawa as captain of the Nadeshiko, the diminutive midfielder added an attacking thrust to their play, as well as continued leadership both on and off the pitch.

    Miyama is an absolute joy to watch. While technically superb, as you would expect from the Japanese, it's her balance, anticipation and awareness of what is around her that make her a constant threat. She plays with her head up, can pick a pass with either foot and is one of the best from set pieces in the women's game.

    She is a genuine contender to be labelled as the best player in the world.

4. Dzsenifer Marozsan: Germany

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    Daughter of former Hungarian international Janos Marozsan, Dzsenifer Marozsan is fast becoming one of the most talented players of football's new generation.

    She made her debut for Bundesliga club Saarbrucken at just 14 years old, scored her first goal within a year and then moved to Frankfurt before turning 17.

    It was clear to see why they pounced for the midfield playmaker. Marozsan lifted the Golden Shoe and was awarded the Silver Ball at the U-17 World Cup in 2008. She then went one better four years later and was crowned the best player at the U-20 World Cup.

    Instantly, you can see she is naturally gifted with the ball at her feet. With sublime close control and the vision and imagination to create chances out of nothing, at just 23 years old, she is one of the most enjoyable players to watch in the women's game.

3. Louisa Necib: France

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    Now established as one of the best teams in women's football, the pressure is on France to produce this summer. The nation gasped in February as Louisa Necib was injured in a friendly against the United States, but her return in Lyon's 2-1 Coupe de France win over Montpellier means the World Cup will have one of its superstars on show come June 9.

    Due to her background and style of play, Necib was initially labelled as the "Female Zidane," but as time has passed, so has the moniker, allowing the 28-year-old to build her own legacy.

    Just like it did with World Cup winner Zidane, the ball almost effortlessly sticks to her feet. Necib's exceptional technique, superb understanding of the game and wonderful vision make her a joy to watch.

    Very rarely does the Lyon midfielder waste the ball. She sees passes that others don't and knows how and when to use her talents to best effect.

    Four years ago she was an emerging star, and if she can help guide France toward the final, there will be a case for calling her the world's best.

2. Lotta Schelin: Sweden

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    Lotta Schelin is one of the best women's footballers in the world. Of that there is little doubt. She may be one player who is close to challenging for the No. 1 spot, and perhaps her performances in Canada can tip the argument in her favour.

    Her 12 goals in 10 games for Sweden on the road to Canada showed exactly what she is capable of. She is tall but quick. The Olympique Lyonnais forward is unselfish and has an air of class when in possession.

    Like any world-class goalscorer, the 31-year-old has a knack of being in the right place at the right time, and just when you think the danger is gone, Schelin conjures a way to find the back of the net.

    The Lyon women's team are spearheaded by Schelin's goalscoring exploits, and she is one of the main reasons they are a powerhouse club in France. On the international stage, when Sweden need someone to step up, they look toward Schelin. More often than not, she responds.

1. Marta: Brazil

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    Even if your knowledge of women's football is limited, you will probably still know of Brazilian superstar Marta. She is a five-time FIFA Women's Player of the Year and has been voted in the top three for the past 11 years.

    Blessed with outstanding pace and incredible awareness and technique that even Pele admires, it is hard to refute that she is the best player in the women's game.

    She caught the world's attention during the 2007 World Cup in China, scoring seven goals as Brazil finished runners-up. She was awarded both the Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe, and there was little doubt of her ability.

    Eight years on, Marta is still on top of the game, but as a 29-year-old forward, she has had to adapt her style in order to keep her place at the very top.

    "It is obvious that I can't run for 90 minutes with the same intensity as when I was 20 to 18 years old," she told Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated. "I try to read the game situations a little better in order to bring in my rhythm, according to the opportunities that arise during the match. But my playing style is the same."

    Any question of her abilities beginning to fade was dismissed last year when she burst past three American defenders to score a stunning goal with her left foot.

    The peloton behind her are definitely closing the gap. Current FIFA Women's Player of the Year Nadine Kessler will miss the tournament through injury, but others could make a case if they perform this summer.

    Marta is the joint all-time leading scoring at the Women's World Cup with 14 goals. If she can shine on the biggest stage once again, she could regain her title as the best the game has to offer.

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