The 2019 Women’s World Cup has reached the semi-final stage.
Only four sides remain: World Champions USA, European Champions Netherlands and the upstarts England and Sweden. With just four games left of this incredible showpiece, now is a great take to take stock of what we have seen thus far.
We’ve looked back at the fantastic individual displays that have lit up France as much as the blistering summer sunshine and come up with a combined XI of the very best performers so far, with a limit of three entries per team. So who made it in? Read on and find out!
Italy were one of the surprise packages at the World Cup and a big reason for that was the steady goalkeeping of Laura Giuliani. No stopper had to make as many as saves as Giuliani’s incredible 20. In her first four games she only conceded from a penalty and a rebound after she had saved a penalty. A phenomenal stopper with a save percentage of 83.33% that was only eliminated by two set-pieces that no goalie could have stopped.
Phil Neville called her the best player in the world and whilst that may be a tad much given Ada Hegerberg is alive and well, Lucy Bronze is certainly one of the best three players at the tournament and a genuine sensation. A playmaker right-back who can run, tackle, dribble, pass and shoot. Only five players have completed more dribbles than her and she’s a full-back, and has also won 13 tackles and made 11 interceptions. A treasure.
After being somewhat culpable for England conceding in the opening game, Steph Houghton has gone absolutely beastmode since then to shut opponents out. England haven’t conceded since that opening game and Houghton (with help from Bronze) is the main reason why, especially as she has carried her error-prone partner Millie Bright. Houghton also scored an immense indirect free-kick in the round of 16. A true captain, she has led from the front (or, the back).
Sweden have progressed to the semi-finals largely off the back of their impressive defensive displays. Their ability to shut opponents down has allowed them to progress past the greater fancied Canada and Netherlands and Linda Sembrant’s solid displays have led the way. Not only has she been a rock at the back with 26 clearances, but she also created Sweden’s opening goal against Germany with a superb long-range pass that split the defence in two before falling perfectly for Sofia Jakobsson to score.
Amel Majri can feel hard done by to miss out here but as amazing as she has been, when the two of them came head-to-head it was Dunn that had the greater impact on the game. An attacking midfielder by trade, Dunn plays left-back for the USA out of necessity and she does a good job. Even when she’s getting diced up, as she was against Kadidiatou Diani, she manages to chase back and inexplicably make a tackle or a block. She is a consummate pro and one hell of a player.
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Defensive midfield, Netherlands
Spitse is a unique character in that she is her side’s defensive anchor, having won six tackles and eight interceptions holding the base of the Dutch midfield. But she’s also one of their most dangerous creative players thanks to her sublime set-piece ability. Spitse has created 11 chances through her set-plays and registered an incredible four assists, including for both goals against Italy.
Centre midfield, France
One-woman army isn’t a phrase you hear often but maybe you should do, especially when referring to Amandine Henry. With her blonde ponytail and ruthless application of skill she ran through opponents like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. A fierce leader and magnificent midfielder, she was easily the best player on the park even as France were eliminated in the quarter-finals against the USA. A powerhouse.
Centre midfield, USA
Whilst not quite Henry, Samantha Mewis has been a similar bundle of energy for the USA. The American midfielder is full of specialists but Mewis is a true all-rounder, capable of scoring goals (she has two) creating them (three assists), running with the ball (seven dribbles) as well as being creative with it (10 chances created) and winning it back whether on the ground (eight tackles won) or in the air (21 aerials).
Caroline Graham Hansen
There wasn’t a footballer more liquid in their approach playing at the 2019 World Cup than Caroline Graham Hansen. The winger was absolutely sublime for host country Denmark as they tried to succeed despite missing Hegerberg. Hansen was magic with the ball at her feet, winning 22 dribbles (more than anyone else) and utterly bamboozling opponents on the regular. She was pure poetry in motion, which is why it was somewhat fitting that the prosaic England derailed her.
Megan Rapinoe, left-winger. That is both a sentence and description of what position the American plays. What a supreme, sensational and sublime presence Rapinoe is. As a player she’s been a dynamic and forceful part of a USA side that has swept all before it. She has five goals and two assists, but most impressively is she’s scored all four of America’s goals in the knockout rounds, firing them past huge tests against Spain and France.
When America has needed a hero, a leader, Rapinoe has stood tall. That goes double for off the field where she has stood by her comments that implied disgust and condemnation of the tyranny and bigotry emerging from certain sections of the American government right now. Football needs icons like Rapinoe.
The powerhouse England striker went head-to-head with the dynamic American Alex Morgan for the final spot in the side, and came out on top because, well, the three player rule – but also every single goal Morgan scored came against Thailand, whereas White has spaced her goals out across multiple games. Each forward has five goals (along with Rapinoe and Sam Kerr) but White has scored in every game she’s played. A prolific and relentless goalscoring machine that has fired England all the way to the semi-finals.