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Women’s Football World Cup 2019: Ten stars to watch

Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters | France’s Amandine Henry, one of the host team’s stars ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

The best footballers in the women’s game square off starting June 7 when France hosts the Women’s World Cup. FRANCE 24 looks at some of the top talent to keep tabs on. Many happen to be more than familiar with the city hosting the July 7 final, Lyon.

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Although less well-known than their counterparts in men’s football, the stars at the top of the women’s game, poised to take the pitch in France over the next month, are an impressive lot.

Megan Rapinoe (USA)

Jason Connolly, AFP

At 33, American midfielder Megan Rapinoe is one of the headline names in women’s football. A defending world champion with the United States, Rapinoe is keen to lift the trophy again in France, a country she knows well, with the final set for Lyon on July 7. The Redding, California, native won two French championships with the city’s illustrious Olympique Lyonnais in 2013 and 2014. She also boasts an Olympic gold medal from London 2012. The socially engaged Seattle Reign FC star has declined to sing the US national anthem in protest over inequality in the US and Trump administration policy.

Alex Morgan (USA)

USA TODAY USPW/Reuters

Team USA’s Alex Morgan has also plied her trade in France. The American striker played one season with Olympique Lyonnais, winning a French championship, French Cup and Champions League treble with the club. An emblematic face of the US team, the Orlando Pride forward became the first footballer woman to appear on the cover of a FIFA video game (FIFA 16). She boasts more than 3.5 million followers on Twitter and played herself in the 2018 film “Alex & Me”.

Amandine Henry (France)

Franck Fife, AFP

After spending parts of two seasons with the Portland Thorns, French midfielder Amandine Henry is well-acquainted with the game’s American luminaries. In France, she tasted glory most recently with Olympique Lyonnais, winning a French championship with the club in April. The 29-year-old is also a lethal weapon for France’s national side, “Les Bleues”. Henry won the Ballon d’Argent (Silver Ball) as runner-up best player at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and hopes to help put France in a position to win its first ever World Cup, at home.

Eugénie Le Sommer (France)

Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP

France’s active top scorer with 74 goals, Eugénie Le Sommer is a machine, fast approaching the French all-time leader Marinette Pichon’s 81-goal mark. The Brittany-native has also been prolific with her club side in Lyon. The Olympique Lyonnais striker has racked up 257 goals and an impressive trophy collection: Nine French championships, seven French Cups and six Champions Leagues. A world title at home would round out the 30-year-old’s résumé nicely.

Marta (Brazil)

Jamie Squire, AFP

Marta Vieira da Silva, better known as Marta, is already a legend, considered one of the best players in the history of women’s football. Indeed, FIFA has named her Footballer of the Year a record six times, in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2018. Although occasionally compared to her iconic compatriot Pelé in the men’s game, the 33-year-old Marta has yet to win a top prize with the Brazilian national team. For the 2007 World Cup finalist and two-time Olympic silver medallist (2004, 2008), the 2019 tournament in France may well be Marta’s last chance to pad her legacy with a world title.

Christine Sinclair (Canada)

Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters

Canada captain Christine Sinclair is the top Canadian goal-scorer and player of all time. She’s brought joy to the national side for almost two decades. Sinclair has two Olympic Games under her belt, including a bronze-medal winning performance in 2012 in London, where she was even named Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremonies. At 36, the Portland Thorns striker has a chance to burnish her own legend during this World Cup: With 180 goals for her national team, Sinclair needs only four more to tie the all-time international world-record holder, American Abby Wambach.

Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany)

Luis Acosta, AFP

Dzsenifer Marozsán has just been elected best player in the French championship for a second consecutive season. Since 2016, the Budapest-born German midfielder has been winning title after title with Olympique Lyonnais. But she has collected silverware with her national squad, too. A 2013 European champion, she is also a defending Olympic gold medallist after Germany won the football tournament at Rio 2016. Marozsán and Germany are among the favourites to win it all at this World Cup.

Saki Kumagai (Japan)

Elsa, AFP

Although a discreet presence, Saki Kumagai is one of the winningest players in the French top-flight. The Japanese defender, who plays for Olympique Lyonnais, has won a World Cup (2011), been a World Cup finalist (2015), won an Olympic silver medal (2012) and an Asian Cup (2018). At 28, Japan’s captain has time to add to that impressive tally. Perhaps she’ll notch up another career-making moment during the competition in France, as she did scoring the winning penalty in the 2011 World Cup final in Germany.

Lieke Martens (The Netherlands)

John Thys, AFP

The year 2017 was a special one for Lieke Martens. She was European champion with the Dutch team, won Ballon d’Or best-player honours for that tournament, and was named FIFA Player of the Year. Now 26, Lieke Martens just gets better and better. The FC Barcelona striker is one of the new stars of women’s football, featured in advertisements alongside her counterparts from the men’s game, like her idol Lionel Messi and David Beckham.

Sam Kerr (Australia)

Harry How, AFP

At 25, Sam Kerr may be one of the top star attractions of the 2019 tournament. The Australia forward, who plays for the Chicago Red Stars, was ranked fifth for the first Women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018. A goal-scoring machine, she is a rising star in the women’s game and is attracting the attention of top clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain, which may well seek to recruit her soon.

This article has been adapted from the original in French.

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