Soccer

From Lauren James to Sam Kerr – Players set to light up Women’s World Cup

Lauren James and Sam Kerr (George Tewkesbury/John Walton/PA).
Lauren James and Sam Kerr (George Tewkesbury/John Walton/PA). Lauren James and Sam Kerr (George Tewkesbury/John Walton/PA).

The world’s finest in women’s football have descended upon Australia and New Zealand for the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five players who could shine at the global showpiece.

Lauren James (England)

The 21-year-old forward has both England fans and pundits alike buzzing after a stellar season with Chelsea, where she scored seven goals and provided two assists in 26 matches played across the Women’s Super League and Champions League.

While the World Cup will be James’ first major international tournament, she has plenty of experience in high-stakes situations with Emma Hayes’ WSL and FA Cup-winning Blues.

The one-time PFA Young Player of the Year nominee is aggressive and opportunistic with the ball while also displaying what often feels like effortless control, and says she is keen to carve out an identity separate to that of her older brother, Chelsea and England defender Reece James. This opportunity could well accelerate that mission.

Read more: Ireland international Chloe Mustaki still rolling the dice and planning to make it count at Women's World Cup

Trinity Rodman (USA)

Trinity Rodman in action against England last year
Trinity Rodman in action against England last year Trinity Rodman in action against England last year (Bradley Collyer/PA).

Rodman can no doubt relate to James – she is also a 21-year-old forward who is often mentioned in the same breath as her own famous relative, ex-NBA player dad Dennis Rodman.

But the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League Rookie of the Year and 2022 Ballon D’Or nominee has more than earned her solo spotlight since she became, at age 18, the youngest player drafted into the NWSL. And last February she extended her stay at Washington Spirit with what was widely reported to be a league record-breaking USD1.1 million, four-year deal.

Rodman seems to be in fine form ahead of the USA’s tournament opener against Vietnam after bagging a second-half brace in the Americans’ 2-0 win over Wales in a friendly earlier this month.

Khadija Shaw (Jamaica)

Manchester City’s Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw will lead Jamaica's Reggae Girlz into their second World Cup
Manchester City’s Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw will lead Jamaica's Reggae Girlz into their second World Cup Manchester City’s Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw will lead Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz into their second World Cup (Tim Markland/PA)

‘Bunny’ Shaw will be a familiar face to many from her time with the WSL’s Manchester City, particularly after a 2022/23 season in which she finished second only to England and Aston Villa forward Rachel Daly for the most goals scored in the English top flight.

The 26-year-old Reggae Girlz captain, who recently extended her stay at City until 2026, concluded her second season with 31 goals in 30 games and in the process became the highest-scoring women’s player across a single campaign in the club’s history.

Shaw is the first Caribbean player to win the CONCACAF Women’s Player of the Year award, and Jamaica will rely on the skipper’s leadership when they embark on just their second World Cup finals in a difficult Group F that includes heavy-hitters Brazil and France alongside Panama.

Sam Kerr (Australia)

Australia's Sam Kerr has a chance to shine in front of a home crowd
Australia's Sam Kerr has a chance to shine in front of a home crowd Australia’s Sam Kerr has a chance to shine in front of a home crowd (Mike Egerton/PA)

Prolific striker Sam Kerr is precisely the sort of player you want on your side in those dig-deep, do-or-die situations when the pressure is at its most intense.

Fortunately for tournament co-hosts Australia, the 29-year-old back-flipping forward is one of their very own and could well be the weapon that ultimately deals the tournament-ending blow to two of World Cup debutants Republic of Ireland, Olympic champions Canada and Nigeria to send the Matildas into the knockout stage.

Chelsea boss Hayes has heaped praise on the ‘FIFA 23’ cover woman for her steely focus until the final whistle, often paying off in result-deciding goals like the one that won the Blues this year’s FA Cup. Kerr also scored in England’s only loss under head coach Sarina Wiegman, a 2-0 upset for the Lionesses against Australia in their April friendly.

Lena Oberdorf (Germany)

Midfielder Lena Sophie Oberdorf, 21, was also part of Germany's 2019 World Cup squad
Midfielder Lena Sophie Oberdorf, 21, was also part of Germany's 2019 World Cup squad Midfielder Lena Sophie Oberdorf, 21, was also part of Germany’s 2019 World Cup squad (Niall Carson/PA)

Germany’s young midfield star will be looking for retribution after narrowly missing out Euro 2022 glory last summer, when her side lost 2-1 to England in their dramatic Wembley final, although she did walk away with Young Player of the Tournament honours.

Though also just 21, the Wolfsburg talent will be making her second World Cup appearance, having made her debut in the 2019 French edition aged 17, where she sat school exams during the tournament.

Known for taking initiative, winning back possession and her well-timed challenges, Oberdorf will be a key cog in a strong German side’s title hopes as one of the tournament favourites kick off their campaign with group H matches against Morocco, Colombia and South Korea.