We enjoyed every second of the Women's World Cup. Now we've had a few days to let the USWNT victory soak in, here is our Best XI of the tournament.
Sari Van Veenendaal (The Netherlands) – Van Veenendaal managed to keep the Dutch side in the final for over an hour, making multiple outstanding saves in which her goal was constantly peppered by a frightening USA front line. After her performance in the World Cup final in France, it is without question that a number of high profile clubs will be desperate to Van Veenendaal whose contract with Arsenal women expires this summer.
Crystal Dunn (USA) – You would be hard pushed to find a better left-back in the World right now than Crystal Dunn. Powerful and decisive, Dunn is an expert in making dangerous wingers look distinctly average. Dunn had a particularly outstanding game against the hosts France in which their wingers barely had room to breathe, such was the tenacity of her pressing and speed in which she converted defence into attack.
Lucy Bronze (England) – Bronze deservedly won the FIFA Silver Ball (second best player of the tournament). It was her marauding run down the right wing in the first half of the match against Norway that led to England’s first goal in the Quarter-final. Her 25-yard strike in the same match completed one of the best performances by any player at this World Cup. One of the truest strikes you will see in a football match, Bronze was completely unplayable on her day. It was only a shame that her and Nikita Parris couldn’t make their combination play click in the semi-final.
Steph Houghton (England) – An absolute rock of a centre back throughout the tournament, Houghton came through a nasty injury against Cameroon to have one of the standout performances of the campaign against Norway. She rescued her defensive partner, Millie Bright, from several sticky situations with a goal line clearance and a last-ditch tackle within the space of a few minutes. One of England’s best players at this tournament, led the team like a true professional who oozed class on and off the pitch throughout. It would be tremendously unfair for the England captain’s world cup to be overshadowed by her Semi-Final penalty miss against The USA.
Kelly O’Hara (USA) – Former winger turned centre back, O’Hara provides balance to the USA side. Only conceding 3 goals in a World Cup demonstrates the superbly organised backline. This was encapsulated by O’Hara, whose physicality and positional awareness dominated in games. She was unfortunate to be substituted at half-time during the final due to a clash of heads, the type of fearless 50/50 challenge that O’Hara threw herself into throughout tournament.
Rose Lavelle (USA) – Lavelle exploded onto the scene this World Cup, asserting herself as one of the new generation of USA stars. She looked incredibly dangerous going forward, scoring 3 goals and carving her way through the opposition defence with ease. Lavelle topped off her tournament with an outstanding 30-yard solo run, scoring her first ever goal in a World Cup final. This was richly deserved for a player who stamped her own authority on this USA team, no doubt cementing her position for many years to come.
Sherida Spitse (The Netherlands) – A master of set-pieces, no other Dutch player provided more assists than Spitse during this World Cup. She was the rock in midfield that allowed the front Dutch 3 to flourish in their attacking roles. Her standout performance came against Italy in the Quarter-final, where Spitse whipped in two sublime free-kicks for her teammates to finish with first-time headers.
Sofia Jakobsson (Sweden) – Jakobsson scored against the two-time World Champions Germany to put Sweden through to the Semi-Final. Jakobsson finished her sublime solo effort in the third-place play-off against England, by curling the ball past Carly Telford with the instep of her right boot from the edge of the penalty box. This proved to be the deciding goal of the match, and topped of a successful tournament for the Swedish National Team who came out deserving winners of the Bronze medal.
Caroline Graham Hansen (Norway) – One of the most exciting young players to watch, Graham-Hansen was outstanding for Norway during the group stages and in their match against Australia in the last 16. Graham-Hansen oozes class on the ball and is liquid in her movement. She slips past defenders with a drop of the shoulder and is always looking to create. A real gem of a player whose World Cup was cut-short by an England side that was ultimately too strong for Norway in Quarter-Final.
Megan Rapinoe (USA) – Winner of the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball for best player of the tournament. Megan Rapinoe is dominating the headlines, and rightly so. She responded to the pressure from the outside in the best possible way by letting her final performance on the pitch do the talking. Rapinoe showed immense composure to score a penalty in the final when all eyes were on her and was later given a standing ovation for her performance. The USA manager, Jill Ellis, summed up her World Cup perfectly, “the bigger the spotlight, the bigger she shines”.
Ellen White (England) – England’s stand-out performer of the tournament. White managed the incredible feat of scoring in five consecutive World Cup matches, finishing her tally off with six goals for the tournament. Her determination to chase down every loose ball and the composure she showed with her finishing was a joy to watch. White’s equaliser against the USA to make it 1-1 was one of the most memorable moments of the tournament, a sheer explosion of joy after converting Beth Mead’s cross. White’s inspiring performances captured the hearts of a nation and will have inspired a future generation of young girls to dream of playing football for their country.
By Nell Boxall