Remember the World Cup? It ended about a week and a half ago, and it was pretty amazing. In a bid to refresh the memories, here’s a countdown of the tournament’s 60 most
distinctive distinguished players. These aren’t necessarily in order by individual greatness, but by the amount of value added to the team.
Pardon the tardiness. The list will be completed on Friday.
41.) Caitlin Foord – The 16-year-old right-back was a surprise start for Australia’s opening group match against Brazil but quickly earned her keeps. Foord also showcased her versatility as she appeared in a right midfield position in Australia’s quarterfinals match against Sweden. Blessed with blazing speed and accurate crossing, Foord was highlighted as Best Young Player of the Tournament beating out the likes of Saki Kumagai and Kim Kulig.
42.) Kyah Simon – The precocious Sydney FC striker turned 20 on the eve of the World Cup’s opening kick-off and displayed a youthful sense of adventure in front of goal. Her well-deserved brace against Norway helped ensure Australia’s passage to the quarterfinals.
43.) Elodie Thomis – With blistering pace and a voracious appetite for goal, the French winger proved to be one of the tournament’s most impactful substitutes.
44.) Laura Georges – France’s center-back showed acute positional awareness against Nigeria and then kept Christine Sinclair at bay in France’s next match. She wasn’t exactly helped by Bruno Bini’s constant defensive tweaks or her goalkeeper’s deficiencies. Georges also showed some proneness for lapses of concentration, but, let’s face it, she had a lot to deal with.
45.) Emilie Haavi – The 19-year-old outside midfielder holds the distinction of scoring one of Norway’s two goals in the tournament. Haavi’s technical skill and ferocious shot helped her to become one of the brightest teenaged standouts of the Word Cup. Norway’s most promising young player by a mile.
46.) Lisa DeVanna – Australia’s established speed demon and eternal firebrand pulled defenses apart in Group D. She wasn’t clinical enough against Brazil but finally claimed her goal in the following match against Equatorial Guinea. Her ability to exploit seemingly negligible pockets of space added some serious threat to Australia’s attack. Just needed a better first touch at times.
47.) Heather O’Reilly – Value can be measured in two ways: how much a player contributes when on the field and how much the team struggles in light of said player’s absence. The U.S.’ consummate workhorse had some quiet moments, but will likely be remembered for her peach of a goal against Colombia and the assist that led to Lauren Cheney’s goal against France. There’s obviously no way of knowing this, but the USWNT’s midfield looked out of sorts against Sweden. The midfield looked entirely one-dimensional without O’Reilly’s pace, boundless energy, sharp and crosses from the right. The service HAO offers to the team’s midfield is invaluable.
48.) Maribel Dominguez – After two fairly fruitless group matches, Marigol finally claimed her goal in vintage style when she got in behind the Football Ferns defense, entered a 1v.1 duel with Jenny Bindon, and emerged the victor. It’s just a shame that moment only came around once in the whole tournament.
49.) Christine Sinclair – The broken nose sustained in the tournament’s curtain raiser between Germany and Canada was not helpful. Not only did it diminish Sinclair’s aerial threat, it also seemed to have a deflationary effect on Canada’s attack. Big Red’s frontline looked thoroughly disjointed from that point on. We’ll always have that lovely free kick, though.
50.) Hannah Wilkinson – Flash back to New Zealand’s second group match against England. The Football Ferns had just conceded a goal-ahead goal to Jess Clarke in the 81st minute. Who knows what would have happened had Hannah Wilkinson been introduced to the match prior to stoppage time. Perhaps she would have scored the last-gasp equalizer like she had in New Zealand’s final match against Mexico. New Zealand’s target forward has power, stature, and a big future.
51.) Elise Bussaglia – France’s deep-lying midfielder did well to snatch balls and pick out passes for Louisa Necib on the break. Bussaglia’s long-range cracks was one of France’s most favored modes of attack. After all, it was her 88th minute effort against England that helped push France on to the semifinals.
52.) Rebecca Smith – The Football Ferns’ center-back maintained a resolute presence at the backline in spite of Jenny Bindon’s occassional gaffes. Her header in extra time against Mexico was the work of a captain.
53.) Sarah Gregorious – Despite the lone goal, New Zealand’s no. 10 was a constant nuisance to opposing defenses. Gregorious has pace to burn and is quick on the draw.
54.) Diana Matheson – Big Red’s dimunitive sparkplug in central midfield kept at it even as Canada’s World Cup hopes dimmed. Just needed some end product to match the tireless effort.
55.) Osinache Ohale – Nigeria’s central defender was a stout force throughout the tournament, and really stood out in the Super Falcons’ second group match against Germany. Ohale did well in keeping Nigeria’s back line calm and organized.
56.) Therese Sjogran – Composed and steady, the Sky Blue FC player was a prominent (and sometimes overlooked) member in what was a truly collective Sweden midfield.
57.) Carmen Rodallega – If the shop window metaphor applied in this case, Rodallega was certainly a fixture in it for the women’s soccer world to see. The enterprising winger helped connect Colombia’s midfield to the front line and proved to be an a gifted dribbler as well. Footballing creativity clearly runs in the family as she’s the elder sister of Wigan Athletic striker Hugo Rodallega.
58.) Babett Peter – On the one hand, Peter got caught out during the transition that led to Karina Maruyama’s game-winning goal in the Germany’s quarterfinals match against Japan. On the other hand, the left-back was one of Germany’s more consistent players throughout the tournament. With tenacity and (typically) good recovery speed, Peter had several distinctive performances at outside back.
59.) Rachel Unitt – The left-back occasionally performed dual tasks as she helped provide cover for England’s spotty center-back pairing of Faye White and Casey Stoney. When given the opportunity, she marshaled her area with tidy defensive work (i.e. strong defending, crunching tackles) and forced opponents to abandon attacking down the left flank.
60.) Karen Bardsley – California’s best English goalkeeper (a moratorium will be placed on the phrase from this point on, promise) got off to a shaky start. There was Monica Ocampo’s wonder goal against Mexico and Sarah Gregorious’ early goal for New Zealand. Bardsley quickly found her form, however, and used her height advantage to nullify the Football Ferns’ subsequent aerial challenges. The Sky Blue FC goalkeeper really shone in England’s final group match against the eventual world champions in which goalkeeper pulled off the show-stopping saves reminiscent of the ones she made in the first half of the 2010 WPS season. The Three Lions managed to keep a clean sheet against Japan, and Bardsley was mere minutes away from doing the same to Les Bleues in their quarterfinals match before Elisa Bussaglia’s rocket shot. After Camille Abily’s initial errant shot, Bardsley was unable to come up with any saves, but deserves plaudits for anchoring England’s World Cup turnaround.
Players ranked 40-21 will be posted tomorrow and 20-1 will be up on Friday.