And the list continues. Counting down this time.
40.) Nilla Fischer – The steely Swedish midfielder was immense against the U.S. and Japan and succeeded in disrupting opponent’s attacking rhythm. It’s a wonder how Fischer would have done against Japan in the semifinals match had she not missed the match due to suspension.
39.) Kerstin Garefrekes – The tournament may not have ended the way the veteran outside midfielder had envisioned, but Garefrekes showed glimpses of her patented greatness. Her towering header against Canada was a real belter. She remained Germany’s most creative attacking option on the wing even though she could never quite forge a discernable link with her forwards.
38.) Cristiane – Crafty and creative, the former Chicago Red Stars forward was a prominent part of Brazil’s scattergun attack. Cristiane’s crowning moment came against Equatorial Guinea when she helped herself to a brace and an assist in the team’s comprehensive 3-0 victory. She showed an intuitive understanding with strike partner Marta, even though that was largely absent in Brazil’s match against the U.S.
37.) Ali Riley – The virtues that made Ali Riley WPS’s Rookie of the Year in 2010 were on full display in Germany. The WNY Flash right-back helped spur the attack for New Zealand with her probing runs and accurate crosses. It’s just a shame the Football Ferns attacked down the flanks as a Plan B and not Plan A.
36.) Celia da Mbabi Okoyino – Everything seemed to be going according to plan by the time da Mbabi Okoyino netted Germany’s maiden goal in the tournament against Canada. The host’s attack never quite looked in sync thereafter, even despite the Bad Neuenahr striker’s best efforts. The 24-year-old got on the scoreboard once more in the team’s final group stage match versus France and appeared to be the only member of Germany’s star-studded strike force who consistenty lived up to the hype.
35.) Elise Kellond-Knight – The Matildas’ backline was oft-maligned for some truly woeful defensive collapses against Equatorial Guinea, Norway, and Sweden. Much of the blame can be placed on the shoulders of a certain center-back, however, and that shouldn’t gloss over the number of outstanding performances from the 20-year-old left-back. Kellond-Knight occasionally ventured forward, but had her area on lockdown when she remained in defense.
34.) Eugenie Le Sommer – The 22-year-old fulfilled much of her promise as she was a surefire weapon off the bench. The tricky winger helped carve up Canada’s defense in France’s second group match with her speed, ability to cut inside from the left, and positional intelligence. That match – aided by Le Sommer’s effectiveness – marked France’s defining moment in the tournament.
33.) Kim Kulig – The precocious talent got off to a flying start as she and Simone Laudehr effectively became the first line of defense in Germany’s midfield. Kulig constantly harried opposing midfielders, even though Germany’s attackers seemed to struggle to make good use of the possession their holding midfielders helped win them. The 20-year-old had a thoroughly luckless end to the tournament as she tore her ACL minutes into Germany’s ill-fated quarterfinals match against Japan. The hosts could never exert their will in midfield from then on.
32.) Nahomi Kawasumi – It was Kawasumi’s fine brace against Sweden that propelled Japan into the final. Kawasumi spearheaded Japan’s attack in place of Yuki Nagasoto. Head coach Norio Sasaki’s move paid dividends as Kawasumi did not disappoint.
31.) Lisa Dahlkvist – The 24-year-old wide player turned out to be one of Sweden’s most dependable goal-scoring options. Dahlkvist scored a trio of goals in the tournament including the eventual game-winner in Sweden’s second group match against North Korea. Every 4-4-2 system needs a player like Dahlkvist running the flanks.
30.) Ingvild Stensland – They make not make them like Stensland anymore. Norway captain helped hold her team together at the seams. The Norway’s attack never took flight and its defense didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Stensland bossed the midfield, however, and kept Norway’s decisive final group match against Australia respectable before the team simply deflated in the second half.
29.) Josefine Oqvist – The Linkopings forward’s track and field-like pace was highlighted by Ian Darke during the commentary of Sweden’s final group match against the U.S. And it’s not just speed. In the team’s semifinal match against Japan, Oqvist pounced on Homare Sawa’s misplaced pass and gave Sweden the early lead. Oqvist torched opposing teams with her fleet-footed runs, whiplash-inducing crosses, and close-range shots.
28.) Rita Chikwelu – A bona fide midfield battler, Chikwelu helped keep possession in Nigeria’s favor in the team’s matches against Germany and Canada. The scrappy defensive midfielder imposed a strong sense of authority when breaking up play.
27.) Alex Scott – The Boston Breakers full-back infused some attacking life into England’s right side with her long-range passes and effective overlapping runs. Scott had a gem of a match against New Zealand as she reinvigorated the Three Lions’ offense without neglecting her defensive duties.
26.) Collette McCallum – The Westfield Matildas’ conductor in midfield. McCallum set the tone for Australia’s attack with her excellent passing range and vision. She had a quiet time against Sweden in Australia’s quarterfinals match and the team’s attack suffered as a result of it.
25.) Lauren Cheney – The converted forward was an absolute force on the left flank. She may lack the lightning pace and crossing ability that typifies “classic wingers”, but Cheney’s cannon-footed shot was one of the U.S.’ most dangerous threats. It will be fascinating to watch how she performs in an attacking midfield position in the coming years.
24.) Alex Morgan – The 22-year-old was 21 minutes away from scoring what would have been the World Cup clinching goal. It was finished in vintage Alex Morgan style, too, as she ran directly through Japan’s defense and finished the chance with cool confidence. She isn’t quite the finished article yet as she can sometimes squander a good chance with an extra touch or two, but in the semifinals and final, the super sub did exactly what she needed to.
23.) Marie-Laure Delie – Delie’s prolific international goals record (23 goals in 25 appearances) is no fluke. The 23-year-old finished her chances with the clinical touch of a cold-blooded assassin. If Delie was given space to lurk, she wrought havoc in the six-yard area. A true goal poacher.
22.) Saskia Bartusiak – Yes, Bartusiak was found wanting on Maruyama’s game-winning goal, but that should only partly detract from what was a truly solid tournament from the Frankfurt defender. In addition to stepping in to clear dangerous crosses, she also doubled back to assist at the troubled right-back position. Bartusiak consistently kept her head even as the pressure ratcheted up, and was one of the few German players to do so.
21.) Sara Thunebro – It’s a toss-up between Sweden and Japan for the best defense in the tournament. Thunebro’s tactical awareness and sound defending has a lot to do with that. Defenders rarely ever get showered with praise, but Thunebro deserves to be as the ever reliable full-back hardly put a foot wrong.
The final 20 players will be revealed tomorrow.