Adding to her legend, American midfielder Carli Lloyd proved to be the factor in the United States winning their first FIFA Women’s World Cup title since 1999. Considering that she also scored the gold medal winning goal at the 2012 London Summer Games, she has elevated herself to a superstar status that has made her the face of US Soccer, akin to the likes of Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm.
Awarded the Golden Ball Award as the top player at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, she entertained the capacity crowd in Vancouver with the performance of a lifetime. In the first five minutes of the game, Lloyd scored twice to provide the United States with a 2-0 lead, the fastest two goals scored in a championship game. Of note, it would prove to be a lead that they would not relinquish.
Taking into account that the title game was a rematch of the 2011 game, a loss suffered against Japan, it had been a very long four years of contemplation. Although the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games provided consolation, the 2015 victory resulted in redemption.
Lloyd continued her heroics by scoring at the 16th minute, resulting in the fastest hat trick in Women’s World Cup history. In addition, she became the only American woman to record a hat trick in a championship game. Two of her goals reflected her dominance on the pitch. One goal resulted in a superb pass from the corner by Megan Rapinoe, who had to sit out the quarterfinal match against China due to a pair of yellow cards.
As the Japanese defenders were focused on the ball, Lloyd, who had been at the perimeter, quickly ran up the field and tapped in Rapinoe’s pass with her left foot, past the Japanese defense. Another goal saw Lloyd score at a long distance, as the ball bounced off the Japanese goalkeeper’s hand and into the net, to a roar of approval from the proud American fans in attendance.
In the aftermath of a 5-2 final, Lloyd would finish the FIFA Women’s World Cup with six goals in seven games, tying Germany’s Celia Sasic for the tournament lead in the race to the Golden Boot. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Lloyd showed remarkable endurance by playing in every minute of every U.S game in the tournament.
One of the realities of the Women’s World Cup is that many of these competitors will be looked upon as sex symbols. Although it may present a point of tension among some, the number of web pages devoted to the most attractive female footballers is in significant abundance. Perhaps it is not so wrong to celebrate the beauty of these women, but it is essential to recognize and acknowledge their sporting abilities. Beauty aside, these are truly some of the world’s most talented footballers and could easily hold their own against several men’s teams. Their opportunity to compete on a global scale may lead to a much greater appreciation of their contributions to the Beautiful Game.
A member of the Seattle Reign, Rapinoe’s soccer resume also includes stints with the Chicago Red Stars, Philadelphia Independence and France’s Olympique Lionnaise. Her breakthrough moment occurred at the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Trailing against Brazil, her cross to Abby Wambach tied the game, sparking the greatest comeback in US soccer history.
The following year, she would accumulate seven points (including a Goal Olimpico) in a gold medal effort at the 2012 London Summer Games. Such momentum led to a pair of remarkable milestones in 2013. Not only was she recognized as the Best Player of the Algarve Cup, she earned an assist on Abby Wambach’s record-breaking goal in international play with 159. Said assist occurred in a friendly against South Korea on June 20.
Considering that Rapinoe is a strong supporter of several LGBT organizations, having come out in July 2012, she may become the focus of attention for several members of the media looking to write positive pieces about players with same-sex preferences. An ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization determined to end homophobia in sport, her status as world-class soccer player may help increase awareness. Currently in a relationship with musician Sera Cahoone, a World Cup title would be the perfect complement to an outstanding career.
Anouk Hoodendijk (Netherlands)
An 11-year veteran of the Dutch national women’s team, her presence shall be one based on leadership. In her international career, scoring the game-winning kick in the penalty shootout against France may have stood as a career highlight. Of note, it helped the Netherlands advance to the semi-finals of the Women’s Euro 2009.
A lifelong supporter of the Dutch powerhouse Ajax Vrouwen, the club established a female team in May 2012. The opportunity to compete for the squad in their inaugural season was a cherished moment in her career. Having also been signed by the Arsenal Ladies (England), she never suited up for the squad.
Julia Simic (Germany)
Simic is a product of Germany’s player development, having competed with their U18 and U23 teams. From both German and Crotian descent, she is a competitor with VfL Wolfsburg, a championship team from the Women’s Bundesliga, she is signed through 2017. In anticipation of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Simic was among five female soccer players that appeared in a partial state of undress in the pages of German Playboy.
Having scored a goal in her debut for the Swedish national team (November 8, 2007), Landstrom is aiming for another podium finish in Canada. At the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sweden earned a bronze medal, one of the highlights in her proud career. Influenced by elite strikers such as Lotta Schelin and Victoria Sandell Svensoon, Landstrom wants to stake her claim as the next of the elites.
Currently, a member of Sky Blue FC, Landstrom has also played in Germany. Ironically, she holds a unique connection with a current member of the US national team. Having established herself as a star in the Swedish league, American-born Christen
Press departed Goteborg FC, only to be replaced by Landstrom.
Back in 2008, Landstrom also came out, expressing her same-sex preference. At a time when many athletes were not comfortable disclosing such information, she helped open the door for other athletes to do so. Also a highly educated individual, Landstrom possesses a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Érika Cristiano dos Santos (Brazil)
Providing the Brazilian contingent with a talent that can complement those of Marta, de los Santos is a rising star in the game. Competing with Centro Olímpico, she contributed to Brazil capturing the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Possessing the versatility to play both forward and defense, de los Santos will likely log a significant amount of playing time. Her sex appeal with fans may raise her to an unforeseen level of popularity or media interest. A few seasons ago, her club team in Brazil donned a fashion runway wearing tiny swimsuits. With a confidence that could be interpreted as empowering, de los Santos captured the imaginations of those in attendance with her stunning appearance in a black and white number.
Of note, this year’s World Cup does not mark the first time that dos Santos competes in North America. During 2009, she competed in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer with FC Gold Pride.
In World Cup play, dos Santos is looking for redemption. Having faked an injury during an emotional quarterfinal loss against the United States, she was shown the yellow card. It led to a downward spiral in her career, where she missed two years with the Brazilian national team due to injury.
Corine Franco (France)
As the veteran leader of the French national team, Corine Franco wants to ensure that France does not endure another fourth place finish which befell them in a loss to Canada at the 2012 London Summer Games. Compounding such a loss was the fact that France also finished in fourth at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The team captain of Olympic Lyon, she has competed in almost 90 international games for the French national team. Serving as the captain for France’s entry into the 2015 World Cup, the determination for a podium finish is stronger than ever. As a side note, she was one of three footballers from the French national team to appear in a complete state of undress for Self Magazine. Photographed by Getty Images, the images showcased the confidence of these athletic women to appear in such a manner.
Sydney Leroux and Lauren Sesselmann
Considering the rivalry that exists between Canada and the United States in women’s soccer, it is an anomaly of sorts to see a pair of players competing for the opposite country. Should these two countries cross paths in the elimination matches at this year’s World Cup, there is no question that their allegiances shall make for an interesting story with members of the media.
Born in British Columbia, Leroux is a competitor for the United States national team. Having captured the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games, it only added to the bitter taste that Canadians felt after a controversial loss to the US in the semi-finals. When Nike revealed the new uniforms for the US team a few weeks ago, Leroux was one of the players who modeled them.
Having been ranked by many sports websites as one of the most beautiful competitors at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sesselman’s popularity is bound to increase. With a very strong following on social media, the irony of her career with Canada’s national team is that she was born in Wisconsin. Canadian sports fans who were not familiar with soccer quickly became interested after seeing her and fellow teammates Emily Zurrer looking stunning in swimsuits in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition.
Despite a brilliant career complemented by so many remarkable achievements, the great tragedy of Hope Solo’s career is the controversy that has defined it. Although some criticisms may not be fair comment, the sad reality is that Solo will likely have to tolerate it for the remainder of her career. Considered one of the world’s most beautiful female soccer players, Solo has graced the cover of popular magazines such as ESPN, Newsweek and Vogue. There is no question that the media spotlight shall shine brightly on Solo, who is looking to help the US avenge its second place finish at the 2011 edition of the World Cup.
Marta Vieira da Silva (Brazil)
Quite possibly the world’s greatest female soccer player, a World Cup championship would cement Marta’s sterling legacy. Taking into account that Brazil is one of the world superpowers in soccer, fans have been disappointed that its female stars have not been able to emulate their male counterparts on the world’s biggest soccer stages. Having won a champion with the Western New York Flash in WPS play, Marta is accustomed to big game situations. With a much improved supporting cast on the Brazilian squad, it would come as no surprise to see Marta competing in Vancouver.
Faking into account the rivalry between Canada and the United States, Wambach may be booed in the preliminary matches. The tensions were understandable as the upcoming World Cup shall be the first (including the men’s edition) that shall be played exclusively on artificial turf.
Having scored more goals than any other player in the history of the US women’s program (178), a Women’s World Cup title is the only accolade eluding her. Possessing two Summer Games gold medals, she has also won an ESPY Award for Best Play. This past April, she appeared on American Idol, offering Ryan Seacrest a US jersey and the chance to be a waterboy for the women’s team.
Controversy aside, Wambach is definitely the veteran leader of this United States team and her goal is to lead the US to its first World Cup title since hosting the event in 1999.
If the 2012 London Summer Games were Christine Sinclair’s coming out party, then the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a remarkable appreciation tour. With the event being hosted in her native Canada, Sinclair has become one of the most influential athletes, male or female, in Canada’s sporting conversation. Since the London Summer Games, female soccer players have started to garner the attention and celebrity status once reserved for Canada’s female hockey heroes. Should Canada claim the World Cup, it would be safe to assume that Sinclair’s strong leadership would make her the choice to claim the Lou Marsh Trophy, honoring the Canadian athlete of the year.