It’s just one week until the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off at Eden Park, when the Football Ferns take on Norway.
Kiwis won’t only be treated to the skills of their home team, as some high quality teams will play on our shores, and across the ditch in Australia.
The world number one team, the United States, are based in Auckland, and will play there and in Wellington. The popular team will be sure to draw big crowds, as their games against the Football Ferns in January broke crowd records for women’s football in New Zealand.
The defending champions have a loyal fanbase, and are expected to bring around 20,000 fans to their pool games with them.
We’ve compiled a list of key players from the world’s top teams, including a player from each of New Zealand’s opponents. (If you still need to know who’s who in the NZ team, check out our guide here).
USA: Alex Morgan
The USA are the top ranked team, and favourites to win the World Cup. They’re based in Auckland for the tournament, and will play two games at Eden Park and one at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
Expect big crowds for the Americans, and a lot of support for striker Alex Morgan. Popular on and off the field, the mum of one has over 10 million followers on Instagram. Just five months after giving birth in 2020, Morgan returned to play for the US team.
She made her debut for the US senior team in 2010, and has amassed 206 caps, while scoring 121 goals – that’s more than one every other game.
In 2022, she finished behind Spain’s Alexia Putellas in the Best FIFA Women’s Player award. This will be her fourth World Cup. Her speed on attack and ability to make space make her so difficult to defend.
Marta made her international debut in 2002 (for context, the youngest member of the Football Ferns, Milly Clegg, was born in 2005). The 37-year-old has confirmed that this, her sixth World Cup, will be her last, and her final chance to try and win the Cup.
The record breaking forward has scored 115 goals, and was the first footballer – male or female – to score at five World Cups.
Her exceptional ball control and speed have seen her score 17 World Cup goals, which is the most of any player.
Six-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Marta and her Brazilian teammates will play their pool matches in Australia, the eighth-ranked team’s toughest competition being France (ranked fifth).
Australia: Sam Kerr
The 29-year-old forward has captained the Matildas since 2019, and will again lead the team for this World Cup, her fourth. Her ability to read the game and create space are great additions to her leadership.
In 2019, Kerr became the first Australian to score a hat-trick at a World Cup when she scored four goals in a 4-1 win over Jamaica.
She’s played for Chelsea in the Women’s Super League since 2020, and her backflip celebrations have become iconic, going viral on social media. She has 120 caps for Australia, and the most goals for the Matildas (with 62).
England: Lucy Bronze
The recipient of the Best FIFA Women’s Player in 2020, Bronze will be attending her third World Cup.
England have lost a lot of experience in their side, with retirements and injuries, meaning Bronze is their most capped player, with 105 appearances.
The defender’s experience will be key to the new-look side who are ranked world number four, and will play their pool games in Australia. She’s also versatile and can cover multiple roles on field.
Canada: Christine Sinclair
Another player attending a record sixth World Cup, Sinclair is the highest-capped active footballer, with a whopping 323 caps for Canada since making her senior debut at age 16 in 2000.
She’s won an Olympic gold medal and two bronzes and has the most international goals of any player, with 190. The 40-year-old forward has scored at every World Cup she’s attended.
Sinclair’s versatility, experience and ability to score goals at key times have helped her and her side to sit seventh in the world. They’ll be highly favoured to top their pool, but their hardest opponent will be Australia, who will be counting on home advantage to give them a boost.
Denmark: Pernille Harder
In 2020, Harder broke records as the most expensive transfer for the women’s game, when Chelsea signed her for more than £250,000 (NZ $500,000).
The 30-year-old attacking midfielder/forward has 141 goals for Denmark, but more than 250 during her career.
The first player to win the UEFA women’s player of the year twice, Harder is known for her leadership and outstanding work rate on the pitch. She’s an intelligent attacker with a hunger for winning.
New Zealand’s rivals:
Norway: Ada Hegerberg
Hegerberg scored for Norway the last time they played New Zealand, when they won 2-0 in June 2022. She’s the top goal scorer of all time in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, with 59 goals.
The 27-year-old striker has 77 caps for Norway, who are ranked 12th in the world, and will be favourites to top the pool.
Hergerbeg didn’t play for Norway for five years, missing the 2019 World Cup as a protest of unfair treatment and pay inequality with the men’s game from the Norwegian Football Federation. She’s come back stronger, scoring a hat-trick in her first match on return, last year.
Philippines: Sarina Bolden
The Philippines have just one player with more than 50 caps, so with 36 Bolden is the most experienced forward in the team. Born and raised in the United States, the 27-year-old plays in the A-League, for Western City Wanderers.
She found the back of the net when New Zealand played the Philippines last September, as the Ferns scored two in the second half to win 2-1.
But her most important goal came in 2022, in a penalty shoot-out against Chinese Taipei. Bolden scored the winning goal, which qualified the Philippines for the World Cup – the team’s first.
Switzerland: Lia Wälti
The captain of the Swiss team, Wälti has 108 caps for her country. The midfielder has played for Arsenal since 2018, and has more than 100 caps for the Super League team.
Swiss coach Inka Grings described Wälti as a “magnetic player”, who demands the ball. A quiet leader who inspires, the 30-year-old can play in the midfield and at centre-back.
Switzerland didn’t play in the last World Cup, but are ranked 20th, so should make it out of pool play.
*The Football Ferns’ schedule: vs Norway, 20 July, 7pm, Eden Park, Auckland; vs Philippines, 25 July, 5.30pm, Sky Stadium, Wellington; vs Switzerland, 30 July, 7pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin. The final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held in Sydney on 20 August.
*All games of the World Cup will be shown live on Sky Sport, with a generous handful – including all of the Ferns’ games – live and free-to-air on Prime as well.