Women's World Cup group stage Best XI: Top players from the first round
The games get even more serious now as the Women’s World Cup starts the Round of 16 on Saturday, with two intriguing elimination games: Germany-Sweden (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) and China-Cameroon (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).
It seemed like a good time to put together my Best XI of the World Cup so far. I’m going with a 4-3-3 and the following players:
Goalkeeper: Dinnia Díaz, Costa Rica
The Costa Ricans narrowly missed out on advancing, but Díaz helped keep them in the hunt, making 19 saves in three games, several of them acrobatic. She edges out the U.S.’s Hope Solo, who came up big against Australia but has been relatively quiet since then.
Right back: Maren Mjelde, Norway
Mjelde has done solid defensive work for the Norwegians, and her stunning free kick goal against Germany was a thing of beauty.
Center back: Julie Johnston, USA
Not even on the original U.S. roster for last fall’s World Cup qualifying tournament, Johnston won the starting job in March and has been the U.S.’s top performer so far in Canada. A beast of a player.
Center back: Saki Kumagai, Japan
Rather quietly, Japan won all three of its group games and only conceded a single goal. Kumagai was a big reason for that.
Left back: Meghan Klingenberg, USA
The shortest U.S. player made a late game-saving goal-line clearance with her head against Sweden. Klingenberg has also regularly gotten into the attack and delivered some good crosses.
Midfielder: Dzsenifer Marozsan, Germany
The Germans only had one tough group game, against Norway, but Marozsan was their best player in that game. Has had a major impact all over the field.
Midfielder: Lady Andrade, Colombia
The U.S.’s favorite villain—she sucked-punched Abby Wambach at the 2012 Olympics and called out the U.S. again ahead of their Round of 16 game—has also been terrific on the field at this World Cup. Andrade’s two goals and magical ball skills have been a blast to watch.
Midfielder: Amandine Henry, France
Henry has been a major figure in France’s two wins, scoring a golazo against Mexico, and was conspicuously absent from the starting lineup in France’s upset loss to Colombia.
Forward: Lisa De Vanna, Australia
A constant threat from the attacking wing, De Vanna scored big goals for the impressive Aussies against the U.S. and Sweden.
Forward: Anja Mittag, Germany
Yes, three of Mittag’s tournament-leading four goals came against Ivory Coast, but she scored against Norway as well and works as hard defensively as any forward in this World Cup.
Forward: Gaëlle Enganamouit, Cameroon
One of the breakout stars of the World Cup, Enganamouit has the game to match her hair, and her three goals have her in contention for the Golden Boot.