By 90Min
June 04, 2019

United States forward Alex Morgan is easily one of the most famous and recognisable female footballers on the planet and goes into the 2019 Women's World Cup in France this month as one of the faces of the tournament, both back home and around the world.

Morgan has a glorious résumé, winning an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and the World Cup in 2015. She scored her 100th international goal for the USWNT earlier this year, was one of the first two women to feature on the cover of a FIFA video game, and has even starred in a film.

Her reputation is such that she is seen as joint favourite by bookmaker SkyBet to finish the World Cup with the Golden Ball as best player and Golden Boot as top goalscorer.

However, with women's football betting markets not always set by those in the know - SkyBet also offers 8/1 on Sydney Leroux to win the Golden Ball despite not being in the USA squad and giving birth just last week - Morgan's short odds seem at least partially influenced by her fame.

In reality, the 29-year-old still has something left to prove on this, the biggest global stage, because's never really 'done it' in her two previous attempts.

What's more, 2019 is the first World Cup in which Morgan, now USWNT co-captain alongside Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, has gone into the tournament as her country's premier star.

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In 2011, she was the youngest player on the American roster and the pressure was on more established stars like Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez and Heather O'Reilly to perform. As such, Morgan was used solely as an impact substitute and didn't actually start a single game.

It worked because she scored twice off the bench, in the semi-final against France, and then in the final itself when the United States lost to Japan on penalties after a 2-2 draw - Morgan didn't actually take a penalty, while Wambach was the only American to score from the spot.

Morgan did play a pivotal role at the 2012 Olympics for the United States. Her two group stage goals helped the team win 4-2 against France, while a 123rd-minute winner in a 4-3 semi-final thriller against Canada prevented the need for another critical penalty shootout en-route to gold.

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By the time of the 2015 World Cup, Morgan was much more established. She already had half a century of international goals in just over 80 appearances. Only Wambach, who at the age of 35 would be a background player at her farewell tournament, and Lloyd had scored more.

But in 2015, it was Lloyd who took centre stage as the USWNT secured a first World Cup trophy since 1999. She was unplayable and scored in every knockout game, including a sensational 16-minute hat-trick in the final, and was later named FIFA World Player of the Year.

Morgan, on the other hand, underwhelmed and scored just once. She was suffering with a knee injury in the build-up to the tournament and was just a substitute in the opening two games. Her only goal came in the last 16 win against Colombia and she underwent surgery soon after the World Cup was over to properly fix the issue that had only been temporarily managed.

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She was named in the 'Dream Team', as voted for by the public on FIFA's official website. But that was perhaps more a testament to her fame than her actual performances, and was tellingly left out of the All-Star Team selected by FIFA's Technical Study Group.

Without Wambach, retired since 2015, and Lloyd, no longer as regularly involved at 36, as the main focus, Morgan now takes centre stage at a World Cup for the first time.

Four years ago she was part of the team, but, unable to perform at her best, something was missing. She also may have something to prove in France as well, after a loan at all-conquering Lyon in 2017 saw her score 12 times in 16 games, but not once in the Champions League - her Champions League final even ended after just 20 minutes because of injury.

These days she has a different role than in the past and that is why now is finally the time for Alex Morgan to step up and dominate a World Cup - her third World Cup - for the first time.

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