ZURICH: A total of 552 players have been formally confirmed for the 24 squads of 23 for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Holders Japan have been given a boost with the inclusion of Homare Sawa, the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, after an injury-ravaged season.
At 36, Sawa will be contesting her sixth finals – a record in both the men’s and women’s game that she sets along with Formiga of Brazil. Formiga, meanwhile, will be joined in Canada by Marta, who will be making her fourth trip to a World Cup – fewer times than she has won world player of the year awards.
The roll call of former world player laureates also includes 2013 winner and Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, along with United States forward Abby Wambach¸ who received the honour in 2012.
Current holder Nadine Kessler will be absent through injury, on the other hand, and two-time champions Germany will also be without Fatmire Alushi, who misses out on the joys of disputing a World Cup but will soon experience the joys of motherhood.
Coach Silvia Neid can nonetheless count on goal-hungry striker Celia Sasic, who has been in ravenous mood for both Frankfurt and the national team of late.
Like Germany, USA have lifted the trophy twice and they will launch their bid with a raft of heavy-hitters in their midst. Christie Rampone, for example, sets out on her fifth World Cup and, at 40 years of age, is the sole survivor from her team’s triumph in 1999. It isWambach, though, who holds her nation’s record for individual World Cup games, having rattled in 13 goals in her 18 matches – one more encounter than Rampone, while USA’s experienced squad also features the likes of Shannon Boxx (15 games), Carli Lloyd (11), Heather O’Reilly (11) and Hope Solo (ten). The Stars and Stripes are due to face Nigeria in Group D and could well come across another player with serious pedigree in Perpetua Nkwocha, who was initially omitted by coach Edwin Okon before a change of heart. A four-time African player of the year, the 39-year-old will figure alongsideAsisat Oshoala, who picked up the continental award for the first time in 2014.
Ambitious hopefuls France are not short on talent either, and their squad is drawn heavily from the nation’s two club heavyweights, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain, who furnish ten and seven players respectively. Captain and defender Wendie Renard won the French title with OL this season along with midfielder Louisa Necib, while solid centre-back Laura Georges and pacy forward Marie-Laure Delie recently finished UEFA Champions League runners-up with the capital side.
As for the hosts, coach John Herdman has put his faith in an experienced spine, from goalkeeper Erin McLeod to midfield stalwarts Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt,thorough to striker Melissa Tancredi up front. All will look to serve Canadian legendChristine Sinclair, who has already racked up over 150 goals for her country.
Indeed, experience has clearly been earmarked as a precious commodity by most of the teams on show, with New Zealand travelling with no fewer than 15 players who were also selected for the 2011 edition – and five who were present in 2007.
Neighbours Australia have an average age of just 23, meanwhile, but they have picked 13 members of the squad that reached the quarter-finals at Germany 2011, including Hyundai Young Player Award winner Caitlin Foord and veteran goalkeeper Melissa Hudson (nee Barbieri), not to mention Asian player of the year Katrina Gorry.
Familiar faces likewise abound in Sweden’s squad, where the country’s most capped player Therese Sjogran is set to hang up her boots after Canada 2015.
The Blagult will also draw strength from Lotta Schelin, who regularly finishes among the top scorers in every competition she enters. England midfielder Katie Chapman returns to the World Cup stage as well, having been recalled by Mark Sampson after five years away from international football.
She will help the European contenders get to grips with some of the big names lurking in Group F, such as Yoreli Rincon of Colombia and Mexico duo Charlyn Corral and Monica Ocampo.
Lastly, newcomers Spain will be hoping for stellar performances from key playerVeronica Boquete, a Champions League winner with Frankfurt this month, while fellow debutants Switzerland boast the goalscoring nous of Ramona Bachmann and Lara Dickenmann.
Also making their bow, the Netherlands will be spearheaded by prolific young forward Vivianne Miedema, one of the most clinical finishers during the European qualifiers for Canada 2015.