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'A little Jack Russell' and other stars who should light up the Women's World Cup

Irish internationals Louise Quinn, Stephanie Roche and Megan Campbell tell us who to keep an eye on.

players Three to watch: Vivianne Miedema, Carli Lloyd and Beth Mead. Source: PA Images.

T MINUS 1.

With a little over one day to go until the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup kicks off in France, excitement is well and truly building for what’s to come over the next month.

The tournament begins at the Parc des Princes tomorrow evening as the hosts open their bid against South Korea, with each and every one of the 52 games being broadcast live and free-to-air on RTÉ and TG4.

Kick-off times fall during prime time television, so it means that we’ll be seeing plenty of the best female footballers in the world over the next few weeks from our sitting room. 

But with Ireland not there, it’s trickier to know the bigger names to look out for. 

The one big one those with little to no knowledge of football — male or female — whatsoever will know is Ada Hegerberg, but Norway’s Ballon d’Or winner is refusing to play. Another people may know is Brazil sensation Marta, but much of the world’s top talent have gone under the radar until now.

Thankfully, we spoke to three Ireland internationals — Louise Quinn, Stephanie Roche and Megan Campbell — and they told us a few of their club team-mates, opponents and inspirations from the international stage to keep an eye on.

*** 

Here’s Arsenal star and Wicklow native Louise Quinn’s picks:

  • Danielle van de Donk (Netherlands / Arsenal) — midfielder
  • Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands / Arsenal) — forward
  • Beth Mead (England / Arsenal) — forward

And what she had to say about those players, and the tournament overall:

“At the moment, if England keep carrying on how they’re doing, they definitely could be semi-final bound. If they can just keep going. I think from every perspective on and off the pitch, how they’ve done things has been really impressive. Playing against all of those players in the league, they’re so talented.

Arsenal Women v Manchester City Women - FA Women's Super League - Meadow Park Back row: van de Donk (2nd from left) and Quinn (1st on right). Front row: Miedema (1st on left), Mead and Ireland's Katie McCabe (2nd and 1st from right). Source: PA Archive/PA Images

“Obviously the Dutch have won the Euros [in 2017]. I think they even hit a little bit of a slump for a while. They really did have a big comedown after the Euros… still a massively impressive team.

“We drew against them but they beat us quite comfortably then [in the qualifiers]. I think they dipped off a little bit, even just talking to the girls, they felt it themselves. But the last couple of games they’ve had, they were like, ‘It just felt right again… that build-up’. I feel like they’re really starting to peak at the right time.

The likes of Danielle van de Donk. This number 10… well, she can play anywhere in midfield. She is just a little Jack Russell. She will be everywhere. The skill that she brings… she’s just so brilliant on the ball, you can’t take it off her. She’ll do a little around-the-world, put it through your legs, put it back through your legs, and then go and hit it top corner. She’s incredible.

Vivianne Miedema. What she can do… PFA Player of the Year, top goalscorer and again, she’ll just send you into tomorrow. She turns you inside out, she’s incredible. I’ve just never seen someone so calm in the box. You’re like, ‘Shoot, shoot,’ then she’ll turn it around and put it into the top corner. It’s incredible.

“They’re definitely two of the players to watch. Beth Mead of England is again, just starting to peak perfectly and her confidence is really, really rising.”

***

Ireland and Florentia striker Stephanie Roche will be on punditry duty with RTÉ, and she’s looking forward to an exciting tournament. Having played in England, the USA, France and most-recently Italy, she’s well versed to point out a few standout players:

  • Lucy Staniforth (England / Birmingham City) — midfielder
  • Beth Mead (England / Arsenal) — forward
  • Carli Lloyd (USA / Sky Blue FC) — forward
  • Lieke Martens (Netherlands / Barcelona) — midfielder
  • Samatha Kerr (Australia / Chicago Red Stars) — forward

“There’s a few obviously,” she smiles. “I think even just I’ll mention first players who are missing: I think Jordan Nobbs for England is going to be a big loss.

“She was brilliant at the last World Cup, I think that she opened even male spectators’ eyes in England. A lot of players I heard talking about her. She was very, very good so I think she’ll be a big loss to them.

(Nobbs suffered an ACL injury last November that ruled her out.)

England Women v Denmark Women - International Friendly - Banks's Stadium England's Beth Mead. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“She’s come out and a girl, Lucy Staniforth, who I played with a Sunderland has come in. She hasn’t had as much game time as I’m sure she would have liked but I think if she’s given an opportunity, she’s a very good player, a really hard worker and very, very good technically. It’ll be interesting to see how much time she gets on the pitch, but she’s a very, very good player. 

Beth Mead, another player I would have played with at Sunderland. She’s a very, very good player and I think she’ll not only be a good goalscorer, but if she plays on the wing, she can be a good creator as well.

“Obviously there’s Carli Lloyd, Lieke Martens for Holland… I think when we played against her [with Ireland] she was quite quiet. She did a little bit but I think she was quiet enough. It’ll be interesting to see her over a longer span of time.

There’s so many good players. Sam Kerr for Australia. I think Australia could be a bit of a surprise package. I think they could come good later on in the tournament. I’m just looking forward to a good tournament.

***

So that’s England’s Beth Mead getting the nod from two of our Ireland internationals, but a certain USA ace is about to get her second mention.

Carli Lloyd is the first person that springs to mind for Manchester City defender Megan Campbell, who spent a stint on scholarship at Florida State University before joining the Blues.

  • Carli Lloyd (USA / Sky Blue FC) — forward
  • Caroline Weir (Scotland / Manchester City) — forward
  • Clare Emslie (Scotland / Orlando Pride) — forward
  • Erin Cuthbert (Scotland / Chelsea) — forward
  • Jen Beattie (Scotland / Arsenal) — defender
  • Jill Scott (England / Manchester City) — midfielder
  • Steph Houghton (England / Manchester United) — defender
  • Nikita Parris (England / Lyon) — forward

Well I’ve played against Carli Lloyd from the US, and I played with her at City for a short time,” Campbell begins. “She’s a really good girl, a really good player.

SOCCER: MAY 26 Women's - USA v Mexico USA's Carli Lloyd. Source: Rich Graessle

“Her head is like… she’s so motivated and driven. I took a lot from her because at the time I had just come back from injury and stuff. Yeah, you can take a lot from her as a player but also a person. She’s physical, strong, determined and she scores goals.

Carli Lloyd for me, I would definitely look out for. I don’t think she’s been playing as much as maybe she would like to or she has done in the past, but she’s definitely an impact player regardless if she starts or if she comes on.  

“There’s many a player I could pick that’s my team-mate currently… Caroline Weir with Scotland. Hopefully they’ll do better than they did at their first major tournament at the Euros. They’ve come a long way and they’ve got a massive squad who can now compete. I hope that they do well. There’s a good few there: Clare Emslie, Caroline Weir, Erin Cuthbert, Jen Beattie; they play for the Scotland national team.  

“With England, I know the majority of the team but if Jill Scott‘s not playing in the middle of the field, the engine of the team, you’ll know. Steph Houghton‘s a unit at the back, she’s the captain of the team and she’s drove them on to their success now so she’s going to be a big player.

Nikita Parras loves a goal, and she knows where the back of the net is so hopefully she can get a few for them.”

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Emma Duffy

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