Player profile: Maybe it was a mini whisper campaign about Bachmann that -- for a nano-second -- made us almost nominate Lara Dickenmann as the player to watch for the Swiss. People who had watched Bachmann play during her brief U.S. stint in the now defunct Women’s Professional Soccer League criticized the Swiss forward as too soft and unable to take a hit. Some of that criticism may have been born out of Bachmann’s world-class flopping techniques. However, the Swiss striker has been compared to no less than Marta of Brazil, which kind of makes it impossible not to put a bullseye on Bachmann’s back for Switzerland’s first-ever Women’s World Cup appearance. She does make the Swiss entertaining and, perhaps, competitive into the knockout rounds. Confident or cocky, Bachmann isn’t shy about competing with the best.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesDaniel Kopatsch
Veronica Boquete, Spain, Forward
Player profile: She is nearly a consensus pick. Boquete is one of the best players in the world, despite playing for a national team whose federation provides very little of the support and development of women’s soccer that countries like France and Switzerland have seen. She is also a key reason why Spain has qualified for its first-ever World Cup appearance. Last year, playing for the Portland Thorns alongside bona fide stars like Canada’s Christine Sinclair and USA's Alex Morgan, it was Boquete who was named to the National Women’s Soccer League Best XI team. It was only one of many accolades heaped on this talented striker, who led Spain to the 2012 European Championship over Scotland.
Getty ImagesClaudio Villa
Nilla Fischer, Sweden, Midfielder/Defender
Player profile: The conversion of Fischer from midfielder to centerback may not be as great as the shift former USWNT coach Tony DiCicco prescribed for switching striker Michelle Akers to midfield to extend her career, but it’s close. Credit coach Pia Sundhage for placing Fischer at the center of action on the backline for Sweden, where Fischer is a skillful brute who masters every ball and player who gets in her way. At 30, Fischer plays like she has been around forever, and is now set up by Sundhage to confront none other than Abby Wambach when Sweden and the U.S. meet in Winnipeg on July 12. Barring injury, this showdown between Sweden and the U.S. will be fiercely played out between Fischer and Wambach. Not to be missed.
Getty ImagesChristof Koepsel
Dzsenifer Marozsan, Germany, Midfielder
Player profile: It's tough to single out one player. But the strength of the German side is the incredible organization and discipline that manager Silvia Neid has imposed on this impressive side. Therefore, let’s put our eyes on the 23-year-old playmaker who is making her Women’s World Cup debut. She missed 2011 in Germany with a knee injury, so she is more than ready for this moment on the world’s stage. Marozsan was the youngest ever to play in Germany's women’s league at age 14. Since then, Marozsan has helped Frankfurt win the 2015 UEFA Women's Championship League and German Cup titles in 2011 and 2014. With Nadine Kessler recovering from knee surgery, and Fatmire Alushi’s pregnancy, Germany is without two of its star players. Marozsan could make their absences less visible with her ability to organize and execution.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesAlex Grimm
Marta, Brazil, Forward
Player profile: It’s hard to believe the name that virtually means women’s soccer is only 29 years old. Brazil’s striker has been dancing through defenses for more than a decade, collecting the FIFA World Player of the Year award five consecutive times from 2006 to 2010. But for all her greatness, Marta is still looking to help Brazil win its first Women’s World Cup after three appearances in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Her best shot was in 2007, when Brazil fell to Germany in the final. There is just too much to like about this incredible athlete, not the least of which is her tireless, upbeat and all-inclusive advocacy for women’s football in Brazil and around the world.
AFP/Getty ImagesCHRISTOF STACHE
Louisa Necib, France, Midfielder
Player profile: Forget that this native of Marseille looks like Jennifer Lopez and is as cool as any movie or rock star on the planet. Necib is arguably the best attacking midfielder in the game today and has been compared to countryman Zinedine Zidane, based on her field vision and playmaking skills. What makes Necib more alluring this June is that she has been largely out of action all spring while nursing a rupture of the plantar fascia in her left foot -- an injury sustained in the convincing 2-0 win by France over the U.S. in February. That France is the best team in the world right now and Les Bleus are enviously talented, deep and well-prepared. And now they’ve got Necib in the middle of a team that many call the 2015 Women’s World Cup’s team of destiny.
Getty ImagesChristof Koepsel
Yuki Ogimi, Japan, Forward
Player profile: The return of Homare Sawa, 36, to the Japanese national team for her sixth World Cup is a storyline few can ignore, but there's another player to watch too. Japan will bring an equally as proficient squad to Canada where Ogimi (formerly Nagasato) will look to unleash her prowess as a goal scorer. She has 53 for Japan in 117 caps since her 2004 debut. She scored three goals in six matches at the 2012 Olympics and led off the attack for Japan in their 2011 run to glory, scoring the first goal in Germany. But what soccer analysts see in Ogimi is that in addition to the technical superiority of Japan’s players, Ogimi is one of the top Japanese players to have added a physicality to her game since 2011 through her playing time in Europe.
Getty ImagesKoki Nagahama
Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria, Forward
Player profile: Analysts are predicting that Nigeria has a very real chance of finishing No. 3 in Group D over Australia, thus allowing this top team from Africa to advance into the knockout round. Why? Asisat Oshoala. If there’s any doubt about the forward’s stirring ability, look no further than the fact that Oshoala was named the BBC Footballer of the Year on May 26. At age 20, in her first few months of league play in Liverpool, the Nigerian national is the first to win this new award based on voting from all around the world. Oshoala was the leading scorer at the Under-20s World Cup in Canada last summer and was voted the tournament's best player, since her work led Nigeria to the final, where they were narrowly beaten by Germany. She's a star you cannot miss.
Getty ImagesRichard Wolowicz
Lotta Schelin, Sweden, Striker
Player profile: While Sweden may not have 23 potential starters on its side, it does have rich talent at the top of the roster. For our money, Sweden’s chances in the World Cup rest with Schelin. The 30-year old striker is Sweden’s all-time leading goal scorer is the key to how much firepower they will bring to Canada. Schelin has been around long enough -- and suffered enough disappointments in international play -- to be in peak form to make this tournament her best chance to show she is one of the best in the world. For the two-time Olympian, Schelin will be playing in her third World Cup. She is exceedingly efficient at the end of runs, where she uses her height to control play in front of the opponent’s goal. With speedy youngster Sofia Jakobsson playing on the wing up front with Schelin, Sweden’s attack must be respected.
Getty ImagesMartin Rose
Christine Sinclair, Canada, Forward
Player profile: How big a deal is Sinclair? Her face is now plastered on the front of freshly-minted Canadian postage stamps. This makes her far more than one of the top five players ever in women’s soccer. She’s a symbol. Americans already know Sinclair -- especially Hope Solo. The U.S. goalkeeper called Sinclair the best player she has ever faced. Sinclair led the University of Portland to two NCAA championships and is now a star for the Portland Thorns. She’s the all-time leader in international appearances and goals scored for Canada, having scored 153 goals for her country so far and leading Canada to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Anything short of a World Cup title will be considered a disappointment to say the least.