The Women’s World Cup knockout rounds begin on Saturday after some sparkling performances in the group phase.
AFP Sport picks out five players who have lit up the tournament so far:
– Lauren James (ENG) –
The 21-year-old attacker made her first World Cup start in England’s second match and needed just six minutes to score, bending the ball into the corner from outside the box to give the European champions a 1-0 win over Denmark.
The Chelsea player then played a starring role in the 6-1 thrashing of China, scoring two wonderful goals — one with each foot — and setting up three others.
Before the World Cup she said she wanted to be talked about for something other than being the sister of England men’s international defender Reece James.
Safe to say she has done that, and more.
“She’s special — a very special player for us and for women’s football in general,” England team-mate Chloe Kelly told reporters.
– Chiamaka Nnadozie (NGR) –
James will need to get score past Chiamaka Nnadozie next — England play Nigeria in the last 16.
Nigeria’s 22-year-old skipper has presented a formidable barrier at the tournament.
The Paris FC goalkeeper defied legendary goalscorer Christine Sinclair from the spot to help Nigeria grab a crucial point in an opening 0-0 draw with Olympic champions Canada.
She then kept another clean sheet in a 0-0 stalemate with Ireland which saw Nigeria into the knockouts.
“She is so talented,” Sandrine Soubeyrand, the French legend and head coach at Paris FC, told ESPN.
“She is one of the main reasons why we finished third in the league last season and qualified for the Champions League.”
– Linda Caicedo (COL) –
The 18-year-old Real Madrid attacker has brought her rare talents to a global audience.
She scored on her World Cup debut against South Korea, albeit with a helping hand from a goalkeeping howler, and netted again in a famous 2-1 win over Germany.
That was one of the goals of the tournament so far. Caicedo received the ball in the German box, beat two players and bent the ball into the opposite top corner.
The teenager, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 15 but made a full recovery, has though been at the centre of another health concern.
She went down in training clutching her chest and in the Germany win also seemed to struggle with her breathing. Medical tests gave her a clean bill of health.
– Hinata Miyazawa (JPN) –
Japan won all three of their group games, scoring 11 and conceding none, the highlight being a 4-0 spanking of a fancied Spain side.
The 23-year-old Miyazawa has been central to Japan’s unexpected success, netting four times and topping the scoring charts along with Alexandra Popp, who is now out with Germany.
Two of Miyazawa’s goals came against Spain and she also got an assist in that game.
The attacking midfielder might have added to her tally but coach Futoshi Ikeda brought her off at half-time against Spain to keep her fresh for their game in the last 16 against Norway.
“I never imagined it. All of the goals are because of the other players giving me the right passes. So it’s everybody’s goal, not just me,” Miyawza, who plays her club football in Japan’s domestic league, said after the big Spain win.
– Amanda Ilestedt (SWE) –
Not many would have picked the Arsenal player out before the tournament — especially as a goalscorer.
But the 30-year-old defender is among the top scorers with three goals in as many games — all headers from corners.
Holders the United States, who face Sweden in the last 16 on Sunday, have been warned.
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson was not joking when he said she could win the Golden Boot.
And Ilestedt, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, insisted her prowess was not a fluke.
“Maybe I didn’t expect three goals but I know that’s one of my strengths and it’s something we’re working on a lot at training,” she said.