They come from all corners of the globe and play on all corners of the pitch.
They each come with their own set of strengths and impressive road to Rio. These are the players you should be watching these Olympic games.
Marta (Brazil, Midfielder)
Okay, if you haven’t heard of Marta up until this point, where have you been hiding?
The Brazilian speedster, AKA “Pele con faldas” (“Pele with skirts”), has a knack for all-class, all-flair goals. Since humble beginnings playing barefoot with the boys in her neighbourhood, she has gone on to win it all. Her flair in and outside of the box, precision assists and bag of tricks have won her the World Cup Golden Boot (top goal scorer) and Ball (top player) awards and the FIFA Player of the Year award (a record five times). Marta will hold a vital role in leading the offensive charge for Brazil as they fight for their first Olympics title in front of a home-crowd.
Crystal Dunn (United States, Midfielder)
Remember this name. After being the final cut from the US World Cup side last year, Crystal Dunn was left devastated. Rebuilding her confidence from the disappointment of only just missing out on the victory in Canada, Dunn worked on whatever was keeping her off the squad as a fullback and focused more on her attacking accolades. It worked. The 24-year old, 5”1 pocket rocket has scored nine international goals and four assists in this year alone. Head Coach Jill Ellis attests her “speed, agility and ability to split defenders” to be her biggest assets. With superstar Abby Wambach hanging up the boots last year, the US are ready to release their next big weapon.
Wendie Renard (France, Defender)
Why? Because there are few things greater than watching a 6”2 defender dominate the backline. Wendie Renard stands out, literally. With 71 international caps to her name and an imposing “you shall not pass” frame, Renard poses as an obstacle for any of the game’s top goal scorers. A leader on-and-off the pitch, she is pivotal to France’s defensive and offensive elements. Renard is known for her aerial power on set plays in their attacking half and has scored 16 international goals in her career to date.
CHAMPIONNE D'EUROPE ?????????? pic.twitter.com/QTodBHEf2f
— Wendie renard (@WRenard) May 27, 2016
Almuth Schult (Germany, Goalkeeper)
It is hard to imagine US goalkeeper Hope Solo sharing an awards stage. But she had to with Almuth Schult when they co-won World Goalkeeper of the Year in 2013. When it comes to keepers, Almuth Schult is there with the best. Despite travelling as part of the squad to Canada last year, Schult never made it on the pitch in their World Cup campaign. Having played in and won the UEFA Women’s Champions League, UEFA Women’s Championship and FIFA U-20 World Cup in recent years, Schult is no stranger to big matches and her intimidating presence and scary reflexes in the box are likely to keep Germany a serious title contender come Rio.
Rudo Neshamba (Zimbabwe, Forward)
It may come as a surprise to you that Zimbabwe will play in the women’s football competition in August. It even came as a surprise to Rudo Neshamba, the team’s top goal scorer and “golden girl”. Commonly known as the “Mighty Warriors”, Zimbabwe shocked many when they overcame the likes of Zambia and Cameroon to claim their spot at Rio. Neshamba led their Olympics qualification campaign with match winners in both those games, enabling her country the chance to represent in women’s football at the Olympics for their first time, a tremendous achievement. A clear talent early on, Neshamba will be keen to share her attacking tendencies on the world stage.
Samantha Kerr (Australia, Forward)
This list would be incomplete without one of our own (keep in mind, you should be watching all our Matildas!)
Samantha Kerr was unfortunately missing from our Olympics qualifying campaign with a foot injury that saw her out of competition for a good part of this year. Nonetheless, she is back! And a good thing too, let this girl run with the ball and you will soon lose sight of her. Kerr was instrumental for us at the World Cup last year. Whenever she’s on, she’s ON and is consistent in having a major impact in any game. Her pace and movement off the ball adds a great dynamic in our forward line that is capable of really putting our Rio opponents under threat.