From Caidedo to Miyazawa: breakout stars of the Women’s World Cup

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<p><strong>Ary Borges (Brazil)<br /></br></strong>Borges made an instant impact with three goals on her tournament debut against Panama. She also provided the assist for Bia Zaneratto for Brazil’s fourth. The 23-year-old forward is the youngest Brazilian to record a hat-trick at a World Cup and caught the eye against France as well. She signed for Racing Louisville in December and has settled in after 37 goals in 87 appearances at Palmeiras.</p>
<p><strong>Kerly Théus (Haiti)<br /></br></strong>At only 5ft 4in, Théus is one of the tournament’s shorter goalkeepers but what she lacks in height, she makes up for in ability. The 24-year-old shone for Haiti against England and was unlucky not to come away with the player of the match award. With a strong aerial display, bravery and smart shot stopping, she denied the Lionesses on multiple occasions. She plays for USL W League side Miami City.</p>
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Haiti’s goalkeeper Kerly Théus in the thick of the action against England. Photograph: Dan Peled/Reuters

Abbie Larkin (Republic of Ireland)

The youngest member of Vera Pauw’s squad caught the eye as soon as she entered the pitch in Sydney. The 18-year-old Larkin came on in her team’s opener against Australia with just under half an hour to play, seemingly unfazed by the 75,000 crowd. The forward’s pace stretched the game and helped Ireland to finish strongly. A half against Canada and a cameo against Nigeria followed. She plays for Shamrock Rovers in Dublin and it will not be long before offers come from abroad.

Sophie Haug (Norway)

Haug announced herself on the world stage with a superb hat-trick in Norway’s 6-0 victory over the Philippines. Her first was one of the goals of the tournament to date, a sweetly struck back-post volley. Haug played only eight minutes at last year’s Euros and the 24-year-old has struggled for game time at senior level. She stepped up, however, in the absence of Ada Hegerberg to show her goalscoring attributes and send a troubled Norway side through.

Clare Hunt (Australia)

The journalist Samantha Lewis tweeted: “Clare Hunt is simply huge. Enormous. Impossibly big” after a display in Australia’s 4-0 victory over Canada that showed why Tony Gustavsson rates his centre-back so highly. Despite having only five caps going into the tournament, the Western Sydney Wanderers defender has made a position in the starting lineup her own. The 24-year-old is one of a strong crop of players coming through with the Matildas, but a bad run of injuries has limited her international football up to now.

Toni Payne (Nigeria)

Payne is an older member of the “break-out club” but her displays for Nigeria have impressed. It is a first World Cup for the 28-year-old who plays for Sevilla. She was a key threat in the Super Falcons draw against Ireland, often at the heart of their counterattack. Her versatility across the midfield and forward positions gives the manager, Randy Waldrum, plenty of options.

Related: ‘She’s not the coach’: Ireland’s Vera Pauw admits to touchline row with McCabe

Linda Caicedo (Colombia)

Linda Caicedo … just saying her name in the last year has generated excitement. The 18-year-old has had an incredible 12 months, helping Colombia to finish as runners-up at the Copa América (in which she was named best player) and the Under-17 World Cup. She dazzled the Sydney crowd on her senior World Cup debut against South Korea in which she scored her first goal. Her goal in the subsequent game against Germany will go down as one of the best in the tournament.

Kika Nazareth (Portugal)

As the ball nestled in the back of the net against Vietnam, Kika made history on two fronts. First, with Portugal’s second goal, she ensured a first World Cup victory for her nation. Second, at 20 years and eight months old, she became the youngest Portuguese player since Cristiano Ronaldo to score for her country at the tournament. Kika made her international debut at 17 and is an exciting attacking midfielder with creativity and clear natural ability who has become a core part of the national setup.

Hinata Miyazawa (Japan)

The Mynavi Sendai midfielder has taken this tournament by storm with back-to-back braces against Zambia and Spain. Playing at her first World Cup, she also got an assist against Las Rojas and was named player of the match. Having shone at youth level, Miyazawa moved into the senior team, making her debut against Norway at 18. She broke into Futoshi Ikeda’s side consistently in 2022 and the 23-year-old’s displays so far at this tournament show how crucial she is to the squad.

Hinata Miyazawa (right) scores Japan’s first goal against Spain.

Hinata Miyazawa (right) scores Japan’s first goal against Spain. Photograph: Xinhua/Shutterstock

Lauren James (England)

Is James really a breakout star when she has achieved so much with Chelsea? Nevertheless, this World Cup is her first major tournament after just under a year in the Lionesses’ senior setup and her chance to show fans around the world what she can do at the highest level. Her player-of-the-match performance and trademark goal against Denmark certainly did that with a display that surely confirmed her spot in Sarina Wiegman’s starting XI.

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The vision; the footwork; the finish. Linda Caicedo’s goal to open the scoring for Colombia in their shock 2-1 win over Germany was sensational.

Linda Caicedo kisses the Colombia badge after scoring against Germany.

Linda Caicedo kisses the Colombia badge after scoring against Germany. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

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