2023 Women’s World Cup: three breakout candidates who could win the Golden Ball

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has burst into life in the past few days, with the stars of the women’s game getting ready to excel on the biggest stage. With so much talent on show, there are plenty of candidates to leave the tournament with the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball.

For those who don’t know, the Golden Ball is given to the best player of the tournament. Some of the most legendary players have picked up this accolade, including Brazil icon Marta (2007), Carli Lloyd (2015), and Megan Rapinoe (2019).

This year, though, the abundance of stars that could emerge as potential Women’s World Cup Golden Ball winners is endless. For instance, the USWNT squad is stacked with talent; Alex Morgan is a prime candidate to win it.

Meanwhile, the Lionesses have plenty of names that could put together an incredible tournament. Chloe Kelly, Keira Walsh, Lucy Bronze, or any other player from the England team could make themselves a favourite for the award if they reach the latter stages of the tournament.

Additionally, there are numerous players from around the world that might break out in Australia & New Zealand. Here are three Women’s World Cup stars who could leave as Player of the Tournament.

Sophia Smith

The latest prospect from the conveyor belt of USWNT talent, many expect forward Sophia Smith to be integral to any American success.

Despite being typically a striker at club level, Smith will likely operate from the wing for the US. That will not be a problem, however, as the 22-year-old thrives when given the chance to take on opponents.

Smith has arrived at the World Cup in formidable domestic form. She has 10 goals and five assists from the opening 15 matches of the American NWSL season.

If she can carry this on to the Women’s World Cup, there is no reason why the attacker cannot claim the Golden Ball.

Lena Oberdorf

One of the brightest talents in European football, 21-year-old Oberdorf comes to Australia & New Zealand with a burgeoning reputation.

The all-action midfielder made the Women’s Champions League Team of the Tournament as Wolfsburg reached the Final in 2022/23. To add to this, Oberdorf also earned Young Player of the Season honours in that competition.

Internationally, the Wolfsburg star has become a key piece in a Germany side that are among the tournament favourites. Germany will hope to bounce back from the disappointment of losing EURO 2022 last year – and Oberdorf’s physical and defensive qualities in the middle of the park will be essential.

Unfortunately, though, one thing that may count against her is goals. Generally, the winner of the Golden Ball is also among the top goal-scorers at the Women’s World Cup. As a result, Oberdorf’s teammate Alexandra Popp might be closer to both awards.

It is highly unlikely that Lena Oberdorf is vying for the Golden Boot. But that does not mean she does not fully deserve to be in Golden Ball consideration.

Aitana Bonmati

Finally, one of the key players in Barcelona’s run to the Champions League might make a big push for the Golden Ball at the Women’s World Cup.

Aitana Bonmati stepped up in the prolonged absence of Alexia Putellas to lead Barca to European glory. From this, the midfield technician earned UWCL Player of the Season honours. She finished 2022/23 with 14 goals and 17 assists across Liga F and the Champions League – incredible numbers for a midfielder.

Now, she heads into the WWC as one of the leaders of the Spain squad. La Furia Roja have had many off-pitch disruptions – although are still considered a contender to win it all. They will undoubtedly lean heavily on their superstar midfielder, as well as Ballon d’Or winner Putellas.

If Spain can reach the latter stages of the Women’s World Cup, expect to see Bonmati’s name in Golden Ball contention.

Featured image credit: Getty