Isaak Bowers introduces a clutch of developing stars hoping to make their mark in Canada...
The World Cup: a time for celebrating football every day, knockout excitement... and going mental about the next generation of stars.
It's often the case that good tournaments can earn players big moves, and while that might not translate so freely to the women's game, the world's biggest clubs are always on the hunt for the stars of tomorrow who can get stuff done today. Here's 11 players aged 23 and under who could turn heads...
Morgan Brian (22, USA)
If you've followed any of the last World Cups, you'll probably recognise the core of USA’s team this time around: 33-year-old Hope Solo is still in goal; 39-year-old Christie Rampone will shore up the defence and 34-year old Abby Wambach will lead the attack. One new face you should watch out for, though, is Morgan Brian. The Houston Dash midfielder is the youngest player in the squad at 22, but already has 29 appearances and four goals to her name – all while combining her international career with studying at university the last four years, only playing for her college side. With good technique, speed, attitude and awareness, Brian impresses with the maturity and effectiveness of her game. Her youthful dynamism from midfield could be the decisive factor for an ageing USA to go all the way this summer.
Ada Hegerberg (19, Norway)
Still only 19 years old, Hegerberg has already starred in an international tournament when Norway made it to the final of the European Championship two years ago. At club level she is now with her fourth team, and scored 26 times in 21 games in her debut season for French champions Lyon. Hegerberg’s facts are remarkable, but then so is her game. The Norwegian is tall and strong, but still quick and very mobile.
Her touch is top class, while her most impressive ability (given her age) might be her intelligence: bringing team-mates into play and moving smartly in the final third; drifting away and then attacking the right areas with force and fine timing. On track to become the best centre-forward in the world, Hegerberg is more than ready to make a big impression this summer.
Mana Iwabuchi (22, Japan)
Typing Iwabuchi's name into YouTube brings up a video titled 'The Female Messi' - and somehow you can understand where it's coming from. Iwabuchi has wonderful technique, blisteringly quick feet and eye-catching dribbling skills; she is adept at quickly changing pace and direction, and has the confidence to go directly for goal. In her first season at German giants Bayern Munich, the 22-year-old helped her side seal the Bundesliga title. Despite her development abroad, however, don't expect Iwabuchi to start too many games for Japan during the summer – head coach Norio Sasaki still relies heavily on the team that won the title in 2011. Instead, the young forward's role will be to liven up things from the bench, using the experience in preparation for a more prominent role that awaits in the future.