5 standout players from the World Cup group stages

Lauren James celebrates scoring a goal at the World Cup for England
Lauren James of England celebrates after scoring her team's first goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup match vs Denmark (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The group stages are over and it’s time to focus on the knockouts but let’s take a moment to appreciate how much of a thrill it’s been already. The 2023 World Cup has delivered blockbuster and it’s only just getting started, so let’s take a look at some of the standout players so far.

Of course, these are just five of very many superstars who have lit up the world stage. Who else has wowed you in the competition so far?

Lauren James — England

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Bagging a brace for England as well as scoring a crucial winner against Denmark, Lauren James has certainly announced herself at her first major tournament. While the 21-year-old may have made just three senior appearances for the Lionesses, the Chelsea starlet is certainly giving Sarina Wiegman a real selection headache and it definitely one of the standout players of the World Cup so far.

The forward’s ability to turn defenders, combined with her pace and strength has made James a bright spark in an England side that has at times lacked creativity throughout the tournament so far. With her international career just getting underway, the sky is the limit for England’s newest rising star. 

Ary Borges — Brazil

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Scoring the first hat-trick at a World Cup is no mean feat. Scoring the first hat-trick at a World Cup when you’re only 23 is a sure-fire way to get the football world to know your name. Ary Borges’ performance against Panama saw the midfielder pull off nothing short of a masterclass in her first World Cup game. 

Despite Brazil’s disappointing early exit from the tournament, Borges was phenomenal for her country. The No.17 provided a constant threat for Brazil throughout their group stage campaign.

Ayaka Yamashita — Japan

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Japan were always expected to do well in this summer’s tournament. Few people would have expected Japan to stake their claim as favourites so early in the competition. As one of just a handful of teams yet to concede, Japan have pulled off a defensive masterclass in their group stage games.

Beating Spain out to top the group, Ayaka Yamashita has proven to be a revelation for her country. The 27-year-old has been a consistent commanding presence for Japan as they got their World Cup campaign off to a perfect start.

Hildah Magaia — South Africa

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Two goals and an assist in just three games saw Hildah Magaia usher her side comfortably into the knockout stages. The 28-year-old found the back of the net against a resilient Sweden side to get Banyana Banyana’s goal-scoring action underway at their debut World Cup.

Magaia’s performance in South Africa’s final group stage game however, was nothing short of sensational. Pulling her side back from the brink of elimination from the competition, the No.8 has written her name into the history books. Regardless of how far they go through the knockouts, Banyana Banyana have found themselves a new star.

Manuela Vanegas — Colombia

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Colombian defender Manuela Vanegas has been a revelation of this summer’s World Cup. The 22-year-old has formed an integral part of Nelson Abadia’s defensive lineup throughout their group stage campaign. Comfortably handling some of the world’s best forwards when facing Germany, Vanegas has shone for Colombia.

The Real Sociedad star’s defensive attributes have not been the only thing the No.2 has brought to her first World Cup. Bagging the crucial winner against Germany, Vanegas has proven herself to be a threat in all areas of the pitch.

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