HFH’s underrated five-a-side: 5 star players criminally under the radar

Sophie Baggaley of Manchester United
Sophie Baggaley of Manchester United warms up prior to the FA Women's Super League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Leigh Sports Village on March 05, 2023 in Leigh, England. (Photo by Matt McNulty/Getty Images)

Lucy Bronze, Alexandra Popp, Jill Roord and Pernille Harder. All four players are regulars at their national team and have been for many years. Women’s football is bursting with talent, but the question is, are coaches blinded by names?

Here at Her Football Hub, we’ve created a five-a-side team based on underrated players we feel deserve a lot more credit and acknowledgement for their performances on the pitch. How well do you think they would fare as a unit?

Sophie Baggaley (GK)

Arguably one of the most naturally gifted goalkeepers that England has seen in a decade, we couldn’t make this five-a-side without including Sophie Baggaley. Having made her senior debut at Birmingham City in 2015, Baggaley looked destined to secure the No.1 spot, but the arrival of Ann-Katrin Berger from PSG saw the Derbyshire native make the move south to Bristol City.

It was here at the purpose-built Stoke Gifford Stadium that Baggaley would make her name, saving an incredible 72 percent of the shots she faced during her inaugural season and an average of 66 percent across the four years she spent at the club.

In 2021 at the age of just 25, she secured a dream move to Manchester United, but with England Lionesses, Euro winner and ‘World’s Best’ Mary Earps at the helm, has struggled to break through to the first team. In the summer of 2023 she moved to Brighton and Hove Albion to secure more minutes in the WSL.

Ash Neville (DEF)

In our opinion, Ash Neville is the most slept-on defender in the whole of the WSL. Watch one Spurs game and Neville’s value shines through brighter than the gleam on Chelsea’s trophy cabinet. Despite clocking more than 100 appearances for Tottenham during her six-year spell at the club, Neville has never played for England, either at youth level or as a senior — despite having some seriously impressive stats.

In the past three seasons, Neville has:
– Completed the most tackles in the WSL
– Had the highest number of successful tackles in the WSL
– Made the most interceptions in the WSL
– Made the most blocks in the WSL

Neville isn’t just a solid defender, she comes up with the goods too. With nine goals and five assists, she adds an attacking threat to a sometimes lacklustre Tottenham attack. Something England could have benefitted from during this year’s agonising World Cup final loss to Spain.

Maite Oroz (MID)

Three games, two goals, one start. Born in Huarte, Spain, this dynamic midfielder made her debut for Las Blancas in 2020 and has been a feature of the Spanish youth set-up since 2013.

Last season, she had the most assists in Liga F, beating off stiff competition from the likes of Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir and Nerea Eizaguirre. Meanwhile, this year, more than 60 percent of her shots have been on target. Her pass accuracy is also pinpoint, finding her teammate of 95 percent of the time. World class.

At just 25 years old, Oroz is heading into the prime of her career. After a turbulent year for Spanish football, all eyes will be on La Roja. What better way for the girl from northern Spain to kickstart her international career?

Eleanor Ryan-Doyle (ATT)

This Republic of Ireland powerhouse initially grabbed the headlines during her time at Birmingham City, but is currently tearing up defences in the Championship with Durham.

Despite only winning four of their ten games this season, Durham have proven to be anything but an easy three points. Ryan-Doyle fits seamlessly into the squad, commanding her space like a seasoned veteran and sitting just behind the front two, making space for other attackers. Her ability to read an opposition pass is only superseded by her ability to know what ball she should play next, making her a nightmare for midfielders and centre-backs alike. November’s form saw her bag a Championship Player of the Week award.

Despite being named in matchday squads, the Dubliner is yet to make her senior debut for The Girls in Green, but recent form suggests she won’t be waiting long before she pulls on that famous jersey.

Michelle Alozie (ATT)

England fans will remember Michelle Alozie from Lauren James’ infamous stamp this summer, but this Super Eagles striker has more in her back pocket than just the Lionesses front line.

At just 5’6 you could be forgiven for thinking Alozie wouldn’t pose much of a threat. But the 26-year-old from Apple Valley had defenders turning inside out at this summer’s FIFA World Cup.

Alozie’s career was nearly over before it began. This was after she ruptured her ACL whilst playing for Yale Bulldogs and failed to be selected in the 2019 NWSL college draft. Just two years later she made her debut for Houston Dash. And in just 31 games for the Contra Todos, she’s registered six goals and one assist.

Quick, intelligent and effortlessly clinical, Alozie is sure to light up the NWSL this season.

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