Women’s World Cup: Former Bears enter final round of group stage

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Alex Morgan, USA

Currently tied with Australia’s Sam Kerr for first place in the 2019 Women’s World Cup Golden Boot race with five goals so far, the U.S. women’s national team’s star striker Alex Morgan hasn’t lost a step since winning her first World Cup title four years ago. With 106 goals scored for the national team, Morgan is one goal away from becoming one of the five players at the top of the all-time scoring list — she currently sits behind Michelle Akers, who has 107.

Morgan has looked like the best version of herself since the United States kicked off against Thailand a couple of weeks ago. Her movement at the top of the attack for the United States has already orchestrated some of the tournament’s best-looking goals. A monumental 13-0 win over the Southeast Asian country sent alarm bells running throughout the other teams in the tournament.

A lack of substantial competition has made this a polished tournament for Morgan thus far. Her incredible ball-handling skills and assertiveness in decision-making has yet to be challenged, and only time will tell whether one of the best strikers in the history of American soccer can lead her country to a record-breaking fourth World Cup trophy.

 

Miranda Nild, Thailand

Fresh out of graduation and in her first World Cup match, Thailand forward Miranda Nild suffered a bittersweet loss at the hands of Morgan and the U.S. team. Post-match, a beautiful moment transpired as Morgan consoled a tearful Nild after her record-breaking loss, reminding us all that soccer is more than a game.

Voted Cal women’s soccer’s offensive MVP in 2017, Nild was a mainstay in the Bears’ starting 11 over the past few seasons, tallying 1,204 minutes on the field in 2018. Her influence in Thailand’s fourth-place 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup finish forced a quick turnaround after the conclusion of her Cal career.

Born to a Thai father, Nild hopes to lead her national team to its first win of the tournament against Chile today at noon. Last time out, Thailand lost, 5-1, to Sweden.

 

Betsy Hassett, New Zealand

Appearing in 113 matches for her country, Hassett has started both matches so far for New Zealand. Both matches proved fruitless for the team, however, as it has yet to score a goal in the tournament.

Hassett has absorbed the role as the general on the left side of the midfield for New Zealand, making sure the defense is solidified and in position before making calculated swarms in attack. This is the two-time Olympian’s third appearance at a World Cup, having played in each group-stage match so far.

 

Daisy Cleverley, New Zealand

One of only nine current Division I players to make a World Cup squad, Cleverley has yet to make the first tournament appearance of her career. She made 12 appearances last season for the Bears after a knee injury ended her 2017 campaign.

New Zealand faces Cameroon today at 9 a.m. in its final group-stage match.

Spencer Golanka is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @sgolanka.