With the recent women’s World Cup having just concluded it seems like a good time to examine who are the greatest women footballers in history.
Women’s football has only been a major international sport for the last thirty years or so with the first women’s world cup only taking place in 1991. It has been included in the Olympics since 1996.
I have looked at a few articles with worthwhile opinions on the best women footballers, notably The Bleacher Report in 2013. Combining the verdicts of these articles gives a top ten of:
1. Marta (Brazil)
2. Mia Hamm (USA)
3. Birgit Prinz (Germany)
4. Homare Sawa (Japan)
5. Abby Wambach (USA)
6. Sun Wen (China)
7. Kristine Lilly (USA)
8. Christine Sinclair (Canada)
9. Cristiane (Brazil)
10. Nadine Angerer (Germany)
The choice of the greatest woman footballer of the 20th century was jointly awarded by FIFA to Sun Wen (China) and Michelle Akers (USA).
FIFA has chosen the top woman player of the year since 2001 and the most awards have gone to:
Marta (5 times), Birgit Prinz (3 times) and Mia Hamm (twice).
Combining these gives an idea of who FIFA rate as the greatest since women’s football became established.
As usual with these sorts of lists and awards there is a large bias towards forwards and to a lesser extent midfielders. These are the players who tend to attract most attention whereas defenders and goalkeepers tend to be overlooked.
To try and achieve some sort of balance I have tried to find which defenders and goalkeepers should be included in an all-star team.
For the goalkeepers an award of Golden Glove is made to the best keeper in each World Cup. To find the best defenders I have looked at who has been chosen in the World Cup team of the tournament (TOT) more than once in defence and who has won most caps and trophies in defence for leading nations.
My choice of an all-star greatest team is in a 4-3-3 formation in deference to the great strikers who must be included:
A difficult choice with two outstanding candidates. Germany’s Nadine Angerer won the world player of the year award in 2013 and was Golden Glove winner (best goalie) in the world cup of 2007. She has been outstanding for a long period and the only serious rival for best goalkeeper appears to be the current USA goalie Hope Solo who has been Golden Glove winner at the last two world cups. Until the 2015 World Cup I would have gone for Angerer but Solo’s efforts there just take her into first place as my choice.
China’s Wang Liping who was in the TOT in both 1999 and 2003. She won a silver medal in the 1996 Olympics and 1999 World Cup and played 162 times for China.
United States two-time world cup winner Carla Overbeck who was in the TOT in 1999, won Olympic gold in 1996 and silver in 2000. She made 192 international appearances and was chosen in the all-time USA team of 2013.
d Joy Fawcett (USA) was in the World Cup winning teams of 1991 and 1999. She was in the TOT from 2003 and played every minute of each world cup from 1995 to 2003. She won Olympic gold in 1996 and 2004 in a career of 239 international caps from 1987 to 2004 where she scored 27 goals and was a unanimous choice in the 2013 all-star US team vote.
Germany’s Kerstin Stegemann who was in the TOT in 2007 as part of the German defence that didn’t concede a goal in the tournament and won the World Cup. She also won the 2003 world Cup and was in three European championship teams. She won 191 international caps.
Homare Sawa (Japan) – captain of the Japan team that won the world cup in 2011. She has scored 83 goals in 204 international appearances since 1993. In 2011 she was FIFA player of the year and won the Golden Boot at the world cup.
Kristine Lilly (USA) – the most capped player in the history of international football (men or women) with 352 caps and 130 goals from 1987 to 2010. She played in the USA’s world cup winning teams of 1991 and 1999 as well as the Olympic gold winning teams of 1996 and 2004.
Michelle Akers (USA) – joint winner of FIFA women’s player of the 20th century and golden boot of the 1991 world cup. She scored 105 goals for the USA team in 153 appearances, was in the world cup winning teams of 1991 and 1999 and Olympic winners of 1996.
Mia Hamm (USA) – the most prolific goal scorer in women’s international football until 2013 when her record of 158 goals in 375 matches was overtaken by Abby Wambach. She was the most celebrated member of the USA team which dominated women’s football in the 1990s and early 2000s winning two world cups and two Olympic titles. She played for the USA from 1987 to 2004. She is a member of FIFA’s Hall of Fame and was unanimously chosen by the voters for the all-time USA team.
Marta (Brazil) – five times the FIFA world player of the year from 2006 to 2010. She has scored 92 goals in 95 international appearances at the time of writing. She won the Golden Ball (best player) and Golden Boot (top scorer) at the 2007 World Cup but her Brazil team lost in the final. Her Brazil team also won silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics but have never won a global title.
Birgit Prinz (Germany) – winner of FIFA women’s player of the year each year from 2003 to 2005. She scored 128 goals in 214 appearances for Germany and is second all-time in world cup goals. She was in the world cup winning teams of 2003 and 2007 and played in five European championship winning teams.
Nadine Angerer (Germany) – goalkeeper
Ariane Hingst (Germany) – defender
Brandi Chastain (USA) – defender
Bettina Wiegmann (Germany) – midfield
Renate Lingor (Germany) – midfield
Abby Wambach (USA) – forward
Sun Wen (China) – forward