SYDNEY — At this year’s Women’s World Cup, fans are seeing some greats of the game slow down while younger talents put on a show.
Among the seasoned veterans, Alexander Popp seems to showing no signs of fatigue.
The Germany captain started and scored two goals in her team’s opening 6-0 win over Morocco. Germany plays Colombia on Sunday in a match that should decide the Group H winner.
Having Popp on the field “is really, really dangerous” for Germany’s opponents, said teammate Lina Magull, who played with Popp at VFL Wolfsburg from 2012-2015.
Greats of the game at this Women’s World Cup include U.S. duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, Canadian forward Christine Sinclair, and Marta, the Brazilian regarded as possibly the greatest women’s player of all time.
None of these players really ignited their team’s performances in the first week of the tournament. Morgan and Sinclair both have missed penalties. Sinclair was benched for the start of a game for the first time in her international career in Canada’s game against Ireland.
Sam Kerr, Australia’s star striker, missed the Matildas’ first two games because of a calf injury. She announced Saturday she will play in Australia’s must-win match against Canada on Monday.
Popp also has experience of injuries keeping her out of major tournaments and big moments.
In the Euros in 2022, she was injured in the warm-ups ahead of the final against England, possibly costing Germany the championship at a tournament where Popp took the golden boot for top scorer. In 2013 and 2017, Popp missed the Euros due to knee injuries.
“We try to take preventive measures; the players know what they need to do,” Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said.
Nobody, not even the 32-year-old Popp herself, is sure if this will be her last World Cup. But, unlike other superstars who might be playing on this stage for the final time, Popp is leading the line for her country.
“She radiates a lot of confidence,” Magull said. “She is the leader of the team, that’s why she’s captain.”
One of the younger players in the spotlight in this Women’s World Cup will be on the field with Popp on Sunday. Colombia’s 18-year-old Linda Caicedo, a pacey and skillful Real Madrid winger, showed her talents with a goal against South Korea.
Brazil’s Ary Borges, 23, announced herself to the world with a hat trick and an assist in Brazil’s opening 4-0 win over Panama.
Sophia Smith of the U.S., Lauren James of England, Sophia Braun of Argentina and even Popp’s German teammate Jule Brand are names that people likely will come to know. They all have registered at least one goal or assist at the Women’s World Cup.
Germany hopes experience will prevail over youth, and Popp can lead the team on another Women’s World Cup title run.
Popp won the golden boot in the domestic league with Wolfsburg, tallying 16 goals this season.
Her health and ability to put the ball in the back of the net might be the difference in Germany winning a third Women’s World Cup, and first since 2007. On the squad since 2010, Popp played for Germany when it won the 2016 Olympic gold medal.
“It is great to play together with her,” Magull said. “I appreciate her as a player but especially as a person.”
Clay Witt is a student at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.
AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports