The 2023 Women’s World Cup has been a superb spectacle, with the biggest match of them all still to come, of course, with the final taking place on Sunday 20th.
Sydney’s Stadium Australia hosts the huge clash between Spain and England, in what will be the 64th and final match of the tournament.
Countless memories have been made, but the players of the two nations now have the chance to etch themselves into World Cup folklore with a win in the grudge match Down Under.
The prestigious World Cup trophy is on offer, but there are plenty of individual awards up for grabs too when the tournament draws to a close.
The Golden Boot will be available to the tournament’s top goal scorer, with the Golden Glove being awarded to the best goalkeeper. And one of the most coveted awards of them all is the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball, which will be handed to the best overall player of the tournament.
But who is in the running for the iconic trophy with just one match left to play, after Sweden defeated c0-hosts Australia 2-0 in the third-place match on Saturday?
Women's World Cup Golden Ball top contenders
Hinata Miyazawa – Japan
Japan ace Hinata Miyazawa has been one of the surprise packages of this Women’s World Cup, with the midfielder currently sitting top of the goal-scoring standings with five.
She immediately hit the ground running in Australia, scoring twice in her nation’s opening victory over Zambia before replicating the feat against European giants and now finalists Spain.
The midfielder added another goal against Norway, with her superb efforts in front of goal putting her in contention for the Golden Boot despite Japan being knocked out by Sweden in the quarter-finals.
Amanda Ilestedt – Sweden
Arsenal’s new signing Amanda Ilestedt is another who has enjoyed a superb individual World Cup, with her country also having a great time Down Under, ending the tournament in third place thanks to their recent win over Australia.
The defender has been fantastic at the back of the pitch for the Swedes, but she also showed her attacking prowess throughout the competition, scoring four times before the Scandinavian country lost in the semi-finals to Spain. Has she done enough to clinch the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball?
Lauren Hemp – England
England star Lauren Hemp was relatively quiet in the group stages, but has managed to improve as the tournament has progressed, with the centre-forward particularly coming alive in the semi-final win over Australia.
Having impressed against both China and Colombia, Hemp played a key role in the 3-1 win against the co-hosts, scoring her nation’s second goal in Sydney, as well as chipping in with an assist.
The forward will no doubt have a key role to play in the final against Spain, with the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball definitely hers for the taking if she can impress in the final third once again.
Aitana Bonmati – Spain
But aiming to steal the limelight from England star Hemp in the final will be Spanish ace Aitana Bonmati, who like Hemp has banged in three goals so far in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Her starring performance came in Spain’s Round of 16 rout against Switzerland, where Bonmati scored twice and assisted two more in the 5-1 win. The hugely creative player will look to be the difference in Sydney, and a Women’s World Cup. Golden Ball is certainly on the cards if she can shine on the big stage.
Alex Greenwood – England
Attackers mainly get all the credit in such major tournaments, but their feats would be impossible without defenders doing their job at the back. And like Sweden’s Ilestedt, England’s Alex Greenwood has been a rock in defence.
She has emerged as her nation’s most important defender, which was certainly not the case at Euro 2022, where she was largely seen as a substitute. The Lionesses would not have reached the final without Greenwood, with her abilities both on and off key for how her manager wants to play the game.
Her set-pieces have been crucial for England, as has her versatility, with Greenwood operating both out wide and centrally. The defender will have it tough against an attacking Spanish side on Sunday, with one last rock-solid performance needed if the Lionesses want to have a chance of lifting the prestigious trophy. Can she win the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball?
Women's World Cup Golden Ball past winners
USA players have dominated the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball award in recent years, with Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd picking up the trophy in 2019 and 2015 respectively.
Japan’s Homare Sawa clinched the prize in 2011, with Brazil star Marta picking up the award in 2007. In 2003 it went to Germany’s Birgit Prinz, while China’s Sun Wen and Norway’s Hege Riise were awarded the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball in 1999 and 1995 respectively.
And all the way back in 1991 it was the USA’s Carin Jennings who picked up the Women’s World Cup Golden Ball.