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Not that long ago the highest levels of competition were the singular domain of men. Whatever the game at hand, women simply weren’t taken seriously.

As testimony from trailblazers shows, women were unwelcome at many poker tables. And in many countries, women weren’t just discouraged from playing soccer, they were outlawed.

The English Football Association banned women from the game between 1921 to 1971. They determined that “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

Things are different these days. The last decade has seen more and more women become well-known for playing poker. And as the eighth installment of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is proving this week, women play an exciting brand of soccer that can hold the attention of any sports fan.

Here’s a look at some of the women who are sure to star this month in France as the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup plays down to a winner.

Alex Morgan (United States)

The Americans have won the Women’s World Cup three times, more than any other country, and they’re the favorites to lift a fourth title in 2019. Morgan, one of the team’s co-captains, is a key reason.

There’s hardly a more dangerous player in the tournament. At age 29, this is already Morgan’s third WWC. She bagged 101 international goals in 163 appearances prior to the start of this tournament. And in this week’s opening game, she scored five of her team’s goals in a 13-0 rout of Thailand.

Megan Rapinoe (United States)

Another co-captain of the USA team, Rapinoe is one of the most creative players in the game. She has shown her versatility in 153 career international appearances prior to this year’s WWC. She’s delivered 44 goals and 57 assists for her country en route to winning at both the Women’s World Cup and the Olympics.

Back in 2011, Rapinoe showcased her skill against Brazil during the quarterfinals. It was then that she delivered an amazing cross to Abby Wambach for the equalizer. It came in the 122nd minute — the latest goal ever scored at the WWC.

Marta (Brazil)

The Americans have the most stacked team in the WWC. But the Brazilians have the most decorated individual player in the tournament — and in the history of women’s soccer.

Marta has collected 15 goals during past Women’s World Cups. That’s the most of any player in the tournament’s history. That tally includes this stunning individual effort at the 2007 WWC:

Marta’s goal count at the WWC represents around 14 percent of her 110 career international goals. That’s the most all-time among female players from Brazil. It was good enough for FIFA to name her the Women’s Player of the Year every year from 2006-2010. She won it again last year too.

Amandine Henry (France)

France won automatic qualification to this year’s tournament as the host nation. But they are no pushovers.

Leading them is Henry. She had scored four goals in 45 international appearances despite playing as a defensive midfielder. That was until this week, when she added her fifth in France’s first game of the tournament, a 4-0 win over South Korea:

Henry’s game is stout enough to stand out, even though she plays toward the back of her team’s formation. She received the Silver Ball at the 2015 WWC as the second-best player of the tournament. That was despite France being knocked out in a penalty shootout by Germany in the quarterfinals.

Christine Sinclair (Canada)

Sinclair is playing in her fifth WWC. The 35-year-old Canadian still has a place on the pitch because she can bag goals with the best of them. She sits second all-time among women in international goals (181) and third all-time in appearances (281). If she can score three times during this tournament, she’ll tie the all-time record among all international soccer players — regardless of gender.

Sam Kerr (Australia)

Australia’s leader on the pitch, Kerr already has 31 international goals in 77 appearances. And she’s still only 25 years old. Blazing fast, she’s the all-time leading scorer in the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League.

Kerr can take over a game all by herself, as she did against Japan back in 2017. And to top it all off, she can nail a pretty awesome backflip, too.

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