Amandine Henry wins it
France captain Amandine Henry is one of the best midfielders in this year’s tournament, and even though she’s a big-name player, it can sometimes feel like she’s ghosting behind defenses in attack. See, France use their talented wingers and fullbacks so frequently that their midfielders can make those darting runs behind the defense, setting up dangerous longshots. And few midfielders are as deadly from long range as Henry, who showed that quality in France’s first game against South Korea.
However, Henry’s decisive goal against Brazil in the 106th minute of extra time didn’t come off of a longshot. No, this time she scored off of a classy touch on an indirect free kick, displaying her finishing prowess. Henry took this chance like a striker, reminding fans why she’s one of the most technically gifted players in the world.
Credit, of course, goes to the flawless delivery on this indirect free kick. Brazil’s keeper couldn’t even come out to defend this cross, which was sent to the heart of the penalty box. And who else would deliver such a perfect pass than Amel Majri? Her crosses have been on another level this tournament, and the France left back is on the shortlist of the best players at this year’s World Cup, as is Henry. Both showed up big when France needed them to, and Majri’s passing ability will continue to be key for France.
Caroline Graham Hansen leads Norway to victory
Norway vs. Australia has to be one of the greatest games played in 2019 so far. Although only one goal was scored by each team in 120 minutes before the penalty shootout, most fans simply didn’t want this action-packed game to end. There were huge chances created on both sides in this back-and-forth affair, as Australia are known for playing entertaining games with their elite, Sam Kerr-led attack and makeshift, porous defense.
But the star of the show wasn’t Kerr, even though she had a goal called back and a few key foul situations go against her. In this game, Caroline Graham Hansen was the best player on the pitch, creating chance after chance after chance.
Graham Hansen didn’t find the scoresheet in this game, but she came agonizingly close to a game-winner off of this absolutely insane shot from outside the box. It’s impossible to come any closer to not scoring than this, and the swerve on this strike was unreal.
When she stepped up to take her penalty in the shootout, there was no doubt she’d convert. After all, Graham Hansen is a perfect 7-for-7 on penalties over the last three years for Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg, and she converted a penalty earlier in the World Cup.
She was on unplayable form in this game against Australia (five shots on target, nine crosses), and what makes her performance even crazier is the fact that she suffered a nasty-looking ankle injury in Norway’s final group stage game on a play that won them the game-deciding penalty goal. Graham Hansen isn’t just the most exciting player in the tournament when it comes to beating defenders one-on-one and creating chances, but she’s also an incredibly tough competitor who can carry this team.
Arguably the top Player of the Tournament candidate heading into the quarterfinals, Graham Hansen is perhaps more important to her team’s success than any individual player. Everything she does against England will be key, and based on how England’s defense has played, she may have opportunities to create moments of magic against a World Cup favorite, too.