The group stages of the Women’s World Cup have been concluded in Australia and New Zealand and the knockout stages of the tournament are underway. After some shocking results, including World No.2 Germany and World No.8 Brazil both being knocked out and the United States picking up their lowest points tally ever in the group stages, England are shaping up to look like the side who will win the Women’s World Cup 2023.

Anything can happen between now and the final at Stadium Australia on August 20, however, so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Instead, let’s take a look back at three who stood out for their individual performances in the group stages.

Alexandra Popp – Germany

While Alexandra Popp won’t have many fond memories of this renewal of the Women’s World Cup, as Germany crashed out in the group stages for the first time in their history, the 32-year-old Wolfsburg striker was still one of the better performers in the early part of the tournament.

Popp scored twice as her side beat Morocco 6-0 in their opening game of Group H and she single-handily attempted to be Germany’s hero in the following outings against Colombia and South Korea. She scored a penalty in the 89th minute to level the scores against the South Americans, but Colombia scored six minutes into injury time for a dramatic 2-1 win.

Germany also went 1-0 down to South Korea in their final game of the group, but it was Popp who popped up with the equaliser once again. It wasn’t enough for the second-ranked team in the world to progress to the knockouts, however, as Morocco’s stunning victory over Colombia saw the World No.72 outfit become the lowest-ranked team to ever get out of the groups.

Hinata Miyazawa – Japan

Japan were one of only three teams to win all of their group-stage encounters and they did so in emphatic fashion, scoring 11 goals and conceding none as they topped Group C ahead of Spain, Zambia and Costa Rica.

Hinata Miyazawa played a huge role in that dominance, scoring twice as Japan thrashed Zambia 5-0 in their opening game. The 23-year-old was dropped to the bench and only featured for the final 30 minutes or so as Japan beat Costa Rica 2-0 to secure their place in the knockouts with a game to spare.

But she was back in the starting XI for the final match against Spain and it was all to play for as the winning side would top the group. Miyazawa made all the difference as Japan stunned the World No.6 side 4-0, scoring twice and registering an assist in the first 45 minutes before being taken off and rested for the knockout stages at half-time.

Lauren James – England

With key players Fran Kirby, captain Leah Williamson and talisman Beth Mead sidelined through injury, while experienced players like Ellen White and Jill Scott have retired since England’s European Championship success last summer, the Lionesses needed someone in this youthful squad to step up Down Under.

Many might have expected that person to be Manchester United’s Ella Toone or Arsenal forward Alessia Russo, who both played influential roles in England winning their first Euros 12 months ago, but it is Lauren James who is stealing the headlines after some stunning performances in the group stages.

The 21-year-old, whose sibling is Reece James — making them the first brother-sister duo to represent England — scored the Lionesses’ only goal in the 1-0 win over Denmark before netting twice and assisting three times in the 6-1 win over China. James was unlucky to be denied the hat-trick in that game, as Lucy Bronze was adjudged to be offside in the build-up.