FIFA Women's World Cup: 8 players to watch
Host nation Canada's hopes rest on Sinclair
The FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off on Saturday in Edmonton, where host Canada will face China at 6 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. MT.
With each group possessing a wealth of talent, here's a look at the players who will decide their nations' fate.
Group A: Christine Sinclair (Canada)
Canada finished dead last at the 2011 Women's World Cup, scoring only once in three games. However, new coaching allowed them to rebound for a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, and they're now ranked eighth in the world.
Captain Christine Sinclair played a key role in the turnaround. The star striker, whose 153 career international goals are the third-most ever by a woman, led Canada on its Olympic run with six goals, including a hat trick in a controversial 4-3 semifinal loss to the eventual gold medal-winning Americans.
The Burnaby, B.C., native will turn 32 during the tournament and all eyes will be on the seven-time FIFA player of the Year nominee to see if she can duplicate that magic from 2012.
Group A: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands)
At only 18 years old, Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema was able to come out as the top scorer in the European qualifying round with 16 goals. There is no pressure for the Netherlands (ranked 12th) to advance this time around, but Miedema could make things interesting for the host nation.
Group B: Nadine Angerer (Germany)
Top-ranked Germany is one of only two teams that have won the Women's World Cup twice. They became back-to-back champions in 2007 with captain Nadine Angerer not conceding a single goal. She won the 2013 world player of the year award, becoming the first goalkeeper to earn that distinction. The 36-year-old is set to retire at the end of this season, and after nearly 20 years with the national team, her teammates intend to send her off the right way.
Group C: Homare Sawa (Japan)
Fourth-ranked Japan is coming to Canada as the defending champion after shocking the United States in a penalty shootout in the 2011 final. In doing so, they became the first Asian team to win a Women's World Cup. Attacking midfielder Homare Sawa led the way with five goals in 2011 and is set to make her record sixth appearance. The 36-year-old retired following the 2012 Olympics, but returned to the national team in 2014.
Group D: Abby Wambach (United States)
This year's "group of death" features the second-ranked United States, as well as Sweden (5) and Australia (10). American striker Abby Wambach is the all-time leader with 182 international goals, including 13 in World Cups, but has failed to lead her team to the title in three tries. The 35-year-old will likely battle for this year's scoring lead with Brazil's Marta.
Group D: Sydney Leroux (United States)
Since joining the U.S. national team, Vancouver native Sydney Leroux hasn't retained many fans north of the border. However, since the 25-year-old's 2011 senior debut, she's tallied 35 international goals.
Honourable mention goes to teammate Alex Morgan. A knee injury could limit her this time around, but the 25-year-old scored twice in 2011.
Group E: Marta Vieira da Silva (Brazil)
Brazil is ranked seventh, but they have one of the all-time greats in 29-year-old striker Marta. She won the FIFA player of the year award an unprecedented five consecutive times between 2006 and 2010 and is the World Cup's co-leading goal scorer with 14.
Group F: Louisa Necib (France)
Third-ranked France boasts one of the best midfielders in the world in Louisa Necib. The 28-year-old, who French media have compared to men's legend Zinedine Zidane, will make only her second World Cup appearance. In 2011, she served as the team's playmaker and helped it to a fourth-place finish.