Hope SOLO (USA)

Hope Solo has a knack for hitting the headlines. The veteran goalkeeper has been USA’s high-flying hero on countless occasions over the course of 92 caps, a quickness of mind and body making her one of the best net-minders in the women’s game. Her style and grace on the line, however, could not help her from running afoul of former coach Greg Ryan in a much-publicised row at the last FIFA Women’s World Cup, in China in 2007.

Now 29 and just back up and running after shoulder surgery and six months out of the game, the outspoken Solo is set to line up at her second world showpiece in Germany this summer. Her determination is evident. “We’ve got to go out and prove that we’re the best; we can’t just rely on our reputation or the past,” said the No1, who was famously disciplined by her coach in 2007 when she spoke out publically against being dropped for the semi-final loss to Brazil.

It’s all water under the bridge as far as Solo is concerned. Ryan, who preferred a physical and direct brand of football, lost his job after a disappointing third-place finish in China and in came Pia Sundhage, a proponent of the beautiful game. “She brought with her the idea that we didn’t need to rely on defending and attacking through long balls,” Solo told FIFA.com after regaining her starting spot and leading the Americans to a third Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008. “Now we’re keeping the ball and believing in ourselves."

The tall and powerful Washington State native is regarded as the best shot-stopper in game, her cat-like reflexes often leaving strikers scratching their heads and cursing their luck. She has played in Sweden and France and was named best goalkeeper for 2009 during a stint with St. Louis Athletica in WPS, where she now lines up for Florida-based outfit magicJack. She missed out with injury on the USA’s bumpy qualifying road to Germany 2011 and was also absent when they picked up their eighth Algarve Cup in Portugal this March.

Solo began her playing days as a striker and only stepped between the posts in her late teens, the legacy of which is ability with the ball at her feet that is a rare among goalkeepers in the women’s game. She earned her first cap for the national team in 2000 after a record-breaking career at University level. With Olympic success firmly under her belt, Solo is now looking to add a FIFA Women’s World Cup title to her impressive CV. “We’ve developed a new style of playing under a new coach and in Germany we will meet the best teams in the world. We’ll need to be brave enough to keep moving in the right direction.”