Canada, Norway and China PR may have already bowed out of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup™, but the three countries have not yet given up hope of picking up some silverware at the tournament. This is because Canadian centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan, Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg and Chinese playmaker Jiali Tang have been named the three finalists for the Hyundai Young Player Award.
No fewer than 54 budding talents started out in the running for this accolade, which will be handed out by the FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG) to the player born after 1 January 1995 deemed to have made the biggest impression in the competition. The eligible candidates were rated according to the following criteria: exceptional skill level, youthful and refreshing playing style, creativity and inspiration, tactical maturity and efficiency, fan recognition through entertaining performances, role model for young players, positive attitude and fair play. All of these attributes have been displayed in one way or another by the three last women standing in the race to follow in the footsteps of Australia's Caitlin Foord, the winner of the award at Germany 2011.
Buchanan moved supporters with her tears after the hosts' quarter-final defeat by England, but by then she had already grabbed their attention with her displays at the heart of the back-line, where she barely put a foot wrong. Coach John Herdman has called her his "Christine Sinclair in defence", fitting praise for a player who is already a firm favourite among the Canadian people and one of the country's top defenders.
The teenager is not resting on her laurels, though, telling FIFA.com: "I know that I have to start taking on a leadership role now. I have been playing in this team for three years and I think I can do even more." And we can look forward to seeing her continuing to blossom alongside other Canadian rising stars: "There are a number of us in the team who are both young and experienced."
*Different positions, much in common
*Buchanan's description also applies to Hegerberg, who has been ever-present in Norway's senior set-up since making her debut at the age of 16 in 2011. The precocious poacher has added to her goal tally at a prodigious rate since then, at both club and international level. She hit the net three times in Canada, including a brace in the 3-1 victory over Côte d'Ivoire that earned her Live Your Goals Player of the Match honours.
A powerful, precise finisher with a knack for being in the right place at the right time, the Lyon attacker is a highly popular figure in the Norwegian camp because of her spontaneous and bubbly, yet down-to-earth personality. For example, after that game against the Ivorians, she told FIFA.com, laughing, that she could not understand why she had been selected as the player of the match. She will doubtless react with equal modesty if she scoops the Hyundai Young Player Award.
Last, but not least, we have a midfielder to complete the cast. Jiali Tang is one of the leading figures of a new generation that has reinvigorated the Steel Roses, who had not performed with such verve since their exploits at USA 1999, where they reached the Final. Having shone at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2012 and the U-20 tournament in 2014, Tang similarly captured the imagination in Canada as the chief orchestrator of China's fast, free-flowing passing game.
The TSG will announce which of these three outstanding candidates will take home the prize on 5 July, after the Final.