Women's World Cup: The SWPL stars in Australia and New Zealand

A string of SWPL stars are representing their nations down under.

Celtic, Rangers and Glasgow City players among SWPL stars at Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand SNS Group

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has officially kicked off in Australia and New Zealand with both co-hosts playing their opening games on Thursday.

Auckland hosted the first game as the Ferns beat former champions Norway 1-0 at Eden Park before the Matildas won a hard fought game against Republic of Ireland by the same scoreline at Stadium Australia in Brisbane.

Since then most of the pre-tournament favourites, including USA, Spain, England and Japan, have started with wins, with Jamaica and Nigeria pulling off the biggest shocks by holding France and Canada to draws.

However some of the victories have been a much smaller margin that would have been expected in previous tournaments with only Japan scoring more than three goals in their opening game.

The New Zealand win, secured by a second half strike from Hannah Wilkinson, was their first every victory at the World Cup.

Rangers goalkeeper Victoria Esson played between the sticks and kept a clean sheet as he helped the home side to a clean sheet.

The 32-year-old is joined by three other Scottish based stars who will be looking to make an impact at the tournament.

We take a look at the SWPL stars featuring at the tournament alongside the likes of Sam Kerr, Alex Morgan and Alessia Russo.

Rangers: Victoria Esson (New Zealand) and Kayla McKenna (Jamaica)

Victoria Esson: New Zealand stopper started for Rangers in the Scottish Cup final. SNS Group

Esson arrived in Scotland in 2022 to challenge first choice Rangers goalkeeper Jenna Fife for the number 1 jersey.

She has made 21 appearances for the Glasgow side last season, including against Benfica in the Champions League, and was part of the squad that won the League Cup in December.

The former Avaldsnes stopper also started the Scottish Cup final that was played at Hampden in May, with Rangers this time on the losing side.

As well as keeping a clean sheet on her World Cup debut, Rangers also announced on Thursday that Esson had committed her future to the club by signing a new deal.

Her teammate in Glasgow, Kayla McKenna, was on the bench as Jamaica drew with France on Sunday.

The 26-year-old, US-born Forward, has scored 11 goals in 20 SWPL games for Rangers and has two goals in six caps for the Reggae Girlz.

She will be hoping to get some game time when they come up against Panama in their second group game on Saturday.

Celtic: Shen Mengyu (China) and Claire O’Riordan (Republic of Ireland)

Shen Mengyu: Celtic star representing China at World Cup.

Shen Mengyu has been a revelation at the Hoops since joining from Shanghai Shengli in 2021 and becoming the first Chinese women to play in Scotland.

In her first season in Glasgow she helped the Hoops to a League Cup and Scottish Cup double before helping them retain the trophy last season.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who scored six SWPL goals as Celtic lost the title in the last day of the season, came off the bench in China’s 1-0 defeat to Denmark on Saturday.

Next up for Shen will be a must-win game against Haiti in Adelaide on Friday before their final group game against England a week on Tuesday.

Former-Celtic defender Claire O’Riordan has been called up as part of the Republic of Ireland squad in Australia and New Zealand.

The 28-year-old, who helped the Hoops win the Scottish Cup and was part of the team that narrowly missed out on the league title, was on the bench in the opening game against the Matildas.

She signed for Celtic at the start of last season after four years in Germany with Duisberg and made 25 league appearances for Fran Alonso’s team.

O’Riordan has 19 caps, scoring one goal, for Ireland as was part of the squad that qualified by beating Scotland at Hampden last year.

Glasgow City: Linda Motlhalo (South Africa)

Linda Motlhalo: The winger provided the assist to Glasgow City's league winning goal at Ibrox.SNS Group

The most experienced international from the SWPL playing in Australia and New Zealand in Glasgow City’s South African star Linda Motlhalo.

The 25-year-old Glasgow City winger has 52-caps for South Africa and started in their 2-1 defeat to Sweden on Sunday.

Motlhalo arrived down under as an SWPL champion after providing a vital assist to help City clinch the title with with a dramatic last day win over Rangers at Ibrox that seen them pip Celtic to the trophy.

She joined the Glasgow club from Swedish side Djurgardens in January and scored three goals in 16 league games.

She has 16 goals for her country as is expected to play a big part in their coming games against Argentina and Italy.

Half the games at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, including the final, will be shown live on STV and STV Player.

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