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'Genuine world-class superstar footballers' - 8 Players to Watch at Euro 2022

Hosts England open the tournament against Austria at Old Trafford tonight.

TODAY IS THE day. Euro 2022 kicks off across the water in England, with 16 teams in the running to be crowned champions. 

The hosts get us underway at Old Trafford tonight [KO 8pm, live on RTÉ and BBC], the Lionesses and Austria going head-to-head in their Group A opener.

file-photo-dated-09-03-2022-of-a-general-view-inside-old-trafford-the-13th-edition-of-the-euros-returns-to-england-17-years-on-from-the-previous-time-it-was-held-there-and-is-set-to-be-some-spectacl The Old Trafford opener and Wembley final are among the sold-out games. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

While the Republic of Ireland won’t be there, the North are gearing up for their first-ever major tournament, with all 31 games set to be broadcast live on these shores.

Netherlands are the reigning champions from 2017, though it’s pretty hard to call a winner this time around, with an abundance of quality set to light up the biggest stage.

“What strikes me most is that we’re not going to be talking about how important this tournament is in terms of visibility anymore, I think we’re going to be talking about genuine world-class superstar footballers, and they’re going to be women,” as Lisa Fallon said last week.

“We’re going to be talking about the likes of Ada Hegerberg, we’re going to be talking about the Alexia Putellas, we’re going to be talking about Lena Oberdorf… the world is going to see genuine football stars.” 

Here’s some worth keeping tabs on. 

Ada Hegerberg (Norway)

The inaugural Ballon d’Or winner, Hegerberg has made a welcome return to the international spotlight — and a glittering one at that.

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The Lyon ace quit the Norway national team in 2017 in protest at a perceived lack of respect for female players, and in turn, missed the 2019 World Cup. She also struggled with a cruciate ligament knee injury in recent years, but Hegerberg is back to her brilliant best and certain to light it up on the European stage.

She’ll play a key role for Norway alongside Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten.

Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands)

A team-mate of Ireland captain Katie McCabe at Arsenal, we’re all well used to hearing Miedema’s name.

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The Women’s Super League and Netherlands’ all-time top goal-scorer, Miedema tears it up week in week out across the water — and she’s sure to continue in that vein this month as the Dutch look to defend their title.

The 25-year-old striker is a joy to watch, her movement beyond clever and her finishing top-class. And she has a quality supporting cast around her: Danielle van de Donk, Jill Roord and Lieke Martens to name a few. 

Claudia Pina (Spain)

Alexia Putellas was the name on everyone’s lips heading into this tournament, but Spain and Barcelona’s Ballon d’Or-winning midfield magician was ruled out yesterday with a devastating cruciate ligament knee injury.

It’s a massive blow to Spain’s hopes; the focal point of this team, the one who pulls the strings and makes them tick. Although this list is in no particular order, Putellas was unquestionably number one before last night’s enforced edit. 

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That said, Spain are a team bursting with quality Champions League talent, and there’s plenty more to keep an eye on. With all-time top goalscorer Jennifer Hermoso also absent through injury, Claudia Pina could be the young talent to step up.

The 20-year-old recently forced herself into Barca’s first-team and enjoyed an impressive campaign, scoring 15 goals and providing 11 assists in 24 league games.

Caroline Seger (Sweden)

It’s hard to believe Seger is 37-years-old. Europe’s most-capped player, the midfield maestro is simply electric, and unquestionably Sweden’s heartbeat. Almost everything goes through her, and she epitomises everything good about the second-highest ranked team in the world.

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Seger was outstanding in both clashes against Ireland through the 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign thus far, named Player of the Match in Gothenburg. She mixes fire with ice, battling doggedly but enjoying moments of magic on the ball.

She’s just one of a star-studded Swedish side to keep an eye on: Chelsea captain and top defender Magdalena Erikson, Arsenal striker Stina Blackstenius and Fridolina Rolfö of Barcelona are among their other standout players.

Lauren Hemp (England)

England’s breakout star, Hemp is backed to take her first ever major tournament by storm. 

lauren-hemp-england-2022 Source: Alamy Stock Photo

The electric winger is still only 21, but has already clocked up 103 caps for Manchester City, and comes into the Euros after another glittering season at the Sky Blues, in which she marked herself out as the club’s top scorer with 21 goals and 10 assists in all competitions.

Hemp, the holder of a record fourth PFA Young Player of the Year, has no shortage of quality and blistering pace in the final third: something England have in abundance with the likes of Ellen White, Beth Mead and Alessia Russo also among their top attacking stars.

Captain Leah Williamson, deployed at centre-back or in midfield, is another to watch.

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Wendie Renard (France)

An iconic, towering centre-half, Renard has been among the best players in the world through the years. She’s an eight-time Champions League winner and 14-time domestic champion with long-time club Lyon, and has been named in the FIFPro World XI on six occasions. 

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Renard is a teak-tough defender. She has it all, and often pops up with a goal or two. Her leadership qualities are also massive for France, whose challenges under Corrine Diacre have been well-documented through the years.

Fallings out with Amandine Henry and Eugénie Le Sommer see them both absent from the squad, Henry a big miss in particular, but Rendard and Marie-Antoinette Katoto — PSG’s all-time leading goalscorer, aged just 23 — will undoubtedly lead the French charge.

Lena Oberdorf (Germany)

lena-sophie-oberdorf-germany-2022 Source: Alamy Stock Photo

20-year-old Oberdorf is already regarded as one of the best holding midfielders around, having garnered plenty of experience at the top level.

An all-round, versatile talent, the Wolfsburg star’s technical ability, athleticism and ability in the air are a class apart, but her reading of a game, composure and defensive capabilities really mark her out. 

She’ll be an anchor for Germany; one to always roll the sleeves up, get stuck in and get the job done.

Pernille Harder (Denmark)

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Runners-up at Euro 2017, Harder will be hoping to steer Denmark back to the business end of the tournament. Their captain and all-time leading goal-scorer, 29-year-old Harder in full flight is a sight to behold.

The Chelsea star will likely form a dangerous front three with Stine Larsen and Signe Brune, but can also play in a more free role as an advanced midfielder.

Harder has an incredible CV, having won two Uefa Player of the Year awards, seven Danish Player of the Year awards and most recently, a domestic treble with the Blues. She’s undoubtedly done it all at club level, but a major victory with her country would cement her status as one of the greatest players in women’s football.


About the author:

Emma Duffy

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