Eight up and coming stars who can light up Women’s Euro 2022 | Women’s Euro 2022

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Chloe Kelly (England)

The Manchester City winger tore her ACL in May 2021 and returned to the first team only in April. Since then the predominantly right-footed 24-year-old, capable of playing anywhere across the frontline, has impressed, making seven club appearances and scoring twice. An intelligent, pacy dribbler with an eye for goal, Kelly’s enviably adhesive close control was honed playing cage football on the estates of her native west London alongside her five older brothers. It will be no surprise to see a player who reports feeling “fresh and fit” shine in Sarina Wiegman’s front three. If Kelly appears to have timed her long-awaited comeback to perfection it also helps that she has a near telepathic understanding with her City and England attacking teammates Lauren Hemp and Ellen White. Kelly says she has been dreaming of Euro 2022 almost from the moment she injured her knee; a long awaited moment in the sun could be beckoning.

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Julie Blakstad (Norway)

May not be a new name to fans in England after her transfer to Manchester City but this summer is the 20-year-old’s first opportunity to show her vast potential to a wider audience. She arrived in England after two years at Rosenborg and has been described as one of the best talents to have ever come through in Norway. No pressure then. Often plays as a winger for City but is likely to be deployed as a left-back for Norway at the Euros. A quick and clever attack-minded player, Blakstad comes from the small town of Ottestad and loves to spend time outdoors. Upon joining City she said she had just bought a sleeping bag that could cope with temperatures of -20.

Julie Blakstad, 20, is being talked about as one of the biggest talents ever seen in women’s football in Norway.
Julie Blakstad, 20, is being talked about as one of the biggest talents ever seen in women’s football in Norway. Photograph: Martin Rose/Uefa/Getty Images

Kathrine Kühl (Denmark)

Will turn 19 on the day before the tournament starts and is the youngest member of the Danish squad, but the prodigious talent knows how to up her game when it is needed. She is a locksmith who can open up the tightest of defences with clever passes, and will make an impact whenever she is on the pitch. The Nordsjælland midfielder has had a huge profile in the Danish league for a couple of years now and will be the one to watch this summer, as well as for many years to come.

Kathrine Kühl surges forward during Denmark’s friendly match against Brazil last week.
Kathrine Kühl surges forward during Denmark’s friendly match against Brazil in June. Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Clàudia Pina (Spain)

Spain’s great hope for the future. Aged only 20, the forward is already a major figure in the Barcelona team and is working hard to follow in the footsteps of her great idol, Alexia Putellas. She made her debut for the Blaugrana at only 16, albeit she then had to go out on loan to Sevilla to continue her development. She returned to the Camp Nou a year later, and this season has established herself for club and country. Pina belongs to a generation of players that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2018. She was named the tournament’s best player and finished as joint-top scorer, and the Spain manager, Jorge Vilda, has followed her closely ever since.

Kika Nazareth (Portugal)

At home, no one calls her Kika – they say Cisca or even Francisca – but professionally she has become Kika and she is the great hope of the next generation of Portuguese female footballers. She grew up going to watch Benfica at Estádio da Luz and now, at the age of 19, she has already won two league titles with the club. After the last one she took the mic and led the celebrations. Her mum says: “Her father has a brilliant phrase to describe her: she is a world in a sardine tin. She is a brilliant and irreverent girl. As a child she used to say that she was going to be president. We don’t know exactly what she was planning but the truth is that she had her own country, her own language, and even an anthem.” She is the first female player to have the super agent Jorge Mendes as her representative and made her debut for the national team in 2020. She is still not an automatic starter, and suffered an injury towards the end of the season, but she could really light up Portugal’s Euro 2022 campaign.

Kika Nazareth smiles during Portugal’s 3-3 draw against Nigeria during their match at the 2021 WNT Summer Series.
Kika Nazareth smiles during Portugal’s 3-3 draw against Nigeria during their match at the 2021 WNT Summer Series. Photograph: Trask Smith/CSM/Shutterstock

Nicole Anyomi (Germany)

Has spoken openly about the racism she has experienced in Germany and took the knee after scoring for Essen as a sign of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. “We have to be active and raise our voice and speak out,” she said. “If something happens you can’t just stand by, look on and say nothing. Of course some people have never experienced it before and are shocked and freeze up, but some just stand there or walk on even though they’ve seen something and could have acted. That’s just not right.” In February the Germany team all knelt before kick-off in the match against Canada. In that game Anyomi also showed what she can do football-wise. “She is an asset for us”, says the manager, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. “She has so much speed and she can really hurt opponents.” Admits to suffering pre-match nerves but no one in the squad matches her dynamism.

Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (Sweden)

Just missed out on the Olympics squad last year despite having a had a superb season for her club side, Häcken. But she seems to have used that disappointment to raise her game another few notches because since the Olympics she has been a Sweden regular and is now an important part of coach Peter Gerhardsson’s attack. The 25-year-old’s journey to the top has not been straightforward but she says she “has grown mentally and as a player” because of the setbacks, adding: “I want to win in everything I take part in.” With qualities similar to those of England’s Lauren Hemp, ie a fast and determined player who likes to take on her opponents one-on-one, she looks certain to have a good summer.

Malmoe, Sweden. 30th Nov, 2021. Sweden’s Johanna Rytting Kaneryd takes on Jana Vojtekova of Slovakia during their 2023 World Cup qualifier which Sweden won 3-0.
Malmoe, Sweden. 30th Nov, 2021. Sweden’s Johanna Rytting Kaneryd takes on Jana Vojtekova of Slovakia during their 2023 World Cup qualifier which Sweden won 3-0. Photograph: Gonzales Photo/Alamy

Melvine Malard (France)

Is the only representative of Réunion, a French island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in the squad. And make no mistake, she is a phenomenon. At the age of 14, she impressed Sonia Bompastor, the current coach of Lyon, finishing as the top scorer in the national under-15 cup. “The club gave me two months to think about coming, it only took me two days!” she said once. “I said to myself: ‘Is that where Wendie Renard plays? Let’s jump the sea [local expression].’” Already a four-time Champions League winner before her 22nd birthday, Malard has the potential, like the Martinique-born Renard, to become an icon and a hero for young girls living outside metropolitan France.

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