Women's Euros: Putellas, Hegerberg and the stars ready to take centre stage

By Sports Desk July 04, 2022

A year later than planned, the pandemic-delayed Women's European Championship takes place in England this month, at a time when the women's game is enjoying a popularity surge.

Barcelona Femeni packed out Camp Nou twice for Champions League games in the season just ended, in what was the most eye-catching sign of years of steady growth.

Many players who a decade ago would have needed part-time work to supplement their playing wages are now enjoying the trappings of being full-time professionals.

It means these players are physically sharper, more tactically astute, and skill levels are soaring skywards, making Euro 2022 an unmissable prospect.

Here, Stats Perform looks at seven players who could emerge as dominant stars of the tournament.

Alexia Putellas, Spain and Barcelona

Generally considered to be the world's best player, Putellas became the first Spain women's international to reach 100 caps on Friday when she played and scored in a 1-1 friendly draw against Italy. She runs the show for Barcelona, captaining the team, and delivered a flood of goals from midfield. She hit 34 goals across all competitions last season, including a four-minute hat-trick against Valencia, and in the Champions League she was named player of the season, despite her team's 3-1 defeat to Lyon in the final.

Irene Paredes, Spain and Barcelona

If Putellas pulls the strings in the opposition half, it will likely fall to Paredes to organise at the other end of the field, as favourites Spain look to keep it tight at the back. The Barcelona centre-back is set to captain Spain, who are seeking their first European Championship title. After joining last year from Paris Saint-Germain, Paredes helped Barcelona to a polished Primera Division campaign of 30 wins from 30 games, with only 11 goals conceded. Almost 11 years since making her debut in Euro 2013 qualifying, Spain will look for Paredes to lead by example.

Pernille Harder, Denmark and Chelsea

Harder is a serial winner at club level, having won four consecutive league and cup doubles with Wolfsburg before joining Chelsea for a reported world-record fee in September 2020 and adding back-to-back WSL and FA Cup doubles. The classy forward will create chances for others but is also a deadly finisher, scoring 68 goals in 134 internationals. Runners-up last time, Denmark will look to Harder to ensure they are in the mix again this month.

Ada Hegerberg, Norway and Lyon

Hegerberg is the returning Norway heroine, coming back into the fold in March after almost five years in self-imposed exile, having previously been upset by the national federation's treatment of the women's game. A true superstar of the game, the Lyon striker and former Ballon d'Or Feminin winner suffered an ACL injury in early 2020 that kept her sidelined for 20 months, but she is emphatically back now, as she proved when scoring in the Champions League final win over Barcelona – a 59th European club competition goal in her 60th such game.

Beth Mead, England and Arsenal

Once a teenage revelation at Sunderland, now at Arsenal, Mead had to wait until just before her 23rd birthday before earning a first England cap. In the four years since that debut, she has floated in and out of the team, with the Lionesses having serious riches with their attacking options. This could be the Whitby-born player's tournament, with Sarina Wiegman expected to include her in an attacking three behind a main striker. Mead has hit three hat-tricks for England in the last nine months and is also a highly creative player from the flanks. She is one of a handful of England attackers who could light up the tournament.

Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands and Arsenal

Mead's club-mate has enjoyed a stunning five-year spell in the English top flight, hitting a record 74 Women's Super League goals in 89 games. In May, the former Bayern Munich player agreed a new deal with the Gunners, and now she will spearhead the Netherlands' European title defence. Described by team-mate Jill Roord as "an absolute killer", Miedema helped the Netherlands reach the 2019 World Cup final and scored a record 10 goals at the Tokyo Olympics, despite the Dutch campaign ending with a quarter-final penalty shoot-out loss to the United States. Miedema surprisingly missed from the spot, so she is not perfect, but defences will fear her presence over the coming weeks.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto, France and Paris Saint-Germain

The PSG and France men's teams have Kylian Mbappe, and the women have Marie-Antoinette Katoto, a record-breaking superstar in her own right. Both are 23 years old, both have over 100 goals for PSG, and both could lead their country to trophy glory this year. Katoto became PSG's record scorer in the women's game last season, and last week agreed a new contract tying her to the capital club until 2025. There lies another Mbappe parallel, with PSG determined to keep the striker out of the clutches of rival clubs, knowing she is the sort of talent that could make an explosive impact on Euro 2022.

Related items

  • Djokovic posts routine win on return to action in Tel Aviv Djokovic posts routine win on return to action in Tel Aviv

    Novak Djokovic cruised past Pablo Andujar to reach the quarter-finals of the Tel Aviv Open on Thursday, showing no signs of rustiness on his first Tour-level outing since July.

    Djokovic had not featured in an ATP-level match since his final victory over Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, having been forced to miss the US Open due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

    But the Serbian needed little time to find his feet in Israel, winning the first seven games of the match and breaking the Spaniard's serve four times en route to a 6-0 6-3 victory.

    Speaking on court afterwards, Djokovic said: "Fantastic atmosphere here tonight, thank you very much. I like the court, it's very intimate and it's very loud. 

    "The crowd here is very passionate about the sport, about tennis and I'm really, really happy to be here and to perform here in front of you, so thank you for your support."

    The 21-time grand slam winner will face Canada's Vasek Pospisil in the last eight after he beat home hopeful Edan Leshem 6-3 6-2.

    Two of Djokovic's fellow seeds fared less well, however, with Diego Schwartzman and Botic van de Zandschulp both being ousted after three-set contests.

    Third seed Schwartzman failed to capitalise on a third-set match point in his 6-3 2-6 7-6 (9-7) loss to Arthur Rinderknech, while Britain's Liam Broady teed up a clash with Marin Cilic by beating Van de Zandschulp 6-4 4-6 6-3.

    The Sofia Open also saw a couple of seeds fall to surprise defeats on Thursday, although Jannik Sinner avoided any drama in his 6-3 6-4 win over Nuno Borges.

    Sinner now has a perfect 10-0 record at the event, which he won in both 2020 and 2021, and will face Australia's Aleksandar Vukic for a place in the final four.

    Holger Rune also progressed to the last eight, though he was forced to rally after losing the opener against Lorenzo Sonego, but Pablo Carreno Busta and Oscar Otte were both dumped out.

    Second seed Carreno Busta fell to a 6-3 3-6 6-2 reverse against Switzerland's Marc-Andrea Huesler, who will face Poland's Kamil Majchrzak in the quarter-finals after he came back to beat Otte 4-6 6-2 6-4.

  • Frank: Toney needs to 'prove people wrong' Frank: Toney needs to 'prove people wrong'

    Brentford head coach Thomas Frank believes Ivan Toney can "prove people wrong" after failing to get on the pitch in either of England's Nations League games over the international break.

    Toney was left out of the matchday squad by Gareth Southgate for the 1-0 defeat to Italy and, while he was included in the 23 players chosen for the Germany match, he was not called upon off the bench.

    The 26-year-old had been called up for the first time by Southgate after a superb start to the season in which he netted five times in Brentford's first six league games.

    And Frank says Toney must use this disappointment to fuel his performances for the Bees, telling reporters: "Of course Ivan hoped to come on the pitch. 

    "I think in life and football the way you get success is you can show resilience and come back from smaller setbacks.

    "It is a minor setback, a minor disappointment, but you need to move forward and just prove people wrong by performing well and that's the only thing he can do.

    "So it's actually relatively simple. But a little bit more difficult of course to do it day in day out. But Ivan has a strong mentality and he will do everything he can to perform well."

  • Galtier 'not surprised' by Fournier's comments Galtier 'not surprised' by Fournier's comments

    Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier is "not surprised" by some strong comments made by former colleague Julien Fournier regarding their time together at Nice.

    Galtier joined Nice ahead of the 2021-22 campaign after winning the Ligue 1 title with Lille, but he stayed at the Allianz Riviera for just one year before making the move to PSG.

    Speaking on RMC show 'After Foot' on Wednesday, ex-Nice director of football Fournier suggested Galtier's exit came down to more than just football reasons.

    "It's common knowledge that the relationship I had with Christophe was quite chaotic from the start of the season," said Fournier, who himself left for Parma in July 

    "Quite honestly, if I explain the real reasons we argued, Christophe would no longer be allowed in a locker room, neither in France nor in Europe.

    "But it was not about football matters. These are much more serious things from my point of view. It was indirectly linked to football. These are things that affect me deeply. 

    "We finished the season and we, him and I, were as professional as possible to limit the negative impact that it could have had on the team. Then there was the separation."

    Galtier was asked about those remarks at a pre-match press conference on Thursday ahead of his first meeting with Nice since joining PSG.

    "He is pretentious," Galtier told reporters. "I am not surprised at the way he expressed himself. I don't want to get tired of debating on everything that was said.

    "If we do that, the way it works means we create one debate after another. I'm not surprised about what I heard knowing the character. That's all I've got to say."

    Galtier won 23 of his 43 matches in charge of Nice last season and guided the club to a fifth-place finish in Ligue 1.

    He departed with the best points-per-game record of any coach in Nice's Ligue 1 history, with his return of 1.76 marginally better than current incumbent Lucien Favre's 1.67.

    Galtier's Nice went unbeaten against PSG last season and were the only side to keep clean sheets in both matches against the Parisians.

    However, PSG welcome the Eagles to Parc des Princes on Saturday having won seven of their opening eight matches, scoring 26 goals and conceding only four in the process.

    Asked if his side are prepared for the challenge on the back of a two-week international break, Galtier said: "We have to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

    "We've worked for the past 10 days with five players. This is the first game in a long series. There are 13 games to go before the World Cup and we are preparing carefully."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.