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SOCCER

Who are the top players competing at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022?

Between high profile veterans and emerging new stars, these are the players who will be lighting up the Women’s Euros in England.

Marie Antoinette KATOTO of France and Kadidiatou DIANI of France during the Friendly match between France and Vietnam at Source Stadium on July 1, 2022 in Orleans, France. (Photo by Anthony Dibon/Icon Sport via Getty Images)
Anthony DibonGetty

Tournament hosts England got off to a winning start by beating Norway in the inaugural match of UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 with Beth Mead scoring the first goal of the tournament. Things have started looking up again for the Arsenal winger, who is over the disappointment of missing out on last year’s Tokyo Olympics. Less fortunate is Spain’s Alexia Putellas - the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin was tipped to be one of the stars to look out for at Euro 2022 but suffering a serious injury just days before the tournament started. Alexia ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during Tuesday’s training session and faces several months out. Her place in the squad has been taken by Real Sociedad’s Amaiur Sarriegi. Jorge Vilda’s Spain were already without Jenni Hermoso, who is also out with a knee ligament injury and didn’t make the list.

But there will be plenty of other big name players set to shine in England. We take a look at some of the ones to watch.

Ada Hegerberg
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Ada HegerbergLISI NIESNERREUTERS

Ada Hegerberg (Norway)

Hegerberg was an integral member of the Olympique Lyon side which have pretty much dominated the women’s game domestically in France and in Europe. Her first five seasons in D1F were a dream - she ended as the league’s top scorer for three seasons running (2016, 2017 and 2018) and picked up a host of individual awards, including UEFA’s Best Women’s Player in Europe in 2016 and the Ballon d’Or Féminin two years after that. An ACL injury hindered her progress for close to two years - she only returned in October last year, as influential as ever, scoring 16 goals in 26 games. She remains the all-time top goal scorer in the Women’s Champions League with 59 goals. In 2017, she took a self-imposed break from international football in protest of equal pay only to return in March of this year - marking her comeback in style by hitting a hat trick in just under an hour as the Norwegians thrashed Kosovo 5-1 in Sandefjord. She is sure to make an impact with Martin Sjögren’s side as Norway look to go as far as they can in a tournament they last won in 1993.

Pernille Harder (Denmark)

Denmark ended as runners-up in the last edition of the Euros, with Harder scoring her only goal of the tournament in the final against the Netherlands. She is the country’s all-time top scorer with 68 goals in 134 appearances, and got her international career off to a flying start with a hat trick on her debut when she was still only 16. In 2020, she became the most expensive transfer of all-time when she swapped the Bundesliga for Chelsea. A knee injury kept her out for much of last season but she was back as Chelsea defended their WSL title and lifted the FA Cup.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)
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Marie-Antoinette Katoto. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)FRANCK FIFEAFP

Marie-Antoinette Katoto (France)

Power, positioning and a poacher’s eye for goal, Katoto bagged an astonishing 32 goals in 33 appearances for PSG last season as Olivier Echouafni’s team made it four D1F titles in a row. The No.9 gained her first senior cap in November 2018 and opened her account a couple of months later in her second outing for France. With 25 goals in 30 appearances, she’s the team’s reference in attack and is always lurking in and around the six-yard box to finish off a move from close range with either foot or in the air. Back in February of this year, she overtook Marie-Laure Delie to claim PSG’s goal-scoring record with 132 goals in 148 games.

Aitana (Spain)

A pocket-sized dynamo who creates goals as well as scoring them (some of them, spectacular), Aitana Bonmatí has played an essential role in Barcelona’s recent successes. She joined Barça aged 13 and made her way up through the various youth levels, modelling her game on childhood idol, Xavi Hernández. Her vision, close ball skills and reading of the game are key assets for Jorge Vilda’s Spain side too and she provides the link between midfield and attack. Now aged 24, she has matured as a player with the best still to come.

Fran Kirby in action for England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
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Fran Kirby in action for England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)Lynne Cameron - The FAGetty

Fran Kirby (England)

Just a couple of months ago there was concern that England might be without Fran Kirby for Euro 2022. An electric forward, who is always one step ahead of her opponents, Kirby announced that she was taking a break from the game after suffering from fatigue. Luckily, it gave her the time she needed to rest and return refreshed and invigorated for the Lioness’ Euro campaign. She is one of the most exciting players to watch in Sarina Wiegman’s side, and capable of curling one in from practically any angle. She netted 16 goals in 20 outings for the Blues last season as the team complete a Super League title-Cup double.

Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands)

An all-rounder who can play in any of the front three positions, Vivianne Miedema is just as happy setting goals up for her team mates as scoring them herself. Incisive through-balls, crosses whipped in from either flank or passes dinked over rival defences… her precision delivery has been fundamental for Arsenal and the Netherlands national team. Her generosity knows no bounds, with an average of almost two assists per game; she can also unpack a fierce shot - one of the many attributes that has helped her to register an incredible 114 goals in just 132 appearances across all competitions with the Gunners. She was on target twice as the Netherlands were crowned European champions for the first time the last time around in 2017. The Oranjeleeuwinnen, who kick off their campaign against Sweden at Bramall Lane on Saturday, will be looking to defend their title and Vivianne Miedema will have a big say in whether they can achieve it.

Sara Däbritz in training. (Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Sara Däbritz in training. (Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)picture allianceGetty

Sara Däbritz (Germany)

Not so long ago, Germany were unrivaled in women’s football, having won this tournament six times in a row between 1995 and 2013. Other nations have since caught up with them but Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side, at 7/1, are still among the favourites to lift the trophy this year. Sara Däbritz is sure to be involved somehwre along the line if they do. A highly-experienced player who has spent time at three of Europe’s top clubs: Bayern, PSG and Lyon, Däbritz was an unused sub the last time Germany were proclaimed champions of Europe. She is a natural poacher, with excellent positioning - always on hand to tuck in a loose ball or free at the back post to put the ball away.

Wendie Renard (France)

Strong, brave and a dominant figure for France during the past decade. If France have a set-piece or corner, you can bet that Renard will be on the end of it. She is known for her presence in the rival penalty area and aerial prowess. A one-club player, she 31-year-old has amassed 14 league titles and eight European Cups during her 16-year relationship with Lyon. Renard has been capped 131 times for France and overcame an injury at the start of last season to guide Lyon to a D1F-Champions League double.