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SHEFFIELD:

Vivianne Miedema’s modesty belies the nature of a penalty box “killer” aiming to maintain the Netherlands’ status as European champions at Euro 2022.

The Arsenal striker was one of the stars of the tournament five years ago when the Dutch dominated on home soil – scoring twice in the 4-2 win over Denmark in the final.

Since then Miedema’s status has only grown, becoming one of the best players in the women’s game and smashing goalscoring milestones along the way.

“She’s unique in women’s football,” said Netherlands midfielder Jill Roord, who also played alongside Miedema for two years at Arsenal. “She’s one of a kind, an absolute killer.

“You see it in men’s football – players who are so cool in front of the goal – but I don’t think anybody else in women’s football has that to her extent.”

A goalscoring phenomenon since her teenage years, Miedema admits to nearly quitting the game in the wake of the 2015 World Cup where she struggled to live up to the pressure heaped upon her as an 18-year-old.

“I was really close to retiring,” Miedema told the BBC earlier this year. “I couldn’t deal with the pressure, I didn’t like football and I told my mum ‘this is me done’. I was going to play for fun back in Holland.”

Even after winning Euro 2017 she suffered from panic attacks due to the stress of becoming a recognisable face.

She credits a change of mindset to helping her untap her potential but still tries to shun the spotlight where possible, most notably in her low key goal celebrations.

“I don’t like to be the person everyone watches,” she told The Guardian. “It’s my job. I’m happy if someone else scores. I celebrate more.”

Euro 2017 was just the beginning of her rise on the international stage.

Miedema also helped the Netherlands to the 2019 World Cup final and set an Olympic record last year by scoring 10 goals in four games.

On both occasions the Dutch fell just short against the USA, but they will not stand in the way of Mark Parsons’ squad over the next month as they look to retain their European crowd.

A 5-1 thrashing at the hands of England in a pre-tournament friendly exposed cracks in the Dutch defence that will heap even more responsibility on Miedema and Paris Saint-Germain’s Lieke Mertens in attack.

A tough opening game against Olympic silver medallists Sweden also lies in wait in Sheffield on Saturday.

But the Netherlands have made a habit of saving their best form for the big occasion in recent years and will expect to come through a group also containing Portugal and Switzerland.

Those final two group games could also be key to Miedema’s chances of adding a Golden Boot to her collection of individual accolades.

A century of international goals is also in sight after Miedema moved onto 94 with a double in the Netherlands’ final warm-up friendly against Finland.

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright described the Gunners’ latest goalscoring great as “the best number nine in the world and the best number 10 at the same time”.

London will remain her home after signing a new deal with Arsenal in May despite having her pick of clubs from across the continent.

If her country are to make it back to the English capital for the final on July 31, Miedema will likely have done most of the heavy lifting along the way.





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