Following the Netherlands’s play-off qualification last week, all the names from Europe are in the hat waiting for next month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 draw. Nine in total, as well as the hosts, will be hoping to bring the trophy back to the old continent for the first time since 2007.
But anyone hoping to triumph could do with a reliable source of goals. So who will arrive in France with the most predatorial pedigree? Which striker will be expectant of scooping some individual honours?
With a whopping 539 goals scored since Belgium rattled in 12 past Moldova without reply exactly 14 months ago, we take a closer look at who leads the way among Europe’s hotshots.
Minutes per goal: 94.9
While Janice Cayman of Belgium led the scoring charts but will not be in France, no one was involved in more goals than Jennifer Hermoso. The fact that she enjoyed the most assists of anyone in qualifying while finishing as the second top scorer says all you need about her talent up top. She played a part in 64 per cent of Spain’s goals!
The No10 is simply a nightmare for an opposition to cope with. Play a high line to deny her space? She’ll push forward and play off the shoulder of the last defender. Sit deep? She’ll have all day to loft efforts into the box. Pack the centre of the field? She’ll happily drift out wide to cause havoc from there. And don't think that marking her tightly will easily squeeze her out of the game, as the Atletico Madrid star's touch and close control is stupendous.
Minutes per goal: 76.3
Lisa-Marie Utland is your most classic of penalty-box predators. The six-yard area is where she is truly at ease and can be found doing her finest work. With an impeccable ability to read the play going on around her, Utland proved time and again that if her team-mates pick out the far post, she’ll be there.
While she may be in the Gary Lineker mould, with headers and tap-ins her bread and butter, like the former FIFA World Cup™ Golden Boot winner she is certainly not technically limited. She showed it with Norway’s very first goal of the group stage, expertly trapping the ball on her chest before picking out the bottom corner with a swivelled volley from 15 yards out.
Minutes per goal: 93.7
Over the past couple of years, Vivianne Miedema has been intent on proving to the women’s game that she is one of the most complete strikers there is, despite still only being 22. Having struck in the quarters, semis and two in the final as the Netherlands won the UEFA Women’s Championship last year, she carried her scoring streak straight into France 2019 qualifying.
Name a quality any perfect striker should have and she’s got it. Pace? Clinical finishing? Aerial prowess? Physical presence? Intelligent movement? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Currently storming away at the top of the English WSL scoring charts, should the European champions reach the latter stages in France, there’s every chance the Arsenal ace will be in with a shout for the Golden Boot.
Minutes per goal: 98.4
Another striker in the classical style, who earns her living through a cut-throat commitment to getting the job done inside the box. Adept at staying cool with defenders breathing down her neck, Cristiana Girelli intuitively knows where the goal is at all times, with scoring the only thing on her mind.
While her late winner against Belgium – clinching the crucial two points which saw the Azzurre outlast the Red Flames – is her archetypal goal, don’t pigeon-hole her as someone who can’t flourish outside the comforts of the penalty area. Her opportunistic 40-yard strike against France in January proved that.