Euro 2022: Why Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema could be the transcendent star of the tournament
Vivianne Miedema does not really do goal celebrations. Go back and watch the aftermath of the first of her two goals during the final of the last European Championship in 2017 and you would not even know she had scored it as she trots over to congratulate Shanice van de Sanden, her Netherlands team-mate, who wheels away to take the plaudits for a fine assist.
After the second, an 89th-minute clincher to secure the title in front of a raucous home crowd, there is no corner flag dash, no knee slide, no somersault, just a quick turn to a team-mate and the letting out of a quite natural, visceral roar.
“I just don’t really believe in doing weird stuff after a goal,” Miedema says, an outlook that does not offer quite Mario Balotelli levels of impudence towards the art of goalscoring (“When a postman delivers letters, does he celebrate?”), but hints at the same shrug-of-the-shoulders, all-in-a-day’s-work ease towards her profession’s most notoriously difficult task.
In the penalty area, Miedema is an ice-cold killer of whom Logan Roy would approve, with a ruthless instinct in front of goal that Dutch team-mate Jill Roord says is “unique in women’s football”.
Her records say just as much: she is the leading scorer in the history of the WSL and has more goals in a Netherlands shirt that any player (male or female), heading into Saturday’s group stage opener against Sweden just six shy of a hundred for her country.
But there is also another type of coolness to the Miedema persona, one that is not quite so easy to pin down, a quality that extends beyond her undoubted quality, a certain quiet but assured boss-ness that has built an aura which stretches beyond the goals.
It is there on the pitch, in the way one of the most technically gifted players of her generation manages to also exude a no-nonsense air of the old school that is usually the preserve of grizzled centre-halves, and off it, in her straight-talking willingness to discuss duckable topics, like UEFA’s exclusion of Russia from these Euros, or the terms of her new Arsenal contract, which has made her the best-paid female player in the country.
Among Arsenal supporters, there is now an almost cultish appreciation of the Dutch forward, the type of which has rarely, if ever, been displayed towards a female player by the broader fan base of an English team, the presence of one of the planet’s best players a source of genuine pride at a time when the club is unable to attract male stars of a similar calibre.
There are Miedema fan accounts on social media and, for a brief time last season, a Miedema statue outside the Emirates, too.
When the 25-year-old was presented with a trophy to mark a century of Arsenal goals at half-time of a men’s game, she needed no introduction and when two actors joked in a Sky Sports advert that Miedema might do a better job up top than Alexandre Lacazette, it only reflected an idea some fans had been suggesting in more serious fashion for some time.
That Miedema is a quite remarkable footballer is nothing new - in fact, with Alexia Putellas struck down by an ACL injury, she may just be the best on show at these Euros.
She has lit up major tournaments in the past, scoring four knockout goals including those two in the final five years ago, and a ridiculous ten at the Olympic Games last summer.
But as the spearhead of the defending champions and the most recognisable foreign star to a host audience that, we all hope, will be swept up having purchased more than half-a-million tickets already, Miedema is the subject of unique and justified hype heading into these Championships.
To a greater extent than managed by any one player at any previous Women’s Euros, she could become its transcendent, defining star.