We pick out ten young female players to watch in the coming year.
Even in a disrupted year, lots of young talent continued to emerge in Europe’s national teams and clubs: we pick out ten to keep a particular eye on during 2021.
This list was selected by UEFA.com and is not intended to rival more established awards.
Vicki Becho (FRA – 17, Lyon)
Hugely gifted striker Becho, then only 15, had a crucial role in helping France win the 2019 UEFA Women's U19 EURO – becoming the first player that age to score at the U19 finals since Ada Hegerberg in 2011. Having climbed the ranks at Paris Saint-Germain, she opted to sign pro terms at arch-rivals Lyon this past summer. She has already made substitute outings for the UEFA Women’s Champions League holders.
Julie Blakstad (NOR – 19, Rosenborg)
In their first year as Rosenborg, the former Trondheims-Ørn went through the Norwegian league season unbeaten, missing out on the title but earning a European spot, fielding a young squad.
One of those precocious talents is midfielder Blakstad. She joined the club she had always supported from Fart in June and soon was Rosenborg's second-top league scorer on seven goals, named Toppserien young player of 2020 and shortlisted for the senior prize. She made her senior Norway bow in October, playing 90 minutes and looking a threat in the 1-0 win in Wales that booked UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualification.
Haley Bugeja (MLT – 16, Sassuolo)
Malta's 4-0 Women’s EURO 2022 qualifying win in Georgia on 26 November was not just their first competitive women's away victory – at 16 years and 205 days old, Bugeja became the youngest player to hit a hat-trick in a UEFA qualifier, beating Julie Fleeting's record from 1997.
In fact, Bugeja scored in all three of Malta’s qualifying wins this year, their best-ever campaign. And the attacker has been equally prolific at club level since moving to Serie A club Sassuolo from Mġarr United (where she had a similarly lethal record), scoring twice on her Serie A debut against Napoli in September and continuing to find the net as the season progressed.
Lene Christensen (DEN – 20, KoldingQ)
Keeper Christensen impressed many during Denmark's run to the 2018 Women's U19 EURO semis, after which she became a regular starter for KoldingQ. At the start of December she was handed a senior Denmark debut in their Women's EURO 2022 qualifier with Italy and excelled in a 0-0 draw that ensured first place in the group. She described the match as "a dream come true", something her consistent domestic displays had earned.
Svenja Fölmli (SUI – 18, Luzerne)
Switzerland has a fine record of producing young talent and Fölmli, nurtured at the Swiss FA's Biel academy from age 13, has made rapid progress with her skill and eye for goal as well as her determination. Modelling herself on Kylian Mbappé, she broke into Luzern's team at 16, and was still only 17 when scoring on her senior Switzerland debut against Romania in November 2019. She continues to register for Luzern and feature for her national team, with an ambition to play in Europe's top leagues.
Paulina Krumbiegel (GER – 20, Hoffenheim)
A Women's U19 runner-up with Germany in 2018 and 2019, this year proved the exciting left-midfielder's breakthrough as she established herself in the first team at Hoffenheim, who came close to pipping Bayern to this season's UEFA Women's Champions League and may yet earn a European bow in 2021/22. Krumbiegel's efforts also prompted a senior Germany debut in September; she got her first goal two months later against Greece.
Lauren James (ENG, 19 – Manchester United)
The flair-blessed forward – who Arsenal had training with their boys at U13 level and their senior women at 15 before awarding her a debut a year later – was one of the players recruited when Manchester United revived their women's team in 2018. She helped them to the second-tier title in their first season and then scored United's maiden top-flight goal before proceeding to inspire their surprise title push this term.
Having ascended the England youth ranks, she was invited to a senior training camp in November. If she emulates her sibling Reece James of Chelsea in being capped, they will be the first brother and sister to represent England at senior level.
Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir (ISL – 19, Kristianstad on loan from Wolfsburg)
Hugely promising forward Jónsdóttir was playing in Iceland's second tier for Keflavík aged 14, and in her first full season of 2016 she scored 27 goals in 19 games. By 2019 they were in the top division, albeit she had moved to Breidablik – finishing as both the league's joint-top scorer and player of the year as they clinched the championship.
That form secured her a senior Iceland debut against Latvia in September; naturally she scored within eight minutes and eventually got two. A few days later her long throw set up a goal in a 1-1 draw with Sweden that proved crucial in rubber-stamping a Women's EURO 2022 slot. And on 28 December she was signed by Wolfsburg on a deal until 2024, before being loaned for 12 months to Sweden's Kristianstad, a 2021/22 UEFA Women's Champions League contender.
Eva Navarro (ESP – 19, Levante)
In her third campaign as a regular at Levante, Navarro continues to plunder goals and in November she opened her account for the senior Spain team against Moldova. One of a thrilling generation of Spanish talents including Laia Aleixandri, Clàudia Pina and Olga Carmona, Navarro continues to fulfil the promise shown with her displays as they won the 2018 Women's U17 EURO and FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.
Lena Oberdorf (GER – 19, Wolfsburg)
Oberdorf, who only turned 19 on 19 December, can hardly be left out although she is already established at the top level. The versatile defender has been part of the Germany side since the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup and in June she agreed to join Wolfsburg at the end of the delayed season from Essen – her last appearance came in the German Cup final against her future club.
In August she came off the bench in all three of Wolfsburg's UEFA Women’s Champions League finals games as they finished runners-up. Her exploits ensured she was the only teenage nominee for the first UEFA.com fans' Women's Team of the Year.
The 20-year-old remains a regular in the Atlético defence and made her first competitive Spain start in November's 10-0 Women's EURO 2022 qualifying defeat of Moldova.
Won more Sweden caps, including a competitive bow away to Slovakia on 1 December, and the 18-year-old opened her UEFA Women's Champions League account for Rosengård with goals in both legs of their last-32 tie.
The 19-year-old midfielder had an important role in that unbeaten season for Rosenborg which earned a European place, and has been included in her first Norway senior squad.
Played against Japan and the US for England in the SheBelieves Cup in March, and recently returned from injury to play a crucial part in big games for Manchester City, scoring in the second leg of December's UEFA Women's Champions League win against Göteborg.
Made her competitive Germany debut in the 3-0 win in Montenegro in September; the 20-year-old attacker has also been a central player for the renamed Eintracht (formerly FFC) Frankfurt.
Another year in which Koivunen, now 19, was hard to beat in the HJK Helsinki goal, while she also made her UEFA Women's Champions League debut.
Loaned to Fleury last term, the 20-year-old striker is back at Lyon and starting to make an impact – not least in the UEFA Women's Champions League last-32 first leg at Juventus in December, when the holders trailed 2-1 only for Malard to equalise then assist Saki Kumagai's late winner (she also struck in the home return). Her first two France caps arrived in September.
Moved to Chelsea from Hibernian last January and broke into the Blues team; this season the versatile midfielder has appeared regularly on loan at Birmingham City.
The 20-year-old remains a midfield stalwart for Rosengård, whom she joined in summer 2019, and ended Women's EURO 2022 qualifying having started all ten games of Denmark's successful campaign.
The 18-year-old striker was taken back to Ajax this summer from Zwolle and has been in the goals in the first half of the Eredivisie season.