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Sweden midfielder Hanna Bennison's rapid rise to EURO 2022

Sweden's Hanna Bennison has come a long way since watching her heroes reach the 2016 Olympic final – now the midfielder is hungry for more.

Sweden's Hanna Bennison
Sweden's Hanna Bennison UEFA via Getty Images

Six years ago, Hanna Bennison was one of many young football-loving Swedish girls sitting in front of the TV, watching wide-eyed as her role models in the national team danced their way to the 2016 Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro.

"I loved watching when they played and dreamed that one day I would be here as well," Bennison, who was just 13 at the time, tells UEFA.com. "I didn't believe it would happen within a few years, but it was my goal to make it to the national team."

England vs Sweden: All the build-up

Six years on, the 19-year-old is not only realising her dream of playing for Sweden at a major tournament, but is doing so alongside her heroes: Eleven of that 2016 squad are still in the team today. "It's incredible," she beams. "I looked up to a lot of these players, so it means a lot to get to see them play and play with them. It's huge for me."

At the age of 11, Bennison decided to devote all her efforts to football and moved to Malmö to play for FC Rosengård, making her first-team debut as a 15-year-old. A little over 12 month later, she received her first call-up to the Swedish national team. "It all happened in a very short amount of time," she admits.

Suddenly, Bennison found herself playing alongside Caroline Seger – who made her international debut when Bennison was only two – both at Rosengård and in the national team. "She was someone I looked up to a lot growing up," says the midfielder, who sits by Seger in the Sweden changing room. "She's such a fantastic player and person. I've learned so much from her and, more than anything, she's always very supportive and encouraging."

Bennison's 'amazing feeling' after Swedish winner

Sharing a dressing room with several of her childhood heroes is not something Bennison is daunted by, however: "There is a lot to learn from them, but you don't think too much about the fact that they've been your role models once you are out there on the pitch."

That attitude served Bennison well when Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson decided to bring her off the bench against Switzerland in their second group match with the teams locked at 1-1. The teenager had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes when the ball landed at her feet. "I guess I thought 'shoot', and then I saw an opening and just went for it," she says.

The outcome was one of the best strikes of the tournament so far. "It was magical to get to score a goal like that – especially at EURO – and it was my first goal for the national team," she reflects. "I just felt pure happiness. There were a lot of people who wrote to me, and my family were in the stands with tears in their eyes. It was a special moment."

Now England await in the semi-final – opponents Bennison, who joined English Women's Super League side Everton a year ago, knows only too well.

"We have many players who have experienced English football and a lot of the English players play in the league here too, so that means you have already faced most of them," she explains. "I think that can be an advantage for us."

Bennison, though, has her sights set beyond Tuesday's last-four showdown. "We dream of going all the way and winning it," she says. "It will be tough, but I believe we can do it."

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