Ten women's players to watch in 2023
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
We pick out ten young female players to watch in the coming year.
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Women's football was a headline act this year but a new generation is rising to challenge the established stars – we pick out ten to keep an eye on in 2023.
This list was selected by UEFA.com and is not intended to rival more established awards.
Mara Alber (GER, 17 – Hoffenheim)
The return of UEFA's youth competitions in 2021/22 after a two-year absence allowed the spotlight to return to a new generation of talent at Under-17 and U19 level. Germany resumed their WU17 EURO dominance in May, eventually coming out on top in a thrilling final against Spain, winning on penalties in Sarajevo only after a spectacular late equaliser by Alber, who curled precisely in from outside the box.
Alber, on the right of attack, had impressed all tournament with her creativity, never afraid to take on an opponent one-on-one, and kept up that form at October's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in India, being voted the competition's third best player as Germany reached the semi-finals. Playing regularly for Hoffenheim's reserves in the 2. Bundesliga, Alber earned a brief senior debut last April against Bayer Leverkusen.
Nicole Arcangeli (ITA, 19 – Parma, on loan from Juventus)
Arcangeli topped the scoring charts in the WU19 EURO finals in Czechia, joining a roll of honour which since 2014 has incuded Melvine Malard, Patri Guijarro, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Stina Blackstenius and Vivianne Miedema. Her five goals showed the breadth of threat Arcangeli poses to opposition defences and earned her promotion to Juve's first-team squad, where she made two appearances last season.
Compared to club-mate Barabara Bonansea by Arianna Fabbri of Riccione, where Arcangeli was developed before joining Juve in 2019, the forward is hard to dispossess and can also operate out wide. She will be continuing her development at Parma after moving on loan to Juve's Serie A rivals until June 2024.
Serina Backmark (SWE, 19 – AIK)
Backmark conceded just two goals in four games as Sweden reached the WU19 EURO semis, and saved a penalty in the 2-0 opening win against Germany that proved the key to progress in Czechia. In all she kept five clean sheets in nine Sweden U19 appearances last season and has now broken into the U23 squad.
At club level, Backmark became AIK's first-choice Damallsvenskan keeper in June, keeping a clean sheet against Piteå in her opening start of the season, having earlier in the day graduated from her samhällsprogrammet (a course preparing for further education). In August, Backmark also shut out relegation rivals Umeå and although AIK did not stay up, their teenage goalkeeper impressed with a string of fine performances in a struggling side and in December agreed a new contract.
Esmee Brugts (NED, 19 – PSV Eindhoven)
There is no doubt that 2022 was a breakthrough year for the left-sided attacker, a WU17 EURO runner-up with the Netherlands in 2019 and a PSV regular since late 2020. Her debut senior cap came in February against France and in April she got her first Netherlands goal in a FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier with Cyprus. Taken to Women's EURO, Brugts was a late substitute in three games, but it was from the bench in September that she truly made an impact.
Brugts' goal deep added time of the decisive World Cup qualifier against Iceland for a 1-0 win ensured the Netherlands were spared the play-offs and booked a finals spot. Having started their last two friendlies against Norway and Costa Rica, scoring in the second when she was given an unfamiliar role at left wing-back, Brugts looks set for a big role under new national coach Andries Jonker.
Laurina Fazer (FRA, 19 – Paris Saint-Germain)
The midfielder, who scored her first UEFA Women's Champions League goal last December in some style against WFC Kharkiv, has been featuring more and more for Paris in 2022. Versatile and skilful, Fazer was voted the French league's best young player of last season and captained her country to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup quarter-finals.
Called up to the France senior squad in October, Fazer suffered a hand fracture later that month to interrupt her run in the Paris team but she was back in the starting line-up for December's UEFA Women's Champions League win at Vllaznia and also faced Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to end the year.
Signe Gaupset (NOR, 17 – Brann)
Having earned her first senior appearances for Sandviken at the end of 2021, midfielder Gaupset became a regular for the club now rebranded Brann this year as they completed the domestic double. And in the Norwegian Cup final, which they had not won since 1995, Gaupset was the star with two goals in the 3-1 defeat of Stabæk, hailed by captain Tuva Hansen as "a unique talent".
Gaupset herself skippered Norway at WU17 EURO, scoring six goals in their three round 2 games as well as their only goal in May's finals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, against Finland. She then put in some impressive displays in WU19 EURO round 1 in October.
Vicky López (ESP, 16 – Barcelona)
Spain, winners of both the WU-17 and WU-20 World Cups as well as WU19 EURO, and a penalty shoot-out away from the WU17 EURO title, have an unreasonable amount of talent coming through. But few are causing as much as a buzz as Vicky. Prolific at youth level for Madrid CFF, she became the Spanish top-flight's youngest-ever debutant aged 15 years and two months in September 2021, and was superb in Spain's U17 campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the left of attack, also able to operate as a playmaker.
Barcelona signed her from Madrid in July on Vicky's 16th birthday, and although she is spending this season mostly with the reserves, she featured for the first team against Granadilla Tenerife in September and also came off the bench at Real Madrid in November before making her UEFA Women's Champions League debut the following month, at 16 years 148 days the youngest player ever to feature for Barcelona women or men in either Champions League or at Camp Nou. In between Vicky went to the U17 World Cup in India and was named player of the tournament, inspiring Spain's successful title defence.
Nina Matejić (SRB, 17 – Crvena zvezda)
Matejić announced herself outside her homeland aged 16 in September 2021 when she started a World Cup qualifier for Serbia in Germany (where she once had a trial for Bayern, training with girls several years her senior) and scored within three minutes. Having played with boys until 14 then pretty quickly stepped up to Serbia's senior women's league, she scored 39 goals in 2020/21 for Požarevac (including 16 in the six-game relegation play-offs), earning Matejić her international promotion, also finding the net away to Portugal the month after the Germany game.
Last summer she moved from Sloga Zemun to the increasingly ambitious Crvena zvezda, who Matejić supported as a girl and also represented at youth level. Hard-working and skilful as well as a natural finisher, she has been in the goals for the Belgrade club this autumn and finished as top scorer in WU19 EURO qualifying round 1 with seven goals in three games as Serbia topped a group ahead of Italy, Hungary and Wales, while continuing to be a part of the senior squad.
Ana Milović (SVN, 21 – Olimpija Ljubljana)
She only turned 21 in July but Milović has already passed 200 senior goals for Olimpija in less than 100 appearances. Having already been Slovenian league top scorer twice as a teenager in 2021/22 she got 66 in 19 games, beating the 15-year-old record held by Mateja Zver. She has begun 2022/23 at a similar rate, with 38 goals in 11 games. Her tally for the calendar year of 2022 was 62.
On the international stage she has also shown an eye for goal. In 2019 Milović had a spell with Breznica Pljevlja and in the UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying round she scored four times in three games, including two in a 3-2 defeat of Olimpia Cluj-Napoca that was the first-ever win for a Montenegrin female club in Europe. She is also a regular in the improving Slovenia team who got to within a game of the 2023 World Cup qualifying play-offs. Known to be on the radar of clubs outside Slovenia, it would be no surprise to see Milović follow in the footsteps of national team-mate Zver.
Katie Robinson (ENG, 20 – Brighton & Hove Albion)
Young talents like Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp and Ella Toone played crucial roles in England's success at UEFA Women's EURO and more are coming through, not least Maya Le Tissier and Lauren James, on this list over the last two years and senior Lionesses debutants this autumn. Winger Robinson came up England's regional youth ranks alongside Le Tissier and combined excellently with her at the 2019 WU17 EURO, both making their senior international debut against Norway this November.
Robinson made her breakthrough at Bristol City and was taken to Brighton in 2020, recovering from an ACL injury with a loan spell earlier this year at Charlton Athletic and making her Seagulls comeback this autumn. Her pace and fondness for beating an opponent one-on-one makes her an exciting option.
Maya Le Tissier
Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir