Pernille Harder is one of the most feared strikers in Europe, and at just 24 years old she is only just closing in on her peak years after joining Wolfsburg at the start of 2017.
Born in the small town of Ikast back in her homeland Denmark, Harder was already playing for Swedish giants Linköpings FC at the age of 19, and went to her first major tournament four years ago when just 20.
Her technique, skill, and eye for a goal ensured she was highly sought after when she departed Sweden in January, and it was the German champions who picked Harder up.
Now she’s intent on ensuring her country make it through an unpredictable Group A when they face a wounded Norway side on Monday night.
Martin Sjögren’s side have been the surprise package for all the wrong reasons. Tipped as potential tournament winners by some, Ada Hegerberg and Co. haven’t even scored a goal yet, let alone picked up a point.
With analysis almost said and done, Harder isn’t sure what’s going wrong with their next opponents.
“I don’t know, it’s always difficult when you get a new coach,” she said. “They have new coaches but they’re good, playing a new style takes time and if they want to play a new way it doesn’t happen straight away.”
Nils Nielsen’s side are also looking to pick themselves up after defeat to hosts Netherlands in the last round of games, but a victory over Belgium on the first night of the tournament has given them a fighting chance.
While all sorts of permutations could see the Danes go through or go home, Harder and her teammates are only focusing on a win against Norway.
“It’s difficult to say how we feel so far,” she admitted. “We’re pleased we have it in our own hands but it would have been much better if we’d got a result against the Netherlands.
“We can go through with a win in the next game though and that’s what we have to focus on right now.”
Netherlands, despite their status as hosts, weren’t regarded as one of the favorites coming into the tournament, but the 24-year-old says Denmark faced a good team and will analyze what they did wrong before the group-decider.
“I’m sure the atmosphere gives them a little something, but they’re a very good team. We created a lot of chances but didn’t take them, we’ll analyze the game, what we did good, and what we need to do better.”
Harder also has the honor of being the captain of her home nation — the youngest captain of anyone in the tournament.
But the role isn’t simply down to her natural talent as a footballer, the forward says she’s always felt like a leader and enjoys the role.
“I don’t think too much about it to be honest,” said Harder. “It’s an honor of course, but it’s in my nature to play as a captain, to lead from the front and show the way.”
Harder’s also aware of the growing media coverage surrounding all of the teams at Euro 2017, and what progress for Denmark could do for women’s football back in her home country.
After a spike in interest in England after the World Cup and the way the Netherlands are currently performing, it’s an extra incentive for any country to do well and get more people involved in the women’s game.
And Harder states there’s been an obvious rise in interest over the past four years.
“It’s great that all the media are here; the last tournament there were no media and we got to the semifinals.”
She added, “If we do well it will be even bigger in Denmark but we’ve seen some progress already, but we have to take it one game at a time.”
Post-tournament, Harder will return to Wolfsburg for her first full season in Germany, and such is the way of the schedules, she has two league titles to her name in less than 12 months.
Winning the 2016 Damallsvenskan with Linköpings at the end of 2016, Harder instantly became a Bundesliga winner in May when Wolfsburg won the title once again.
Despite only just arriving, the forward believes the move has already improved her as a footballer.
“Of course,” she said. “Just the fact I am around top players every day, that makes me better. I’ve only been there for half a year but I do really feel as if I’ve got better as a player in that time.”