At the end of the 2017 Damallsvenskan season, when Kopparbergs/Göteborg had narrowly staved off relegation, few could have predicted that they’d finish the following season second. But they did, buoyed and driven by the sterling performances and midfield maestro Elin Rubensson and Rebecka Blomqvist. Having finished the 2018 season as joint-second highest goal scorer in the league (tied with Anna Anvegård, three goals behind veteran Anja Mittag), there are few players in Sweden with the world at their feet like Blomqvist.
Blomqvist’s story starts out like so many others — a sibling her introduction to the sport.
“When I was four years old, I saw my brother play, he really enjoyed it, and so I started playing a little bit with him and wanted to try with a team,” she explained. “I kept playing and here I am!”
Opting to follow her passion for scoring goals rather than horseback riding, the striker said goodbye to her favorite steed, Indiana Jones, at 14 and completed a move to Göteborg soon after her 17th birthday. However, she picked up an injury that ruled her out of the rest of the 2014 Damallsvenskan season and made her bow the following year.
“I took the train every day so I didn’t have to move away from my parents which was really, really nice as everything as so new but it was big step for me and I felt like I was ready for it. In the beginning you don’t play so much, it’s more about getting into the tempo, but it felt like the perfect time for me,” she said.
Blomqvist had a busy 2015; not just as a part of a strong Göteborg team that boasted the Dutch attacking trio of Daniëlle van de Donk, Lieke Martens, and Manon Melis but also as a member of the Swedish Under-19 squad that won the European Championships. When others her age were out enjoying their last months before leaving home for university, the attacker was sweating it out in Israel. Her most memorable contribution that summer was putting the winning penalty past Lena Pauels to see Sweden safely through to the final, a moment that didn’t faze her.
“It was really… it was the fourth penalty and our goalkeeper [Emma Holmgren] had saved two penalties so if I scored we won, but if I missed, we kept going. Of course I felt pressure and was nervous but I don’t know, it was cool, a perfect situation.”
In the same age group as Stina Blackstenius, Tove Almqvist, Filippa Angeldal, Michelle De Jongh, Anna Oskarsson and Julia Zigiotti-Olme (to name but a few), Blomqvist wasn’t often the focal point in the offense. Rather, the entire U-19 team was left in the shadow of Blackstenius as she powered the team to the title. As her peers broke through the ranks, moving clubs, picking up award nominations, and seeing their league minutes increase, Blomqvist’s development remained steady, if not half a step behind.
Silver Linings in a Miserable Season
The Dutch contingent left Sweden’s west coast: goalkeeper Loes Geurts joined Paris Saint-Germain only to return again for the 2018 season; Lieke Martens moved to Rosengård to pursue the Swedish title; van de Donk left for Arsenal; and Melis, whom Blomqvist credits as having one of the most profound impacts on her, surprised everyone by joining the then Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League for a season before announcing her early retirement. During their shared time in Gothenburg, the Dutch maestro had taken Blomqvist under her wing, giving her tips and helping mold the young charge into a better player. Something she remains grateful for.
“In my first year there it was very important to have that type of player around,” Blomqvist said.
For the Uddevalla-native, though, carving out her own style has always been about watching all the great male and female players, thinking about how they play and taking strands from everywhere — making her style very much her own.
For the striker, her progression was steady. As the team struggled for consistency, Blomqvist managed to notch up her appearances, starting 29 games between 2016 and 2017. The eight goals she netted over the two seasons were, however, nothing to write home about.
The 2017 season was a particularly tough one for the Götaland team. An injury early in the year to goalkeeper Jennifer Falk left the team out of sync; with the inexperienced teenaged Anna Larsson unable to command the back line, Larsson’s confidence took a knock with every goal conceded. Match by match the team continued its slide down the table, rooted to the floor by the summer break. The signing of Danish goalkeeper Line Geltzer Johansen was enough to see the ship steadied over the second half of the season though. Not a team to struggle for goals, the equilibrium slowly returned to the side as they inched toward safety. Yet, with three games of the season left they were stuck back in the relegation zone.
“Because 2017 was not our best year, I think we didn’t do what we wanted to do but it’s hard to think about now as we’ve tried to put it behind us,” Blomqvist explained. “In the spring we had a lot of injured players and nothing really… it just wasn’t going like we wanted it to go and we didn’t play well. I’m not going to say 2017 was a good year but I think we learned a lot from it.”
A late dash up the table, as those around them failed to find much joy in their last matches, saw Göteborg home and dry.
There is no question the team underperformed in 2017, and even with a change of manager and a few players in and out, few would have predicted their second-place finish the following season.
“Like I said, we learned a lot from 2017 and I learned a lot too as a player and getting new coaches and a new way of playing I think that was a new start for me,” she reiterated.
“The role I have now [under head coach Marcus Lantz] and had last year, I really enjoy it. And when I started to score, you get the feeling that it’s so fun to play and so fun to score and it keeps going so you just enjoy it and the football. A big part of it, too, is that I got to play almost every game (and I hadn’t had that before) so I think that helped me score as many goals as I did.”
Star Striker in Their Midst All Along
Five games into 2018 and the side from the west still failed to convince. Christen Press had returned on a short-term deal and, despite firing in four goals in her brief spell, the team was left looking unbalanced.
Blomqvist’s first goal of the season, a scruffy effort against Eskilstuna United that she squeezed into the far corner, marked the start of her breakout year. The 22-year-old struck again before full-time, looping an effort into the top left corner, claiming her first Damallsvenskan brace.
“For the season I knew I wanted to score more goals and be more involved in everything I did. When it started going well… I had a feeling, it felt good and I just wanted to play well.”
Scoring in each of her next four matches, KGFC refused to drop another point until an unforgettable 3–4 loss away to Piteå. Back on the scoresheet the following week, the attacker only failed to find the back of the net in three of the subsequent eight league matches.
With a new coach and personnel tweaks, there’s a strong argument that the team simply had to settle and seven or so matches seems about right but there also seems to be a clear correlation between Press’ departure and Blomqvist finding her feet — the two play similar positions after all. And for Blomqvist, goals begot goals, her first strike against Eskilstuna was enough to wrench open the floodgates but the attacker credits the whole squad for her own success.
“Because everyone did what we were supposed to do and we were good at it, I had the chance to score more and it was easier for me because everyone did good,” she said.
As someone who’s always played in the heart of attack, Blomqvist remembers that one of her favorite feelings as a child was scoring goals — and was likely what cemented her desire to pursue football over horseback riding or handball (a Swedish staple she had a brief flirtation with). As she grew within the game, she began to understand the subtleties of each role, including buildup play. The more complete view of football is something that’s only heightened her enjoyment, although scoring goals still remains paramount.
“When I was young it was the best thing… and it is still the best feeling! But now you realize there’s more to the game than scoring and scoring, so now it’s so much fun because you can be part of the play, too.”
Gearing up for the New Season
Coy on the team’s weaknesses, the 22-year-old freely admits that Kopparbergs/Göteborg is a team that likes to play on the front foot and dominate in attack, which can leave them suspectable to counters should passes go astray. Although she circled back around to say, “I don’t think we have a weak spot,” it’s plain to see that the midfield and attack are where KGFC’s strengths lie.
The Swede, already erring on the modest side, tends not to view the goals she created and finished as all her own but part of the collective fabric of the team. Still, her progression over the season was palpable. The team found its groove and Blomqvist managed to take the next step up, her goals not just built off of her own desire to beat the defence but a combination of the understanding between herself and her teammates, knowing how to hug the offside line, when to release the ball and where to strike it to leave the goalkeeper with no chance. Quick off the mark to run in behind, the agile attacker has an innate ability to know where to be and when, with a natural finish and bullet header in her arsenal. Blomqvist is one of the few in the league who looks like she was born to score goals.
Her favorite goal so far is one from 2018, one that all but decided the last match of the year and the final placings.
“The one I scored against Rosengård, it’s not the prettiest goal I’ve ever scored but it meant a lot so when I look back at my goals, it’s the biggest goal I’ve scored,” Blomqvist said.
With the notoriously long Swedish preseason starting in January and stretching into April, the young attacker was grateful for the start of the league just before Easter. Blomqvist not even letting her mind wander to Svenska Cupen final against Kristianstads DFF in May when we spoke just before the season started, KGFC’s first match against Kungsbacka was her singular focus.
Likewise, the talk of Göteborg’s return (and her debut) in the UEFA Champions League later in the year wasn’t something the [then] 21-year-old wanted to be drawn in on; the next match ahead of her always the most important.
In amongst the wintery preseason of drills, friendlies, and cup games, Blomqvist had also been involved with the U-23 team. A step-up to the seniors is something the striker is looking to cross off her bucket list and knows she has to keep her head down and keep performing.
“We have a dialogue with the U-23 leader and I now that they [the senior coaches] are watching me and us and I’m trying to make all games good, so we’ll see,” she said.
Indeed, that keep-doing-what’s-working mentality has seen Blomqvist called into the senior team for the first time. An injury to Göteborg teammate Pauline Hammarlund was enough for the 22-year-old to get the nod from head coach Peter Gerhardsson for Sweden’s first European Championship qualifier against Latvia on September 3. She won’t be expected to slide right into the starting XI — there’s fierce competition for attacking places in the Sweden squad — the camp will finally give Blomqvist the chance to show Gerhardsson that she should have a role in his plans, especially with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon.
As it is, her time is still split between the training pitch and the classroom, the 22-year-old works as a teacher’s assistant from 8 am to 3 pm every weekday, with her evenings reserved for football, food, and if she has time, socializing.
Back of the Net
For a player who has been on a steady upward curve, Blomqvist’s goals for this year are in keeping with her development. The striker has already set herself a target of scoring more goals than last year’s tally of 14. When Damallsvenskan took its annual summer break [to accommodate for the World Cup], Blomqvist was beginning to find her feet once more. Her last match before the break saw her score her first brace of the season and lift her team to the summit of the table over June.
The break did little to disrupt the former horse-rider and when the season resumed two weeks after the end of the World Cup, Blomqvist celebrated the last days of her 21st year with another brace. Her most recent goal, to take her to the top of the goalscoring charts for the season with 10, was a trademark run in behind and calm finish under the ‘keeper: the 22-year-old dependable when in form.
Blomqvist isn’t a flashy player — she admits if she could have one superpower it would be invisibility — she’s not one who strides around chipping goalkeepers from distance, nor one who delights in threading passes through ankles and “ending careers.”
Her goals are rarely ones that you stand up and applaud, slamming your hands together until they’re bruised and sore. Rather, Blomqvist’s goals are ones you appreciate for their simplicity. The attacker doesn’t overcomplicate things, but stays a student of the straightforward, one who will always favor the shortest route to goal rather than the most extravagant. Her finishes are clinical — the ball always just beyond the reach of the goalkeeper — and her positioning and understanding of where she needs to be already finely honed.
Not an overly physical player but a tenacious one, Blomqvist isn’t one to stand out from the pack, yet she should be.