Wednesday 16 November 2016, 15:11

Blackstenius brings scoring touch to the world stage

Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius is quite simply a goalscoring machine. She netted a barely-believable 20 goals in ten matches to help Sweden qualify for the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, scored twice in the red-hot atmosphere of the recent Rio Olympics and averages a goal every other game for Damallsvenskan heavyweights Linkopings. Now she has four in a single World Cup match to her name, this after scoring twice in each half in Sweden's 6-0 win against Papua New Guinea on Wednesday.

It is easy to see how Blackstenius has accrued such a record. A strong and speedy striker, she has a sharp turn and fierce shot, and is always looking to run off the shoulder of the defender. She plays like someone whose only intent is to score goals. Former Spain U-19 coach Jorge Vilda even compared facing Blackstenius to playing against a team with Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. “If one player is so much better than the rest, then you can’t stop them,” Vilda said after Blackstenius scored two and provided an assist as Sweden won last year’s European qualifying final against his team.

Seeking perfection The most goals scored in a single game in the tournament is five – a mark set by Canada’s Christine Sinclair in 2002 and then matched by Korea DPR’s Kim Un Hwa in 2012. With an ounce of luck Blackstenius would have joined that pair in the U-20 Women’s World Cup record books. She hit the underside of the bar with one smart turn and shot, while there were several other near misses.

“To score four goals in any game is good for self-confidence, especially after not being so involved in the previous game,” Blackstenius told after the match, her face still reddened by the exertions on another steamy Port Moresby evening. “This tournament gives me even more experience of international football, but this year it has been about both the Olympics and the World Cup.”

Blackstenius endured a tough opening outing against Korea DPR, with few opportunities to showcase her goalscoring abilities. Though still only 20, the striker has learnt that good strikers quickly cast bad days into the past. “Of course it is a disappointment to not score when you are a forward,” Blackstenius said. “I had to put that game behind me and focus on the next game.”

But while Blackstenius is a dominant figure on the pitch, off it she seems modest and unassuming. It is left to coach Calle Barrling to provide words of praise. “Stina is excellent with her deep runs, and all teams need that kind of player to score goals,” said the Swedish mentor. “As a coach I’m really really happy with how we coped better than last time. Our No10, Anna Anvegard, she creates space for Stina. There are many other players that make up this team.

“Away from the pitch it is always nice to work with Stina because she is always very humble and such a nice person. She is also curious about how to improve her game. She also wants to improve all the time and that is the final part of the puzzle.”