Monday 27 August 2018, 08:15

Harder: It's a real honour to be nominated

  • Pernille Harder a first-time nominee for The Best FIFA Women's Player

  • Won the double with Wolfsburg, now eyeing France 2019

  • "The best year of my career"

Pia Sundhage knew all along. The Swedish women’s football legend with almost 150 international appearances to her name, who also won Olympic gold as a coach on two occasions and was voted FIFA Women's Coach of the Year in 2012, described Pernille Harder as a "highly-talented and world-class player" a number of years ago – at a time when the promising Dane was just 21. Back then, the former was a coach and the latter a player at Linkopings in the Swedish top flight, battling together for goals, titles and glory.

In the meantime, Harder has gone on to make a name for herself on the world stage, with the latest highlight being a nomination for The Best FIFA Women's Player award. "I'm delighted about it," the now 25-year-old told "Personal awards are always something special and obviously I'd like to be the best footballer in the world. But I’ve got plenty of years ahead of me for that. Now though it’s a real honour to have been nominated along with the best players in the world. It won’t be easy to win the award though. My favourites would be [Saki] Kumagai and [Samantha] Kerr, who have each had an incredible season. Winning titles with your team is what it’s all about."

Those are modest words for someone who nevertheless admits that she has without a doubt had the "best year" of her career, winning the league and cup double with Wolfsburg and reaching the final of the UEFA Women's Champions League. Indeed, her coach at Wolfsburg Stephan Lerch has also been nominated for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach award. "He can really read the game and is tactically very aware of what he can get across in a match situation. We respect him and he’s kept his feet on the ground."

Harder in brief

  • ​101 international caps, 53 goals

  • Moved to Wolfsburg in 2017 (33 matches, 23 goals)

  • 2017: Denmark’s footballer of the year

  • 2018: Top scorer in the German Bundesliga

  • 2018: UEFA Women's Champions League Dream Team selection

At international level, Harder has moved up the ranks to take on the captain’s armband, and despite her tender years, she was one of the key figures during the Danes' surprising run to the final of the UEFA Women’s EURO last summer. "The EURO was a real source of motivation for the team," she explains. "Now we can believe in ourselves and our strengths. If we make it to the 2019 World Cup then we can be among the favourites."

The Danes have a decent chance of making the trip to France next year, having made an excellent start in European Qualifying Group 4 under the aegis of coach Lars Sondergaard. Neighbours Sweden are level pegging however, and the two meet in a showdown on 4 September in Viborg, with direct qualification at stake. The Danes need a win, otherwise they will have to go through the play-offs. "It’s tough. Sweden are a good team. It’s a final of sorts, but we’ll be playing at home in front of a capacity crowd," she says. "It’ll be exciting. Whoever plays better on the day will go through."

European Qualifying Group 4

  1. Sweden: 15 points (+16 goal difference)

  2. Denmark: 15 points (+15 goal difference)

  3. Ukraine: 10 points

  4. Hungary: 4 points

  5. Croatia: 2 points

If the Danes qualify, they will be well equipped to challenge come France 2019, although Harder knows that they still have room for improvement. "I can definitely still get better. Every year I improve," she says in what almost sounds like a warning to their rivals.

And even if she is not voted as The Best FIFA Women's Player this year, she will certainly give it her best shot for years to come.