(Reuters) - With few female role models to look up to as a young footballer, winger Lieke Martens grew up idolising Ronaldinho, but now she has become a role model for a new generation of Dutch kids who saw her score in a European Championship final.
Dutch national team goalkeeper Lize Kop described her team mate’s new-found fame as insane. “At training, you hear people shouting ‘Lieke! Lieke!’, but then when I walk by, it’s crickets chirping,” she joked.
The Dutch women’s team won the hearts of their nation when they triumphed at the Euros on home soil in 2017, beating Denmark 4-2 in the final with Martens instrumental throughout, scoring in the final and winning the Player of the Tournament trophy.
“Winning the Euros in my home country, in front of a home crowd, was unbelievable,” the 26-year-old told reporters. “We never expected so many people would be so happy to watch women’s football, we felt a lot of support and it gave us a lot of energy.”
Having fulfilled her dream of following in Ronaldinho’s footsteps and signing for Barcelona, Martens now occupies the same left-wing berth that the Brazilian often did in his time at the club.
Like her idol, she likes to play the game with the ball at her feet, cutting inside to shoot off her stronger right foot or dink passes in to her strikers.
She is also more than capable of going outside and crossing with her left foot, and she is not afraid to shoot with it either - making her a tricky proposition for opponents.
Capable of switching wings as well as playing through the middle, Martens has a combination of power, balance and dribbling ability that make her one of the most versatile attackers at the World Cup.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Mitch Phillips