Vivianne Miedema Lets Her Goals Do the Talking

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LONDON — Before Vivianne Miedema’s brother could walk, she said, she would place him in front of a soccer net and fire shots at the goal for practice.

“He would just stand there; he couldn’t really do anything,” Miedema said with a mischievous smile, shrugging her shoulders. “I was using him, kind of.”

Years later, Miedema is still scoring with ease. Thirty-nine goals in a Dutch league season when she was 18. Six in a single game for the English club Arsenal. And 61 for her country — a record for Dutch men and women.

She has won league titles in Germany and England, and a European one with the Netherlands. In July, she will rejoin her national team when it plays in the Tokyo Olympics. And Miedema is still only 23.

“So far,” she said of her career, “it’s been working quite well.”

In a few short years, in fact, Miedema has developed into an unparalleled international talent, a forward capable of swift turns and powerful strikes, a sea of tranquility amid 22 shifting bodies on the field. If the ball lands in the back of the net in one of Miedema’s matches, it’s quite likely she was the player who put it there.

“She’s one of a kind,” said Netherlands Coach Sarina Wiegman, who first saw Miedema play when she was 16, and last summer coached her and the Netherlands to the Women’s World Cup final.

By most standards, including her own, Miedema has already exceeded expectations. After beginning her career at Heerenveen at 14 and making her national team debut at 17, she moved to Germany, where she won two Bundesliga titles for Bayern Munich.

At Arsenal, she has padded her list of honors: a single-season record for goals in England’s Women’s Super League, with 22 last season (she leads the league again this season); player of the year honors from the Professional Footballers’ Association; and a place on the short list for the Ballon d’Or as world player of the year.

Obviously, Miedema says, being a top goal scorer is something to aspire to. “But I was 22 and I kind of took over that,” she said offhandedly of her goal-scoring record with the national team.

“I’ve probably won more than I ever thought I was going to win,” she added. “I would really like to be one of those people that can bring women’s football up to a higher platform.”

Now Miedema is forging ahead. “I am still quite young,” she said. “I’d like to think I’ve still got my best years ahead of me.”

A league title with Arsenal is her first goal, then a strong performance at the Olympics. She also hopes to win a European championship next year with the Netherlands to match its first, claimed in 2017. “Not just once,” she said of the team’s goals for the championships, “but keep winning it.”

If personal rewards and recognition come with that, so be it.

“I’m not going on the pitch on a Sunday to have in the back of my mind, ‘Oh, I want to win an award this year,’” Miedema said. “That’s not the way you work as a footballer. I’m going on the pitch to try and win the game.”

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