Soccer-Blakstad sets sights on Swedish Cup win ahead of World Cup adventure


Soccer Football - Women's Super League - Everton v Manchester City - Walton Hall Park, Liverpool, Britain - November 19, 2022 Manchester City's Julie Blakstad scores their first goal Action Images via Reuters/John Clifton/File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Norway international Julie Blakstad is hoping to cap her loan spell at Swedish side BK Hacken from Manchester City with a cup-winners medal on Tuesday before hopefully playing a key role for her country at the upcoming Women's World Cup.

Confined to the bench for most of the season at City, the 21-year-old midfielder jumped at the chance of a spell in Sweden and the move has paid off handsomely, with the Swedish Cup final against Hammarby on June 6 - Sweden's national day - to come.

"It's always cool to play big games like this one against Hammarby with a big crowd, and I think there's going to be a lot of people watching. For me, the biggest games are the most fun to play," Blakstad told Reuters.

"It's definitely going to be a big thing for me and something I want to be part of, to help the team and win the trophy."

Blakstad was considered one of Norway's most promising young players when she left Rosenborg to join Women's Super League side City in January 2022 and she has battled for her place since.

Thrown straight into the starting XI at table-toppers Hacken, the move to Sweden has re-ignited her career.

MORE GAME TIME

"I needed more game time, and I think that's been really good for me now, especially with the World Cup coming up this summer," she said.

"Training is really good at City, but at the same time I feel as a young player you need to play. To gain confidence, it's important that you get time playing in games as well."

Her energetic attacking play quickly made her a fan favourite at the Gothenburg-based club as she gets the game time Norway coach Hege Riise wants to see ahead of the World Cup.

Part of the squad that suffered a humiliating 8-0 loss to England and crashed out of last year's Euros at the group stage, Blakstad and Norway are keen to get back to the biggest stage.

"It's a new team now, with new coaches, and I think the group really want revenge," she explains. "I also think that we might be considered underdogs, which is a good place to be, I think, because there's not so much pressure on us."

One of only four nations ever to be crowned world champions, Norway's current squad is bristling with talented attacking players such as Caroline Graham Hansen (Barcelona), Guro Reiten (Chelsea) and Ada Hegerberg (Olympique Lyonnais).

"We have players now that have really done well in the leagues and in the Champions League, and you see how they can really affect the big games in the world," Blakstad said.

"So if we can get the team to work hard and get them to play together, I think we actually have a really good opportunity."

The Norwegians will face co-hosts New Zealand, Switzerland and the Philippines in the group stage. Even though Blakstad has a year left on her deal at City, she is not looking too far into the future.

"The World Cup is definitely the biggest thing happening this summer so I just want to be really well-prepared for that. And then after we'll see what happens."

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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