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UEFA Women's Champions League

‘Even though she takes a bit of energy, she gives me so much’ – Juventus star Hurtig ‘smiling more’ after becoming a mother

12:00 GMT+3 23/03/2022
Lina Hurtig Juventus Women 2021-22
The Sweden international faces Lyon on Wednesday in the Women's Champions League, after Juve out-qualified last year's finalists, Chelsea

Lina Hurtig takes a long pause and looks around the room while she thinks. She is struggling to come up with an answer to the question put to her, until Juventus’ press officer gives her opinion.

“I do?” she asks, responding to the voice off camera. “She says I’m smiling more!” she tells GOAL, turning back towards the computer.

There were a lot of big moments for Hurtig in 2021, but none more so than when she became a mother last June. It is that which those around the club can see has her beaming even more so than usual.

“Right now, it's not a good time to ask because my daughter is getting her teeth, so we're struggling a bit at home!” the Swedish forward laughs. “But no, of course, that was an unbelievable summer.

“She came in June and then I had to leave like four weeks after for the Olympics. That was also a strange situation. Lisa, my wife, she did an amazing job there. She was in Sweden the whole time, so she had a lot of help. Everything went well.

"But it's amazing. Even though she takes a bit of energy sometimes, she also gives me so much.

“I said the other day to Lisa, 'I wonder what she will do when she grows up'. I don't know if she wants to play football. I tried to play with her, but she's totally ignoring the ball right now. So, I don't know!”

That is not the only exposure she is getting to the sport that both of her parents love - Lisa having played in Sweden’s top flight for six years before giving birth last summer.

She is already at Juventus’ games in her own little shirt, with Hurtig on the back, watching her mother play some huge matches at the highest level.

As far as Hurtig’s club career goes, the game she will play on Wednesday evening is one of the biggest yet. Juventus will face seven-time European champions Lyon in the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals, at the Juventus Stadium.

It is an opponent many in this team know well, having played the French giants in last season’s competition. That time around, Lyon were the defending champions, and Juve were still making a name for themselves. That the Italians only lost 3-2 in the first leg was a result that showed their potential.

"Last time we played them, it was a big test for us,” Hurtig remembers. “This year, we got through the group stage and we are where we want to be, you know? Out in Europe, competing against the best - that's exactly where we want to be and where we should be.

"I think we are coming into this game with a lot more confidence than last time. Of course, it's still a really good team, though. I think we're more prepared this time."

Juve caused a big upset in the group stages to get to this point, too, beating last season's finalists, Chelsea, to qualification.

“We gained a lot of confidence [from that],” Hurtig says. “We know we're a good team and that was like proof to show everybody else also that we are here to compete against the best in Europe.

"I think people were not counting on us being out there in Europe. I think a lot of people have opened their eyes and said, 'Wow, Juventus is here to stay'."

This past year, Juve has developed massively. Under the guidance of former Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro, the team has shown its ability to be tactically flexible and defensively resolute, but also expansive going forward.

Each individual is better than the last time they played Lyon, too. Hurtig, for example, has since played at an Olympics for the first time and in an Olympic final. Sweden were beaten by Canada on penalties last summer, but it is an experience that certainly helps a player grow.

Hurtig’s performances in Japan gave her a lot of confidence going into this new season, while the silver medal she collected added to her hunger for trophies.

There was a point in the 26-year-old’s career where some wondered if she would reach this point – competing at the highest level, in the biggest games, on a regular basis. The doubt was never around the talent she possessed, but the bad luck she was being dealt so often through injury. It is a journey that makes her proud when she reflects.

“There were a couple of years when I struggled a lot with my foot,” she explains. “I trained, I got injured. I trained, I got injured. There was no flow at all.

“What motivates you is that you want to get back to the pitch. I want to play football. That's what I love to do. That's my job and it's the only thing I know how to do!

“It also makes me wonder sometimes if I didn't have that many injuries, where would I be?

“There was a couple of years I, like, lost. If I look back at it now, I would say I lost a couple of years there, but it got better and now I'm here and only looking forward.”