Maika Hamano: Chelsea & Japan's Lionel Messi-inspired teen star set to shine at the 2023 Women's World Cup

Maika Hamano Japan 2023Getty Images

Last summer, Maika Hamano helped Japan reach the Under-20 Women’s World Cup final, picking up the Golden Ball and the Silver Boot in Costa Rica for her eye-catching exploits. In the 11 months since, she’s made her senior international debut, completed a move to English champions Chelsea and is set to represent her country at this summer’s Women’s World Cup. It’s been a whirlwind for the 19-year-old.

But none of these achievements will have come as a surprise to her. After all, Hamano is ambitious. She is very grounded, but she dreams big.

In an interview with FIFA during the U20 World Cup, the young forward was asked to assess her own performances so far - bearing in mind she would go on to be named the tournament's best player. "I’m not sure,” she replied. “Two of my goals here have come from penalties, so I’ve not scored enough decisive goals from open play. If I’d scored another against France, we could have avoided the penalty shootout, so there’s still room to improve.”

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But, in the same interview, she didn’t mince her words when she was asked about the personal goals she held for once the tournament was over. “First of all, I want to break into Japan’s senior team as soon as possible,” she said. “And long-term, I want to be the best player in the world.”

To reach heights like that, you need a good mix of ambition, humility and talent. Hamano has that – and she is certainly ready to work to get to where she wants to be.

So, what makes this teenager so highly-rated? Let GOAL introduce you to one of the brightest young talents at the 2023 Women’s World Cup…