Clinical Kemppi hungry to prove her worth.
Having stood out for Finland at U-19 and U-20 level thanks to her cool finishing and intelligent forward play, Juliette Kemppi’s next challenge is to become a regular senior starter for club and country.
“Juliette is clever, can score all kinds of goals, comes alive in the penalty box and is always thinking several steps ahead.” High praise indeed from Finland U-20 coach Marianne Miettinen, when asked to describe her former protégée Juliette Kemppi. The 21-year-old striker – currently on the books of Swedish club AIK Fotball – certainly looks worth the hype.
Having already shown a keen nose for goal for her country at U-17 level, it was for the U-19s, under Miettinen’s watchful eye, that Kemppi burst onto the wider European scene, leading the line with aplomb as Finland stormed to the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship Wales 2013, an achievement that earned the Finns a spot at the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup Canada 2014.
“I’m so happy about how my team performed in that EURO tournament. Individually it was a great feeling to score against Sweden and Germany, which are very good teams, and it was unbelievable to be nominated in the competition’s all-star team,” said Kemppi, in an exclusive chat with Women’s Soccer United, before praising Miettinen’s impact on her performances. “Marianne is one of the best coaches I’ve had. I was quite young and shy when she first took over our youth national squad, but during the time with her I grew up so much.
“I became more determined and really learned how to take responsibility, on and off the field. She listens to her players, knows all their strengths and weaknesses, and she’s so positive and showed so much trust in us – it was great for our self-confidence,” added Kemppi, whose hot streak continued at Canada 2014, where three goals in three games saw her voted player of the tournament by Women’s Soccer United users, despite Finland heading for home after the group phase.
“It was a great opportunity to get that experience and it was a real honour to be part of such a good team, playing matches at a tournament of that size: not many teams get that chance,” said the front-runner, whose play is characterised by intelligent movement, anticipation and a cool head in scoring situations. “Playing against the hosts Canada in front of a packed stadium was amazing, and I can’t even put into words how it felt to score twice against them. We were really disappointed after those games [Editor’s note: Finland lost 2-1 to Korea DPR, 3-2 to Canada and 2-1 versus Ghana] because we knew we’d played well, but it wasn’t enough.”
At club level too, the 2013 and 2014 seasons were prolific for Kemppi, who averaged better than a goal every two games for Finnish side Åland United, a record that earned her the switch to AIK in early 2015. So how is life in the Swedish capital treating her? “Stockholm is a big city, there are lots of things to do and I’ve found it quite easy to fit in with my new team-mates. On the pitch though we’ve not done very well this year, which is quite disappointing, as expectations were high when I joined because we’ve got a good group of talented players. And even though striker is my natural position, I’ve not been given the chance to play there.”
Too strong-willed to let her club troubles get her down, Kemppi, who incidentally was a 2012 world U-19 champion in the sport of floorball (a fast-paced variety of indoor hockey), believes better times are around the corner. “I have had some physical problems because of imbalanced training, but now I’m full of energy and ready to show what I can do for my club and my country,” said the player, who weighed in with two goals in six appearances – including one away to eventual quarter-finalists France – in Finland’s unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.
“It is always nice to play against the best players in the world, and those games with France were a great opportunity to get some experience in very tough matches,” she said, as our conversation concluded. “And of course, for a young striker like me, scoring against a quality team like that really boosted my self-confidence.” Given her pedigree, and with another ‘quality team’ in Jorge Vilda’s Spain up next for Andrée Jeglertz’s Finland in UEFA EURO 2017 qualifying on 27 October, who would bet against Kemppi getting amongst the goals once more?
UK-born but currently based in Spain, I’ve been covering men’s and women’s football for UEFA.com for several years, including trips to two Women’s U-19 European Championships