Heroum making her mark with Fortuna and Finland.
Neatly summed up by her former coach Marianne Miettinen as “a No10 with fantastic vision and technique”, Nora Heroum spoke exclusively to Women’s Soccer United.
Still just 21, Finnish creative midfielder Nora Heroum has already packed plenty into her fledgling football career. A senior international since 17, by the age of 18 the former HJK, FC Honka and Åland United schemer had been selected for Finland for the UEFA Women’s EURO Sweden 2013, subsequently dropping back down an age level the following year to impress at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
In an exclusive interview with Women’s Soccer United, the Fortuna Hjörring starlet – dubbed “a No10 with fantastic vision and technique” by respected Finland U-20 boss Marianne Miettinen – discussed her international experiences, her club’s fortunes in this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League, and Finland’s chances of qualifying for EURO 2017.
Women’s Soccer United: Nora, how are you enjoying your first season at Fortuna? Have the club and your team-mates made you feel welcome?
Nora Heroum: I’m enjoying life here a lot and that is in large part because the atmosphere in the team is so good. Every player and staff member has welcomed me warmly and it’s been very easy to settle in.
WSU: Fortuna reached the Round of 16 in the Champions League, losing narrowly to Brescia, and you contributed three assists in four knockout games. Did you enjoy taking part in the competition, and how important was the return on loan of striker Nadia Nadim?
NH: We’re disappointed, of course, as our goal had been to go as far as possible, but playing in the Champions League was a great experience. Nadia’s comeback was very important to us, as she’s a great player who really knows how to score – as she showed in the Champions League! [Editor’s note: Nadim scored four goals in four games]
WSU: You were part of Finland squad at EURO 2013 in Sweden. Were you surprised to be selected at just 18 and what was the experience like?
NH: Even though we didn’t do as well as we’d have liked at that EURO [Editor’s note: Finland finished bottom of Group A], it was one of my greatest achievements – getting to play against tough national teams and having the chance to be part of a major international tournament. Being selected was a nice surprise, even though I had to miss out on the U-19 EURO [Wales 2013] because of it. We had a very experienced squad in Sweden, so it was an honour to be a part of it.
WSU: You played in all of Finland’s matches at the U-20 World Cup in Canada in 2014, where the team earned lots of praise for their performances, despite three defeats in three group matches…
NH: It was a great experience to take part in the U-20 World Cup. We had a really good squad with many skilful players, so it was easy to play with them and we all combined well together as a team. I think that Finland performed well and all our games were very even and exciting. We lost all three games by one-goal margins, so perhaps our physical qualities were not quite strong enough back then. We weren’t quite consistent enough either and made too many silly mistakes – such as when we went 2-0 up against Canada and weren’t able to hold on to our lead.
WSU: At international level you worked for a long time under Marianne Miettinen and now Finland senior coach Andrée Jeglertz. Do they have similar styles? What are they like to work with?
NH: In the national youth teams, we’re taught to play the same way as in the senior team, so it’s easier to make the step-up when the time comes. Both Marianne and Andrée try to get us to take advantage of our strongest qualities, which is why they take a lot of time to find us our most suitable positions on the pitch. Under both of them too, we also focus on playing well as a team, defending tight and using that as a basis to attack effectively.
WSU: One last question. Finland have made a solid start to EURO qualifying with six points from three games, and you have played in all three matches. Was October’s 2-1 home defeat against Spain a big blow? What will be key to Finland’s chances of reaching The Netherlands 2017?
NH: Spain are the favourites to qualify from our group and they’re a very strong and skilful side. We were very disappointed to lose against them, but we need to put that behind us. We need to make sure we don’t drop any more points at home and keep showing we’re ready to fight for a place at EURO 2017.
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