Germany teenager Jule Brand is a player England’s defenders will not be relishing coming up against in their final match of the Arnold Clark Cup on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old has become one of Europe’s most exciting prospects, having impressed for club and country over the past year.
The attacking midfielder scored and assisted a goal within the first five minutes of her international debut in April, and eight months later she was starring for club side Hoffenheim in their first Champions League campaign – scoring and setting up a goal in a 4-1 win over Arsenal.
Brand has come a long way since playing football in the garden with her older brother, and is now eyeing a place in Germany’s squad for this summer’s European Championship in England.
‘I have become a better player’
Brand’s arrival on the world stage was spectacular.
She came on as a substitute after an hour of a friendly against Australia, scored two minutes later, then set up another in the 65th minute.
“It was really crazy,” she told BBC Sport. “I didn’t think I would play the game. That morning we had some players who got Covid. I never thought I would get the chance and then it went so fast.
“I remember standing out on the pitch and I saw my number to go on. In the game I didn’t think – I just ran, ran and ran. I scored a goal which I couldn’t believe, but it was a very good feeling.”
At that time, Brand was relatively unknown outside her homeland. Less than a year earlier she had been playing in the second tier of German football, and she said “nobody had expectations”.
“You could do what you want,” she said. “If you made a mistake, it was OK. You’re young and it’s OK.
“Expectations are higher now. At the beginning, it was hard for me to understand that. I thought I had to do well every game and could not allow myself to make mistakes.
“It was hard but I am better with that now.”
Those expectations rose when Brand featured regularly for Hoffenheim in the Champions League, and her performances earned her further call-ups to the national team.
She will face England at Wembley having scored four goals in 12 appearances for her country.
“It was very, very special to play in the Champions League. To play with Hoffenheim in the Champions League was something I never thought I could do,” she said.
“It was a dream. We played against such good teams, like Barcelona and Arsenal. They were great games and you could see how good others players are.
“The English players are very strong, and Arsenal as a team were too. They are very fast.
“Against England it will be a high-intensity match. Both teams will want to create a game.”
‘I want to play in another country’
After four years with Hoffenheim, Brand will join two-time Champions League winners Wolfsburg in the summer.
In announcing her signing, Wolfsburg sporting director Ralf Kellermann described Brand as “not only one of the biggest and therefore most sought-after talents in Germany, but internationally too”.
“Her speed and individual attacking qualities make her an extreme goal threat, even at such a young age,” he told the club’s website.
Amid reports of interest from clubs in England and Spain, Brand said Wolfsburg put a lot of effort into signing her and described the move as the perfect step for her development.
“I want to become better as a player and learn a lot of things,” she said. Her ambitions at club level include winning the Champions League and “one day maybe I want to play in another country”.
Asked whether she would move to England, Brand teased: “Maybe one day!”
But her focus in the next few months is clear – she wants to go to the Euros with Germany.
“I think it’s a dream of every girl to play in such a big tournament and it is for me too. It would be great if I could be a part of this team at the Euros,” she added.
“Then I want to always be in the team. I want to play more and more at tournaments.”