Fridolina Rolfö understands pressure.
She was standing side-by-side with her Swedish teammates at the World Cup last year watching on as they knocked out the United States in a dramatic penalty shootout.
Lina Hurtig struck the winning goal but it was US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher who parried the ball on the line and the result needed to be confirmed by VAR.
For spectators, the wait felt painfully long.
For the players, it felt like an eternity.
“It was so nerve-wracking. The five players who were taking the penalties had already been shooting and they were nervous about it so you could feel it,” Fridolina said, still vaguely in disbelief.
“I was trying to make them feel more calm and confident and give them a boost but at the same time you’re scared so there was nothing I could do except give them words of encouragement.
“Seeing the girls take the penalties for their team made me so proud of them because it showed that they would do anything.
“I knew if Lina would score we would win and I was standing with my head on another teammates shoulder and I couldn’t watch. I saw Lina celebrating and realised we had won the game.”
Sweden went on to beat Japan 2-1 in the quarter-finals but a late goal from Spain’s teenage winger Salma Paralluelo saw Sweden sink in the semis.
“It was a great tournament and we loved it there. We were playing better than what we were expecting and came third…” Once again, disbelief hits.
“It definitely made us closer as a team. After the game against the USA, we didn’t feel like we played our best but still won and that made us stronger. It made us believe that anything is possible.”
Fridolina signed a two-year deal with Barcelona back in 2021 and the winger has just signed a new long-term contract that will keep her at the club until the summer of 2026.
Last year during the Champions League she struck the winner in the 70th minute against her former club VfL Wolfsburg in a thrilling final at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven.
Like the World Cup, this is also a precious memory.
“It was an amazing feeling,” the 30-year-old remembers.
“It’s still a crazy feeling when I’m thinking back and realising that we won. I’d lost in two finals before that so for me it was a big game and wanted to get revenge.
“I can’t remember the feeling I had in my body because I was just so happy and it was so emotional.
“I know there were a lot of fans in the stadium even though we weren’t at home so it felt really nice to celebrate with them.”
Fridolina’s memories also highlight just how much the women’s game has grown. Playing with Barcelona, one of the top-ranked teams in the world, she had the opportunity play under a sold-out Camp Nou.
“I had tears in my eyes when I walked out there. It was an incredible experience and because of the acceleration of women’s football, you’re definitely going to be seeing a lot more of that,” added Fridolina.
“There’s a lot that’s been going on. We changed to bigger stadiums when we saw how much interest there was and you felt like all the clubs were getting behind it.”
Last year, it was confirmed that she would have to undergo surgery on the meniscus on her right knee which left the Swedish forward sidelined for a considerable period of time.
“There are two things that changed the most. The first was not being around a team made me feel like an individual athlete and I’m used to me and my teammates giving each other energy but we didn’t have that.”
“What I miss the most is competing and winning. At the moment, I’m just competing with myself and trying to lift more weights and jump a bit higher or run a little faster but it’s different.”
While thinking about recovery is hard, searching for her footballing heroes is much easier. Fridolina named her cat after Brazilian-Swedish icon Marta who she would go to watch during her childhood.
“I was so lucky to see big stars close to me. Marta was the biggest footballer in the whole world and she was playing in the north of Sweden. I would try and watch her as much as I could because she was so unique.
“She was technically really fast and it was something different from everyone else. I loved to watch her play even though there wasn’t much opportunity to watch her because they wouldn’t broadcast the games.”
From lifting the Champions League trophy to shining at the World Cup, Fridolina continues to break the records for women’s football, and she’s not finished yet.