Preview – UEFA Euro 2017

What is it?

The UEFA Women’s Championship is a competition between the best women’s international football teams in Europe. It takes place every four years. The 2017 edition (which I’m just going to refer to as Euro 2017, since there isn’t another international football competition happening in Europe this summer) will be the 12th version, and will be taking place across the Netherlands from 16th July 16th to 6th August.

What is the format?

The competition this year has expanded to 16 teams, up from the 12 that contested Euro 2013. The teams are split into four groups, who play each other in a round-robin format during the Group Stage, earning three points for a win and one point for a draw, as usual. The group winners and runners-up qualify for the quarter-finals, and it’s then a straight knockout to the final in Enschede on 6th August. There are various permutations in the event of a tie at the end of the group stage, starting with the results, then goal difference, then goals scored in the games between the tied teams, then the same criteria across all of the group games, then potentially a penalty shoot-out if there are only two teams tied and they happen to be playing each other in the final round of matches. After that it’s down to a ‘fair play’ factor (with teams given points for yellow and red cards during their games), and if that doesn’t solve it, the higher ranked team will progress. During the knockout stages, extra-time and penalties will be used in the event of a draw.

What is the prize?

The winning team will take home €1.2m, with a total prize fund of €8m. By comparison, the winning men’s team from Euro 2016 took home €27m.

Who are the qualifiers?

The groups for the Group Stage break down as follows:

  • Group A: Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway
  • Group B: Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden
  • Group C: Austria, France, Iceland, Switzerland
  • Group D: England, Portugal, Scotland, Spain

Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Scotland and Switzerland are making their first appearance at a European Championships.

Who are the historical powerhouses?

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Germany defend a corner against Sweden (picture courtesy of Blondinrikard Froberg)

Germany are the standout European team in women’s football. They have won the European Championships on eight separate occasions (including once in 1989 as West Germany) and have won the previous six tournaments. The only other teams to have won the competition are Norway (who won in 1993 and in 1987, when the tournament was badged as the ‘European Competition for Women’s Football’) and Sweden (who also won the ‘European Competition for Women’s Football’ in 1984). Denmark and Italy won unofficial tournaments in 1979 and 1969 respectively.

Germany are the second-ranked team in the world currently, although they will have strong competition from other high-ranked teams France (ranked 3rd), England (ranked 5th) and Sweden (ranked 9th).

What are the home team’s chances?

The Dutch side (following their recent rebranding exercise) go into the tournament ranked 12th in the world, and will hope that their home support can inspire them to victory. Captained by Reading defender Mandy van den Berg, they will be hoping that Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema can continue her excellent goalscoring record, with 41 goals in 51 matches for the national team. Also included in the squad are veterans Sherida Spitse and Loes Geurts.

What about the Home Nations?

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England women (picture courtesy of joshjdss under license)

England have improved in recent years, and finished third at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, defeating Germany in the third-place playoff match. They were unbeaten throughout their qualifying campaign, with seven wins and a solitary draw at home to Belgium. Captained by Manchester City defender Steph Houghton, and with the experienced Jill Scott, Alex Scott (no relation) and Fara Williams in the side, they will be hoping that Toni Duggan’s recent move to Barcelona can inspire her to goalscoring glory, while midfielder Frank Kirby was described by coach Mark Sampson as a ‘mini-Messi’ following her performance against Mexico during the 2015 World Cup.

Scotland qualify for the European Championships for the first time in 2017. They are ranked 21st in the world, although their ranking has been gradually increasing over recent years, and they will hope to surprise some of the other participants, not least big rivals England, who they meet in their opening match on 19th July. Captain Gemma Fay will win her 200th cap if selected for that match, while Manchester City forward Jane Ross is their main goalscoring threat.

Who are the players to watch out for?

  • Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany) – the German captain will be hoping to make it seven wins on the trot at the European Championships. Born in Budapest, she became the youngest scorer in the Bundesliga at just 15-years-old, and in recent years has inspired Germany to an Olympic gold medal, and has won the Champion’s League with her club Lyon. She was named 2016’s best female playmaker in the world by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, and was selected in FIFA’s FIFPro World XI 2016. She has scored 30 goals in 75 appearances for the national team.
  • Pernille Harder (Denmark) – the striker and Denmark captain has been prolific in recent years, scoring 45 goals in 84 matches for Denmark, as well as 70 goals in 87 games for Linköping FC between 2012-2016, earning her a move to German side Wolfsburg earlier this year. Harder is often at the centre of Denmark’s better play, and links up very well with compatriot Nadia Nadim.
  • Jordan Nobbs (England) – while Kirby and Williams often grab the headlines, Nobbs has overcome injury at the 2015 World Cup to quietly develop into a linchpin of England’s play. An energetic midfielder, she was recently crowned England’s player of the year, and helped her team Arsenal to FA Cup victory in May.
  • Lotta Schelin (Sweden) – her country’s leading goalscorer is often compared with compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic, more for her goalscoring exploits and rangy physique than for weird philosophical discussions and referring to herself in the third person. Although the Swedish side have a lot of young talented players coming through the ranks, they will still rely on Schelin to chip in with goals to guide them to the latter stages of the tournament.
  • Camille Abily (France) – after Lyon and PSG made it an all-French final in the women’s Champions League earlier this year, hopes are high that France can improve on recent disappointments in international tournaments. At 32, Abily is one of the older players in the French squad, but is playing as well as ever, and the attacking midfielder’s helped guide Lyon to the double-treble this year (winning the French Division 1 Féminine, the Coupe de France Féminine and the Champions League in both 2015 and 2016).

What has happened already?

The tournament kicked off on 16th July, and six matches have already been played:

  • Netherlands 1-0 Norway
  • Denmark 1-0 Belgium
  • Italy 1-2 Russia
  • Germany 0-0 Sweden
  • Austria 1-0 Switzerland
  • France 1-0 Iceland

What are the key matches in the rest of the Group Stage?

The big matches (‘derbies’ and against the top two seeds in each group) to look out for are (with local times i.e. one hour ahead of BST):

  • Spain v Portugal – 19th July 18:00
  • England v Scotland – 19th July 20:45
  • Germany v Italy – 21st July 20:45
  • England v Spain – 23rd July 20:45
  • Belgium v Netherlands – 24th July 20:45
  • Norway v Denmark – 24th July 20:45
  • Switzerland v France – 26th July 20:45

The other Home Nations matches are:

  • Scotland v Portugal – 23rd July 18:00
  • Portugal v England – 27th July 20:45
  • Scotland v Spain – 27th July 20:45

What do the bookies think?

Looking today, Betfair have the following (approximate) odds:

  • Germany 2-1
  • France 5-2
  • England 7-1
  • Netherlands 8-1
  • Sweden 9-1

Where can I watch it (UK only)?

Channel 4 have the UK broadcast rights, and are showing England v Scotland live on 19th July. The BBC are providing radio coverage.

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