Women’s Euro 2022 Preview: The Lowdown
Our experts look ahead to the Women’s Euro 2022 this summer, with their group-by-group preview of the 16 teams taking part in the tournament. Who are the favourites, which players are key for their team’s chances and who are there to make up the numbers?
Group A at the Euros might as well be renamed the ‘Group of Grudges’ as all four teams seem to regularly encounter each other on the international stage.
England, Northern Ireland and Austria are in the same World Cup Qualifying group so know exactly what each offer, whilst Norway and Northern Ireland were in the same European Championship qualifying group. The Norwegians have been knocked out by England in two of the last three international tournaments, so they’ll be hoping to spoil the host’s party this time around.
The last time England hosted a Women’s Euros, the experience ended in ignominy as only an injury time equaliser from a 17-year-old Karen Carney against Finland stopped them from losing every game they played. Still, they should be more confident of getting out of the group stage this time round as they are the only European side to have reached the semi-finals of the last three international competitions. A final appearance has still proven elusive for them, though – not since the Women’s Euros in 2009 have the Lionesses reached the final of a major competition.
One of the players who will be hoping to change that is Beth Mead. Fresh off the back of missing out on going to the Olympics with Team GB, Mead threw herself into the Women’s Super League season, scoring twice as Arsenal beat Chelsea on the opening day. Mead equalled her highest ever goal contributions in the WSL (11 goals and eight assists – the same as 2018-19 where she had seven goals and 12 assists), and she has looked equally impressive in an England shirt, racking up 12 goals and eight assists in World Cup Qualifying.
Sarina Wiegman’s main tactical shift as manager of England has been to push Leah Williamson from central defence – where she plays for Arsenal – into midfield, where it is likely she will be played in a double pivot alongside Manchester City’s Keira Walsh.
Both Williamson and Walsh have established themselves as two of the most consistently solid passers in the WSL – both in the top 10 from the 2021-22 season for successful passes per 90, with Williamson’s 62.1 per 90 the fourth highest and Walsh’s 53.4/90 the ninth most.
Walsh’s success rate of 88% was the second-best in WSL 2021-22 among players to play at least 1,000 minutes, while Williamson’s expert long passing range will come in hand to feed the wide players from deeper lying positions and progress the team up field quickly. None of the 25 players to attempt at least 750 passes in the WSL last season had a higher average successful pass distance than the new England captain (24.8 yards).
It’s clear that Wiegman intends her England side to be possession-heavy at this tournament, so having a central midfield pairing comfortable with owning the ball will be key.
The key threat for England in this group will be a Norway side which boasts a quite frankly terrifying set of attacking options.
The return of all-time Champions League scorer Ada Hegerberg to the squad is a big boost for a team who scored the lowest number of goals of any country to reach the quarter finals at the 2019 World Cup. She missed two years of football with injury but has wasted no time getting back to her best, scoring in the 2022 Champions League final for Lyon during their 3-1 victory over Barcelona.
Hegerberg will be flanked by Caroline Graham Hansen and Guro Reiten. No player created more chances in this season’s Champions League than Hansen (38), who also finished with the highest expected assists total in the competition (3.9).
Reiten, meanwhile, spent the season playing as a left wing-back for Chelsea but it did not hinder her going forward as she equalled her highest goal contribution numbers in a WSL campaign (seven goals, five assists), as well as recording the third highest expected assists per 90 in the league (0.29). At club level, Reiten plays with a prolific striker in the form of Sam Kerr – four of her five assists this season were for the Australian – so slotting back in with Hegerberg should be no problem.
Norway shouldn’t be struggling for goals this summer.
Shirt number purists look away now. Sarah Zadrazil will be wearing nine in midfield this summer, but there’s little doubt that she’s the key to Austria’s hopes of springing a surprise.
Chelsea fans may remember her shot from the edge of the area in the Champions League semi-final last year which briefly looked like it could derail the Blues’ hopes of making the final. Her long-range ability could be key to Austria shocking some doubters, but she is also great at disrupting play and building attacks.
Zadrazil topped the list of tackles per 90 (3.4) and possession won in the middle third per 90 (6.6) for Bayern Munich in the Champions League this season, as well as starting the most sequences ending in shots (6). In addition, only Saki Kumagai started more sequences than Zadrazil for Bayern in the competition (108 vs 103).
Meanwhile, Manuela Zinsberger has had a standout season in the WSL for Arsenal, taking home the Golden Glove, with a league high save percentage of 80% (of goalkeepers to play more than half the possible minutes).
Austria are particularly keen on playing it out from the back, so Zinsberger will have to keep on their toes to avoid any hairy moments.
Northern Ireland enter the 2022 tournament as the lowest ranked team ever to qualify for the Women’s European Championships (48th) – that’s 19 places below the next-lowest in England this summer, Portugal (29th).
They finished level on points with Wales in Group C of the qualifiers, so entered the play-offs by virtue of having a better head-to-head away goals record. A 4-1 aggregate victory over Ukraine in April’s play-offs saw them reach the finals this summer.
Both of their qualifiers against Norway ended in 6-0 defeats, but they did recently draw 2-2 with Austria in World Cup Qualifying so will hope they can upset the odds and at least get something from the group.
Even though it is likely they will be spending a large portion of the tournament defending, they have some goal scoring pedigree. Simone Magill holds the record for the quickest goal scored by a female international footballer, doing so after just 11 seconds against Georgia in European Championship qualifying back in 2016.
The experienced Liverpool star Rachel Furness was their top scorer in qualification with five goals overall and she is their highest scoring international player in the Euro 2022 squad with 38 goals.
Group B looks set to be an entertaining section at Euro 2022, with record European champions Germany paired against Spain, who dream of winning their first ever European crown in women’s football. Denmark and Finland certainly aren’t there to make up the numbers, however.
You can never write off one of the most successful national teams in women’s football.
Germany are record eight-time European Championship winners, two-time World Cup champions as well former gold medalists at the Olympics. Despite this, the last time the Germans had success at a major tournament was in the 2016 Olympic Games, while their previous win at a Euros was in 2013.
Just 10 names remain the same from the 2019 World Cup roster. This Germany is a refreshed squad sprinkled with some of the best young talent.
Jule Brand secured a big transfer to VfL Wolfsburg at 19 years old after wreaking havoc in the Bundesliga for Hoffenheim this season, while Lena Oberdorf (20) and Sydney Lohmann (21) have established themselves as key midfield players at their respective clubs; Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich.
Tabea Waßmuth scored 13 goals in the 2021–22 Frauen-Bundesliga, finishing behind only international team-mate Lea Schüller (16 goals) in the standings. In the UEFA Women’s Champions League this season, only Vivianne Miedema (0.75) and Jenni Hermoso (0.73) had a higher non-penalty xG per 90 than Waßmuth (0.70). Her debut season in the competition saw her score 10 goals in 10 appearances, with only Alexia Putellas (11) outscoring her.
Mix these talented young players with the experience of Alex Popp, Svenja Huth, Sara Dabritz and Almuth Schult, who all won gold with Germany in 2016 – it should be a dangerous combination. The result is a well-balanced team with unbelievable attacking presence who have become one of the favourites to win the tournament.
When considering Spain you must talk about Barcelona, though there is much more to this squad than Barcelona DNA. Ten of the 23 players on the Spanish roster are from the Catalan giants, with the most notable name being 2021 Ballon d’Or winner, Alexia Putellas.
The Barcelona captain patrols the midfield alongside club teammates Aitana Bonmati and Patri Guijarro who have been playing together since 2016. Spain also has the Barcelona centre-back pairing in Irene Paredes and Mapi Leon alongside first choice keeper Sandra Paños, who just conceded 11 goals in 30 matches this Primera Iberdrola season.
You only have to look at the impact of Putellas and Bonmati in Barcelona’s UWCL campaign this season to show how integral they can be to Spain’s chances. Those two players were the most involved of any in the competition last season, as Barcelona made the final.
While it is easy to look at Barcelona’s strength and success and hope that it crosses over into Spain’s football, Jorge Vilda has other ideas.
Once you install the style of Athenea del Castillo, Lucia Garcia and Esther Gonzalez the difference between Barcelona’s style of play and Vilda’s becomes evident. Where Mariona Caldentey provides positional fluidity from the wing to make space for Putellas and Bonmati in the midfield, Del Castillo and Garcia are wingers who like to stay wide, cut in and have their chance on goal.
So, while Barcelona have become the invincible team in Primera Iberdrola and have reached three UWCL finals in four years, Spain has yet to achieve any success at a major tournament. That doesn’t mean that Spain should not be discarded as one of the favourites, though, this team has been building for a few years together and finished the 2021 calendar year undefeated while also not conceding a single goal.
After Denmark made it to the 2017 European Championship final, they disappointingly missed out on 2019 World Cup qualification under new manager Lars Søndergaard.
The Danish squad is filled with players coming from top club sides like Real Madrid’s Sofia Svava, Lyon’s Signe Bruun, Arsenal’s Simone Boye Sørensen and Racing Louisville’s Nadia Nadim, who is making her international comeback after picking up an ACL injury in September 2021. But it’s Chelsea’s Pernille Harder who is the headline act in this squad.
Harder is Denmark’s captain and record scorer. Usually found in a wide attacking position for Denmark, her ability to be both a playmaker and scorer proves to be key to leading her national team to victory. In the WSL last season, she was involved in nine goals (six goals, three assists) in 16 appearances.
Though Nadim has been out of action, her importance to Denmark cannot be overlooked. She scored in the 2017 Euro final against the Netherlands and netted two crucial goals over Italy to secure 2022 Euro qualification for Denmark.
Even with the odds stacked against them in Group B, Anna Signeul’s side should not be overlooked.
Finland has a showstopper keeper in Tinja-Riikka Korpela who has come up with big saves for Tottenham Hotspur in the FA WSL, while Portland Thorn’s Natalia Kuikka and Juventus’ Tuija Hyyrynen are certainly ones to watch.
Real Sociedad’s striker, Sanni Franssi is coming off a big season in Spain finishing with 10 goals and seven assists and could be important for Finland in what some are labelling the ‘group of death’.
The experienced striker Linda Sällström – Finland’s record scorer – netted 10 goals for the Finns in qualifying for these finals – only Belgium’s Tine De Caigny (12) scored more.
Group C contains two of the top four teams in world football, with Sweden currently second in the FIFA rankings, and the Netherlands in fourth place. Mark Parsons’ Dutch side are the reigning Euro champions, but can they add a back-to-back title this summer?
With the exit of manager Sarina Wiegmann, the Netherlands have had a much-needed refresh with new boss Mark Parsons. The Dutch are defending Euro champions, reached the final of the 2019 World Cup and reached the quarter-finals of the 2021 Olympic Games, so they’ll be a contender in England this summer.
Their most notable name is Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema who became the Netherlands’ all-time leading scorer (men and women) at 22-years-old. She is also the WSL all-time top scorer with 74 goals in 84 appearances.
This season, Gunners’ boss Jonas Eidevall has converted Miedema into an attacking midfielder deploying her behind central striker, Stina Blackstenius. Parsons described Miedema in a recent press conference as “the best number nine in the world who also can be the best number 10 in the world.”
While Miedema will undoubtedly be the most talked about name in this Dutch squad there is undeniable talent around her. Lieke Martens has finally come back from her injury that left her out of action for Barcelona for over two months, and she still finished fifth in Primera Iberdrola’s top scorers chart with 16 goals and third in assists with 13.
The Dutch defence is their Achilles heel, but their midfield has very strong depth.
There is Sherida Spitse who debuted with the national team in 2006 at just 16 years old, while Manchester United’s Jackie Groenen and Lyon’s Danielle van de Donk provide a strong attacking presence with excellent ball recovery skills. However, it’s Damaris Egurrola who could take the spotlight in the midfield.
Egurrola switched alliances to the Netherlands from Spain after Jorge Vilda never included her in his international squad selection. She has proved to be one of the most promising young players at 22-years-old and could be a key factor for the Dutch in what will be her first major tournament with a senior squad.
One of the strong favourites to win their second European Championship title after success in 1984, and with good reason.
Sweden have had recent success on the international stage, winning bronze at the 2019 World Cup and silver at the 2021 Olympic Games. In the 2017 European Championships they fell in the quarter-finals to eventual champions, the Netherlands.
Peter Gerhardsson has arguably the most well-balanced squad in the tournament. There’s Magdalena Eriksson leading a strong defensive line following a strong season at WSL champions Chelsea, an experienced Kosovare Asllani organising the midfield and an in-form Fridolina Rolfö starring in the attack.
Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius (six goals in 11 WSL games last season) and Juventus’ Lina Hurtig (four goals in 19 games in Serie A last season) will no doubt get their name on the scoresheet, but it’s Rolfö who is the one to watch from Sweden’s attack.
Her first season at FC Barcelona saw her play both right-back and right-wing, and she finished the season with nine goals and 10 assists in Primera Iberdrola and a further three goals and six assists in the UWCL.
Outsiders in the Euros this year, Switzerland are a team who have been building a solid squad over the past few years. They are managed by Nils Nelson who previously led Denmark to the 2017 Euro final.
Although they’re going to be missing Aston Villa striker, Alisha Lehmann, there are still plenty of players to look out for.
Swiss captain and Arsenal midfielder Lia Wälti will be a key figure in this Switzerland squad. Nicknamed “snake hips” in the WSL, her calmness as a deep lying midfielder will allow Switzerland to play the ball out effectively to their attackers. A key part of a strong Arsenal side in 2021-22, she averaged the third-most successful passes per 90 minutes in the WSL for the Gunners last season (50), while making more tackles than any other player at the club (49).
PSG’s Ramona Bachmann leads the Swiss attack and is coming off a strong season that finished with four goals and two assists in the UWCL, including the extra-time goal that took Paris Saint-Germain to the semi-finals.
Alongside her in the attack is Barcelona’s Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic whose positional flexibility saw her play at full-back, winger and central striker throughout the domestic season for the Spanish giants.
The vast club experience seen throughout the squad could be enough to see Switzerland cause the more fancied nations some issues this summer.
Francisco Neto’s side got their spot at the Euro 2022 following Russia’s suspension for this tournament.
Of Portugal’s 23 players, 21 play their club football in Portugal, with Benfica and Sporting CP each represented by six players. The two playing their football abroad are Tatiana Pinto with Levante in Spain and Ines Pereira with Servette in Switzerland.
The Portuguese keeper made waves in the UWCL after Servette held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw until the 67th minute. Pereira will no doubt be crucial for Portugal when coming up against Vivianne Miedema and Fridolina Roflö in the group stage.
A major worry for the Portuguese will be their lack of goalscoring threat, with just 10 goals scored in their 10 qualifiers for Euro 2022 (including play-offs) – by far the lowest of any side at this summer’s tournament.
Group D is ostensibly the toughest group in the competition with only 14 places separating France – ranked fifth in the FIFA rankings – and Belgium, ranked 19th, with Italy (14th) and Iceland (16th) sandwiched in between. Which two teams will progress to the knockout stage? It’s hard to tell.
On paper, France are an incredibly talented side with the front three of Kadidiatou Diani, Sandy Baltimore and Marie-Antoinette Katoto one of the most lethal in world football.
The three of them, who all play together at Paris St-Germain, scored a combined 35 goals in the French league this season. Katoto also broke PSG’s all-time goal scoring record in 2021-22, despite only being 23 years old, with her goal tally now at 108 in 113 appearances for them.
Diani, meanwhile, thrives off running with the ball. Across all players in the D1 Féminine in 2021-22, only Kessya Bussy (33) embarked on a higher number of carries that ended in a shot for her team than Diani (29 – 17 shots, 12 chances created).
Team-mate Baltimore is only 22 years old but her 13 assists in the D1 Féminine was the highest in the league, four ahead of the next best figure in the competition. Only Selma Bacha created more chances for team-mates in the competition (62) than Baltimore (45).
Bacha – still only 21 years old – has hit new heights at left-back this season with Lyon, also topping the chance creation (32) and assist (seven) rankings in the Champions League, yet arguably her most impressive performance of the season was defensive in nature, as she kept Caroline Graham Hansen totally under wraps during the final of the competition.
It would not be the French women’s team without some controversy though, and Corinne Diacre’s decision to leave Amandine Henry at home was met with shock. They’ll be hoping that the decision was a correct one, come July 31.
Iceland could be one of the dark horses of this summer’s competition with them currently sitting top of a World Cup Qualifying group which includes the Netherlands.
Their squad combines an experienced core – eight players are 30 or older – with exciting youth talent.
21-year-old Sveindis Jane Jonsdóttir is one of those exciting younger prospects. She had several eye-catching performances in the Champions League for VfL Wolfsburg as she combines the typical traits of a young winger with a trebuchet of a long throw. That might particularly come in handy for Iceland as they attack thanks to Dagny Brynjarsdóttir’s aerial ability. West Ham’s Brynjarsdóttir (36) won the second highest number of aerial duels in the WSL last year, behind only Chelsea’s Sam Kerr (42).
They conceded just five goals in eight qualifiers for these finals, with two of those coming in their only defeat – a 2-0 loss away in Sweden. Elín Metta Jensen was their top scorer in qualification, with her six goals coming across five of their eight matches.
Italy are another team who are often tipped to be on the edge of doing something special, and equally have a mixture of old hands and new hopes.
In defence, they will have captain Sara Gama who formed part of a Juventus defence to concede just 14 goals in 22 league games across 2021-22 in Serie A, as they went on to win their fifth successive league title – all coming since Gama joined the club in 2017.
Meanwhile Cristiana Girelli and Valentina Giacinti can be relied on in front of goal, having won four of the past five Golden Boots in Serie A between them.
Left-back Lisa Boattin is also a player to keep an eye on. During Juventus’ impressive Champions League run, she played the most passes into the box and had the most successful passes in the opposition’s half. The 25-year-old also scored directly from a corner this season, so goalkeepers should be wary of a repeat this summer.
Belgium are the lowest ranked side in the group in the FIFA rankings and look to have a pretty tough task on their hands.
If they are to cause opponents some problems it will likely be through captain Tessa Wullaert, who previously scored six goals in 31 appearances for Manchester City when she played there between 2018 and 2020.
Hoffenheim’s Tine de Caigny is also a player who might be able to shine for the Belgians, scoring four goals and getting three assists in her debut season in the Frauen-Bundesliga, as well as contributing two goals in what was a tough Champions League group containing Arsenal and Barcelona. Belgium will be hopeful they can at least equal their record from 2017 where they managed to win one group stage game.
Unlike Italy and Iceland, Belgium did win their qualification group for these finals, finishing ahead of Switzerland with a record of seven wins and one defeat in eight matches. De Caigny was a key reason for qualification with more goals than any other in qualification (12).
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