Women’s Euro 2022: One Player to Watch From Each Nation
The biggest event of the summer is on the horizon as Women’s Euro 2022 kicks off in England on 6 July. The rescheduled tournament promises to be a bigger spectacle than ever before, boasting larger crowds and bigger media coverage than any of its predecessors.
The 16-team tournament will showcase some of the world’s best footballers, with the likes of Ada Hegerberg, Pernille Harder, Vivianne Miedema and Alexia Putellas all competing for the bragging rights in Europe.
Now, those are clearly superstar names. And while our guide will focus on some of the obvious stars, it will also shine a light on several understated yet extremely important players representing their nations this summer.
So, here’s one player from each country who could prove to be a difference maker for their team at Women’s Euro 2022.
Group A: Lauren Hemp (England) • Simone Magill (Northern Ireland) • Sarah Zadrazil (Austria) • Guro Reiten (Norway)
Group B: Svenja Huth (Germany) • Athenea del Castillo (Spain) • Pernille Harder (Denmark) • Emma Koivisto (Finland)
Group C: Jill Roord (Netherlands) • Inês Pereira (Portugal) • Fridolina Rolfö (Sweden) • Lia Wälti (Switzerland)
Group D: Marie-Antoinette Katoto (France) • Barbara Bonansea (Italy) • Justine Vanhaevermaet (Belgium) • Sveindís Jónsdóttir (Iceland)
The formula for success in recent Euros history has been simple. Step 1: you are the host nation. Step 2: you have Sarina Weigman as your manager. England come into this tournament checking both of those boxes. The omens are good but you need more than just that to win a tournament. Luckily for them, the Lionesses seem to have the tools for it as well.
After winning the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year award for a record fourth time, Lauren Hemp is ready to be the difference-maker for England. The electric winger is one of the most impactful players in world football, capable of disrupting a stubborn defensive block with her excellent dribbling ability. The left-winger loves attacking the opposition full-back, running at them before leaving them for dead with her pace. Hemp is one of those rare players that seems to get faster with the ball at her feet.
Her ability to carry the ball makes her a very adept ball progressor who constantly threatens the box. In the Women’s Super League last season, she carried the ball more frequently than any other attacking player, recording 16 carries per 90. Crucially, she runs at players in dangerous areas of the pitch. No player attempted as many take-ons in the opposition half as Hemp last season, and no one carried the ball into the box more often than the Norfolk winger.
The end product from her dribbling is elite. Hemp created 29 chances following a ball carry in the WSL last year, 16 more than the next highest player (Arsenal’s Beth Mead). Combine that with her 17 shots following carries, and she recorded more chance-creating carries (46) than anyone else in the WSL.
In the 2021-22 season, she shouldered much of City’s attack and finished the season as their top goalscorer (11).
Apart from being a threatening presence, Hemp is an excellent progressive outlet, regularly enabling a switch of play with her wide positioning close to the touchline. Despite playing at her first major international tournament, Hemp is set to be a decisive player for Weigman’s side.
Northern Ireland are debutants at this year’s Women’s Euros. They enter the tournament as minnows and will be looking to ruffle feathers in a similar vein to their European qualification. Liverpool forward/midfielder Rachel Furness, who is the top goalscorer for the country, was pivotal in securing Northern Ireland’s qualification and will again be key this summer.
Another player who will be vital for Kenny Shiels’ side, will be the 27-year-old forward, Simone Magill. Magill, who announced that she will leave Everton at the end of June after a nine-year stint, was the first Northern Irish woman to turn full-time professional in 2017.
Having made her senior international debut at just 15, Magill has become a crucial part of her side, amassing over 50 caps while scoring 17 times for the national team. The Magherafelt-born forward holds the record for the fastest international goal in women’s football, scoring after just 11 seconds against Georgia in 2016.
Magill is an extremely hard-working forward. She is quick, allowing her to close down opposition players and intercept passes, while she presses intensely to help her side recover possession high up the pitch. Her pace also allows her to recover loose balls following defensive duels. Magill’s work rate and engine allow her to tirelessly contribute on the defensive side of the game.
Another key facet of her game is her physicality. The Northern Irish player has the strength to hold off physical challenges while retaining possession. This trait allows her to hold possession and bring other players into the game while also giving her an edge in physical 1-v-1 duels.
Beyond her off-ball contributions, Magill has quality on the ball as well. She is great at receiving the ball on the half-turn, allowing her to spin and thread passes in behind for her team-mates. The weight on her through balls is often excellent and she has the vision to find runners with her passes.
Voted as Everton’s Player of the Year in 2019, Magill will be looking to pull off some heroics in the summer.
Austria will be looking to go one better than their debut campaign in 2017, where they bowed out as one of the top four sides. They find themselves against hosts England, a Norway side bolstered by the return of Ada Hegerberg and debutants Northern Ireland.
The squad is blessed with some really talented players in Laura Feiersinger, who was arguably the standout performer of the tournament last time out, Nicole Billa, the 2021 POTY for Austria and Manuela Zinsberger, who has enjoyed a splendid season in goal for Arsenal. Irene Fuhrmann’s side have proven to be a stern test for any opponent.
Sarah Zadrazil, a perennial miracle worker in the shadows, will be key in the middle of the park. Bayern Munich’s understated midfielder is instrumental in winning the ball back for her side. She is solid in her defensive duels, and her ability to read the game allows her to regularly intercept opposition passes, providing strong defensive coverage and breaking down opposition attacks before they build.
The defensive midfielder is among the best at recovering possession, while also capable of keeping things moving with her ball circulation. For Bayern Munich’s Champions League campaign, only Saki Kumagai started more open-play sequences than the Austrian midfielder (103), while nobody from the Bavarian team won more tackles (2.5) or won the ball back in the centre of the park (6.6) more often per 90 minutes.
She regularly occupies great areas and creates close passing combinations during Bayern’s build up and progression phase, helping her side move the ball into the attacking third. She is an adept distributor as well, capable of finding targets over medium and long ranges.
While she might not receive the plaudits for scoring goals or creating chances frequently, Zadrazil is an anchor, offering balance and stability to her team.
Norway are a team stacked with attacking talent. All eyes will be on the return of the first-ever women’s Ballon d’Or winner, Ada Hegerberg, to the national team setup. Partnering Hegerberg up front is arguably the best winger in world football, Barcelona’s explosive Caroline Graham Hansen.
Amongst this star-studded front line is a muted gem that often goes unnoticed. Guro Reiten, the Chelsea winger/wing-back, is Norway’s golden girl. Playing her club football for Chelsea, her time at the London club has seen her transform from a goalscoring forward and attacking midfielder to a wide creator and wing-back, without any significant drop in her performances.
Reiten is blessed with a wand for a left foot, and being deployed as a wing-back has allowed her to showcase her incredible crossing ability. In the 2021-22 WSL season, only Lauren Hemp attempted more open-play crosses (81) than the 27-year-old (60), while no player surpassed her 19 successful open-play crosses.
Her ability on the ball allows her to dribble past players to create space before whipping crosses into the box. Reiten’s exceptional delivery also means she’s frequently deployed on wide free kicks and corners, as she can deliver pinpoint balls into the box.
The Norweigan’s creativity and ball-carrying ability allows her to attack space and create shots for her team-mates. Only Hemp, Mead and Leah Galton, recorded more carries ending in a chance for a team-mate than Reiten’s nine in the WSL last year, and the Chelsea flyer is also an adept creator all over the pitch. Among players to play more than 900 minutes last campaign, only Beth Mead (0.33) recorded a higher open-play expected assist (xA) value per 90 than the Norwegian (0.28 xA per 90) in the WSL.
Reiten’s ability to work in tandem with the players around her will complement Norway’s attack well and with Hegerberg back in the mix, Guro’s crossing could prove to be even more lethal. The stage is set for Norway’s golden girl to shine brighter than ever.
Germany are serial winners when it comes to the Women’s Euros. Such is their continental dominance that the 2017 edition was the first time since 1993 that a team not named Germany lifted the trophy. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side will be looking for their record ninth Women’s Euros title to extend their lead as the most successful nation in the competition.
The Germans have continued to produce elite talent on a regular basis across multiple positions, reaping the rewards of their hard work at the youth level. A new-look Germany side will boast mercurial talents like Klara Bühl, Jule Brand and Lena Oberdorf but a player who will form the spine of the squad is 31-year-old Svenja Huth.
Huth was recently voted as the 2021-22 Player of the Season in Germany, ending the domestic season with 16 direct goal involvements and a league-leading 12 assists. An extremely agile winger, she is perfectly capable of playing on either flank or through the middle.
When playing on the right, Huth tends to cut back onto her dominant left and looks to play penetrating passes into the box. She is blessed with quick feet and acceleration, allowing her to twist and turn away into space to deliver a line-breaking pass or take a shot. Only team-mate Tabea Waßmuth (10) had more shots following a ball carry than Huth (nine) in the UWCL.
The Wolfsburg forward is a massive goal threat in and around the box, capable of curling one in from the edge of the area, or arriving late at the far post to score.
Her positioning in the final third between lines helps disrupt opposition defensive structure, and when she gets on the ball she is a very adept creator. Huth created the most chances for Wolfsburg in the 2021-22 UWCL (16). The above chance map shows her propensity to slice open the defence with her passing from the right half-space. From that spot on the pitch, she has the vision and skill to play a variety of passes, from floated crosses to driven through balls.
She is one of Germany’s most in-form players at the moment and has a knack of performing when the moment calls for a player to step-up.
Athenea del Castillo
Spain have earned a reputation as one of the best national sides in the world in recent years. Their strong performances since 2019 have seen them climb up to seventh in the FIFA rankings, ahead of the likes of England and Norway. They will be looking to improve on their performances in 2013 and 2017, where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals on each occasion.
Much of Spain’s core is based around Barcelona’s players. The current Ballon d’Or winner, Alexia Putellas, together with Aitana Bonmatí and Mapi León are all at the forefront of Spain’s charge at the tournament.
In a squad filled with technically and tactically sound players, Athenea del Castillo stands out for her sheer ability to produce edge-of-the-seat moments whenever she gets the ball. The Cantabria-born youngster is a live-wire on the ball.
The former Deportivo winger is capable of playing on either flank, offering different qualities while doing so, cutting inside to shoot or threading penetrative passes on one side while attacking the box and the byline on the other. She is extremely skillful on the ball, and has a penchant for nutmegging her opponents to dribble past them. This close control allows her to evade multiple players while helping her side progress into dangerous areas of the pitch. Despite Madrid getting to just the quarter-finals in the Women’s Champions League earlier this year, Athenea recorded 18 ball carries that included a take-on. Only four players tallied more over the course of the tournament.
No player attempted more dribbles than Del Castillo (52) in this season’s UWCL, tied with Delphine Cascarino of Lyon, and on a per 90 basis, her 8.5 attempted dribbles were two more than next best Caroline Graham Hansen (6.3). She is fondly referred to as “Regathenea” for her proclivity to dribble past her opponents.
Her pace and quick feet mean she is extremely hard to deal with and often the only way for opponents to stop her is to foul her. No player was fouled more often following an attempted take-on (three) than the 21-year-old in the UWCL, while only Beth Mead was fouled more frequently in the final third in the competition.
These qualities make her capable of wreaking havoc against set defensive structures and give her the ability to produce moments of individual magic.
The Real Madrid winger is sure to drop more bodies and snatch more souls at Women’s Euro 2022. Del Castillo was recently voted as the Player of the Tournament at the Arnold Clark Cup and looks set to have a breakout tournament in England.
The runners-up at the previous edition will be hoping to work the same magic at the 2022 edition with their captain, Pernille Harder, at the forefront of their efforts once again. Grouped along with Spain, Germany and Finland, the task at hand will be easier said than done though.
Harder is often hailed as one of the best women’s footballers of all-time, having won the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2018 and 2020, and winning the Danish Player of the Year award a record seven times. Harder is a player that is
hard impossible to ignore.
Having joined Chelsea in 2020, Harder has enjoyed a lot of domestic success in England. In 2021-22, Harder won a domestic treble with Chelsea, despite them failing to progress past the group stages at the UWCL.
She has demonstrated the versatility to play as a deeper or more advanced midfielder, being malleable according to her team’s needs.
The 29-year-old is often hailed as one of the most technically sound footballers you’ll find. She has a silky first touch and her ability in tight spaces is immaculate.
One of Harder’s main strengths lies in her ability to drive forwards with the ball. She is extremely proficient at bringing the ball out from midfield and using her runs to break opposition lines and help propel her side up the pitch.
Harder’s powerful forward runs from midfield are a major driving force for her teams. No Chelsea player carried the ball farther forward on average than the Dane (8.1m per carry) in the WSL last season. She has the vision to convert these carries into chances for her team-mates, too. For Chelsea, only Erin Cuthbert (20) was involved in more chance-creating carries than Harder (18).
Among players with more than 900 minutes in last year’s WSL, Harder ranks sixth for open-play chances created per 90 with 1.95, despite operating from deeper areas frequently.
Harder will be looking to power her nation to yet another successful Euros in England.
Finland are the underdogs in amongst the heavy hitters of Group B. Despite being the lowest-ranked nation in the group, they aren’t pushovers and have demonstrated their abilities in the recent World Cup qualifiers. The return of Linda Sällström, who finished the qualification round as joint-second top scorer with 10 goals, has offered them a boost ahead of the challenges that await.
Emma Koivisto, Brighton’s left full-back, is a player that promises to be an integral part at the tournament. The 26-year-old fits the mould of a modern full-back and is versatile enough to play in any role on the left flank, providing offensive and defensive coverage. She has experience of plying her trade in Sweden and the USA, where she played collegiate soccer for Florida State University, before joining Brighton & Hove Albion.
Koivisto is a physically robust and industrious full-back that likes to get on the ball and join the attack at every opportunity. She’s heavily involved in Brighton’s all-round play, registering 51.7 touches per 90 minutes, behind only fellow full-back Maya Le Tissier (64.8) and Emma Kullberg (58.0)
Her advanced runs make her a useful receiving outlet in the final third. From here, Koivisto can create chances and get into the box. For Brighton, she ranks second for both touches in the attacking third (303) and penalty box (45), underlining her offensive tendencies.
In attack, she likes to take a player on and beat them before swinging a delivery into the box or attack the box herself to be on the end of a pass. For Brighton, no player has attempted more dribbles (42) than the Finnish international.
She is physically robust in her duels, reads the play well to disrupt opposition attacks and has great recovery pace to help her get back in position. Her tireless nature makes her an integral part of the pressing structure as well. Koivisto will be important in keeping the flank in check while providing support in attack.
The Netherlands come into this tournament with the added baggage of defending their title. They have lost the manager that won the European Championship in 2017 and under whom they finished as runners-up at the 2019 FIFA World Cup, but Mark Parson’s side have the tools to challenge the elite in women’s football.
Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema, the all-time Dutch top scorer (men’s or women’s), is the obvious headliner alongside former Barcelona winger, Lieke Martens, but there’s a former Arsenal player who might prove to be a difference-maker for the Orange Lionesses.
Jill Roord, who moved to Wolfsburg from Arsenal in the summer, has enjoyed a prolific campaign in front of goal, scoring 10 times, her best return since 2016-17, while assisting another five in the league. She scored another six in the UWCL. Roord won the domestic double with the German giants, slotting into the side seamlessly.
Manager Tommy Stroot’s deployment of Roord in the false nine role allowed her to operate in areas where she can maximise her qualities. This positional freedom enabled her to get on the ball in between the lines and allowed her to benefit from excellent awareness in and around the 18-yard box, often arriving into the box with late attacking runs. She worked in perfect symphony with team-mate Tabea Waßmuth, often interchanging positions with her. These dynamic movements were a source of major threat for Wolfsburg this season.
This change also got her involved in the thick of things in the final third. In the UWCL for Wolfsburg, only Waßmuth had more unique involvements in shot-ending sequences from open play (56) than the Dutch midfielder (54), with seven of these sequences ending in a goal.
Heading into the tournament, Roord could prove to be the trump card for the Orange Lionesses.
Portugal, who are set to make their second appearance at the Women’s Euros, qualified for the tournament in unconventional means. They replaced Russia, who beat them 1-0 on aggregate in the play-offs, following their suspension from all European competitions.
Despite losing one of Portugal’s prominent figures in Cláudia Neto, they still have some really exciting young talent in attack in the form of Jéssica Silva and 19-year-old Francizca Nazareth.
Facing stern tests in the form of Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, Francisco Neto’s side will be looking to throw a spanner in the works while frustrating teams, just like in the previous edition.
Crucial in this mission will be 23-year-old goalkeeper, Inês Pereira, who will be looking to turn her domestic promise into international success. She plays her club football for Servette in Switzerland and is one of the few players in the squad playing outside Portugal. She recently made a title-winning penalty save, so she can handle nerves.
The keeper made her mark at this year’s UWCL, saving a penalty against Juventus and being her side’s standout performer despite not managing to keep a clean sheet. Pereira frequently produced some fine saves against the best attackers in the world.
One of her biggest strengths is her quick reflexes, which help her pull off point-blank saves. She is quick to leave her line and close down opposition attackers in 1-v-1 situations, forcing them to make a decision while denying them time to pick their spot. She is also really quick to get down on either side to make low saves.
Pereira made the fifth-most saves in the UWCL (34) last season, and only Kaylan Marckese of HB Koge made more saves from inside the box than the Portuguese (26).
At 5-foot-5, she isn’t the tallest and is consequently poor at claiming crosses or dealing with aerial deliveries.
The youngster will be looking to make a mark at the tournament despite competition from the more experienced Patrícia Morais.
Sweden are one of the most tactically astute sides in world football and arrive here as one of the favourites for the tournament. Peter Gerhardsson’s 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 setup provides the side with a great amount of defensive and offensive balance. The Blågult squad is littered with high-profile legends of the game like Caroline Seger, Kosovare Asllani and Hedvig Lindahl alongside one of world football’s biggest talents in Hanna Bennison. The players execute Gerhardsson’s tactical principles to the tee while offering in-game flexibility.
Fresh off the back of 28 direct goal contributions across the league (nine goals, 10 assists) and UWCL (three goals, six assists) Rolfö has had an explosive first season for Barcelona, fulfilling her childhood dream to wear the Blaugrana colours. Her time at Barcelona has been a season of reinvention, as the 28-year-old winger was often deployed in an unfamiliar full-back role. She excelled at it though.
Rolfö loves to have a go at goal. Blessed with a thunderbolt of a left foot, Rolfö can rip the net if given time and space anywhere outside the box. When she strikes the ball, it stays hit.
Her dynamic runs down the flank offered Barcelona flexibility and her propensity to take shots helped them threaten regularly. Of her 28 shots above, 25 of them are direct shot involvements (where her involvement in a sequence was solely getting a shot away) which is the second-highest in the competition. This emphasises her advanced positioning and ability to get on the end of long moves.
She has been experimented with in the No. 10 role for Sweden in their 4-2-3-1 before. She certainly has the vision and creativity to play there, recording the third-highest open-play xA in the UWCL (2.6) while registering five assists from open play, the most in the competition.
Sweden will be hoping Rolfö can replicate the magic she showed this season and in their Olympics campaign to power Sweden to glory in the summer.
This will be Switzerland’s second appearance at the Euros, having failed to get out of the group stage in 2017 on their debut. They will be hoping for a better run at the second time of asking, having qualified via a play-off win over the Czech Republic. It’ll be a tough ask with defending champions Netherlands and FIFA’s second-ranked international side, Sweden, in their group.
Barcelona’s versatile all-rounder Ana-Maria Crnogorčević – who is the country’s top goalscorer – will be the source of goals and shoulder much of the attack for Nils Nielsen’s side but pulling the strings from midfield will be Arsenal’s Lia Wälti.
The Swiss international is a composed figure, orchestrating play and establishing control with her impeccable passing ability. She is extremely press-resistant, allowing her side to escape pressure and progress forwards at will. Wälti uses her “snake hips” to evade incoming challenges, helping her side release pressure. She serves as an integral link between defence and attack.
The Swiss captain might be one of the most ambidextrous midfielders in the game. This trait allows her to play disguised passes that break opposition lines.
She is pivotal in helping possession reach the final third of the pitch. Of all midfielders in the WSL last year, only Katie Zelem (257) and Sarah Mayling (242), played more passes into the final third than Wälti (229). Her passing accuracy across the pitch is immaculate, ranking fourth in the WSL for passing accuracy among all midfielders overall (84.8%) and in the opposition half (81.1%).
While not directly involved in the chance-creation phase, Wälti is adept at breaking up opposition attacks before setting her team off on the front foot. She personally started 21 sequences that ended up leading to the shots in the WSL in 2021-22, the fourth most of any midfielder.
Wälti also plays an integral part in turning long phases of possession into chances. She was involved in 51 moves of 10+ passes that led to a shot for Arsenal, the fourth highest rate in the WSL, while only Katie Zelem (7.7 xG) was involved in more threatening 10+ pass sequences than Wälti (6.6).
Wälti will look to shepherd her country to a fruitful Euros bringing a sense of calm amidst the chaos in midfield.
France have been the perennial pretenders on the senior international stage. They have one of the most talented squads in world football but have fallen short at crucial stages in the past. Despite the controversy surrounding Corinne Diacre’s team selection, France still boast favourable odds heading into the tournament, thanks to the talent at their disposal.
Spearheading the charge for Les Bleus will be PSG’s Marie-Antoinette Katoto, who is arguably the best striker in women’s football at the moment and a game-changer on her own.
The 24-year-old striker comes into Women’s Euro 2022 on the back of a 25-goal season in all competitions. Katoto has demonstrated an eye for goal throughout her career. She is a constant threat from inside the penalty area, capable of scoring from any angle. At 5-foot-8, she is also an aerial threat which adds further variation to her goalscoring.
Her attacking movement is what stands out the most. She can peel off defenders or make a well-timed run in behind to get into good shooting positions, or pin back backlines with her runs into the channels and stretch them laterally with her movements out wide.
While her movement and positioning allow her to get shots from excellent areas, her shot execution is on another level.
A combination of shooting from good areas and clinical shot execution enable her to outperform her xG on a consistent basis. In the UWCL, she scored seven goals from an xG of just 4.7. She managed to convert this pre-shot 4.7 xG into 6.8 post-shot xG, underlining why she is one of the deadliest finishers in world football. That post-shot increase of almost two expected goals was the biggest of any player in the UWCL last season.
Katoto is one of the frontrunners for winning the top goalscorer award at the Euros 2022.
The Italian women’s national team has been on the up in recent years under Milena Bertolini. The two-time runners-up are a stubborn side to break down, blessed with a squad that allows for flexibility. Their qualification for the tournament was dramatic to say the least. Needing to win by at least six goals, Italy thrashed Israel 12-0 to secure their position as one of the best runners-up.
Italy’s age profile is rather interesting. They have a good mix of talent in the traditionally preferred age bracket in midfield, with players like Manuela Giugliano (24), Arianna Caruso (22), Aurora Galli (25), all about to enter their prime years. In defence, Lisa Boattin is about to enter her peak years. The attack has promise with Annamaria Serturini (24), Sofia Cantore (22) and Agnese Bonfantini (22) but still relies heavily on the experienced shoulders of Juventus duo of Cristiana Girelli (33) and Barbara Bonansea (31).
Bonansea is the heart of Italy’s attack, capable of producing inspirational moments. The 2016 Serie A female footballer of the year is a forward-thinking creative player from the wide areas, comfortable on either flank. Her playmaking revolves around receiving passes wide before cutting inside and attacking the half-spaces, from where she can use her vision to find targets in behind with her exquisite through balls.
In Serie A, only two players have attempted more dribbles than the Italian winger (62), underlining her ability and love for take-ons. The former Brescia player utilises her quick change of pace and ability to bounce off challenges and skip round opponents.
A proficient ball carrier, Bonansea is always thinking about moving forward whenever she gets on the ball. She loves to drive at her opposition full-back, trying to force them back into their own box.
There’s a purpose behind her ball carries, and she regularly creates chances or shooting opportunities from them. In Serie A Femminile, only three players recorded more chance-ending carries than the 31-year-old winger, while her 10 in total were a Juventus high.
Despite all her attacking finesse, Bonansea doesn’t slack off in the defensive phase of the game, helping out defensively while always being an outlet to catch teams on the break.
Italy’s hopes in attack will hinge on Bonansea producing moments of quality with her ability on the ball.
The Red Flames have been pushing forward under the tutelage of Ives Serneels for a decade now. These improvements saw them earn direct qualification as group winners ahead of Switzerland, and they will be looking to one up on their performance from the 2017 edition, where they bowed out in the group stage.
Grouped with France, Italy and Iceland, Belgium are capable of causing an upset, just as they did against Norway at the 2017 Euros. Janice Cayman, Tine De Caigny and Tessa Wullaert spearhead the attack. Wullaert and Cayman are the first and second top scorers for the Red Flames respectively.
But behind those two sits a midfielder who will offer crucial balance to Serneels’ side. Thirty-year-old Justine Vanhaevermaet, who plays for Reading FC, is exactly that. Having missed out on the 2017 Euros due to an ACL injury, Vanhaevermaet has become even more resilient than before.
A defensive midfielder primarily, she offers stability in defence with her ball-winning skills while offering safety and progression on the ball as well. The tall Belgian uses her frame to claw back possession for her side.
She started 218 sequences from open play for Reading in the WSL last season, or just over 12 per 90 minutes, the seventh-highest rate among midfielders, underlining her ability to regain and recover possession.
Standing over six feet, the Belgian is a viable target at set pieces, towering over her opponents in the box. Her stature further allows her to clear aerial balls on defensive set pieces too – no midfielder made more headed clearances (24) than the Belgian in the WSL.
She is a good passer under pressure while being progressive with her actions when on the ball. Serneels, a defensive midfielder herself, will be hoping these qualities translate for the Belgian Red Flames this summer.
Iceland make their fourth straight appearance at the Women’s Euros and promise to bring surprises with them, much like in 2013 where they reached the quarter-final stage by defeating Norway and the Netherlands. Thorsteinn Halldórsson’s team play an intense brand of football, outrunning their opponents and hounding them, making them a frustrating side to come up against.
Captain Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir is the obvious standout, but Sveindís Jónsdóttir promises to be their trump card. The 21-year-old looks primed to announce herself at a major tournament.
The Úrvalsdeild Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner in 2020 with Breidablik has been making waves since she was just 14, often touted as one of the biggest talents in women’s football. Having moved to Wolfsburg in the summer, she has continued to deliver on that promise. The winger is a tireless presence on the flank, capable of bombing up and down relentlessly. Her long strides allow her to cover ground really well and offer support in both attack and defence.
The 21-year-old is an explosive ball carrier who can help progress her side upfield. She loves to take on her marker, getting past and beyond them using her pace and skill. Jónsdóttir is also a very able creator with her crosses and whipped balls across the face of goal. At almost 5-foot-8, she has decent aerial prowess, making her a threat from crosses and set pieces.
Apart from being a fantastic threat on the wings with her ball carrying, Jónsdóttir has a secret rare weapon in her repertoire that sets her apart. She has a huge long throw that both Wolfburg and Iceland utilise to create chances. The throw-in map above for Wolfsburg in the UWCL shows her intent from both sides.
Iceland using a long throw to cause havoc at a European Championships? Where have we heard that before?
This weapon could prove a huge differentiator, especially during a knockout-style tournament like the Women’s Euros.
The Icelandic youngster could potentially have a breakout tournament.
Enjoy this? Subscribe to our mailing list to receive exclusive weekly content.