On Wednesday, July 6 at Old Trafford, England and Austria kick off the opening match of what's expected to be a thrilling and highly competitive Women’s European Championship. When looking at the groups, it's stunning to see just how many blockbuster matches are lined up. In anticipation, we’ve picked out our top five games you definitely need to circle on the calendar.
Netherlands vs. Sweden
Date: Saturday, July 9 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN2
Who else is looking forward to #WEURO2022 getting underway in just a few days time?Both #Netherlands and #Sweden will be hopeful of a lengthy campaign, but must not underestimate #Switzerland and #Portugal.
— TSZ (@thestatszone) July 3, 2022
It never seems fair to have one of the best games of the tournament at the beginning. It feels much more poetic to save it until the end as the group stage builds in suspense through to the knockout round, until we arrive at a pleasing crescendo at the end of it all. The soccer gods have other ideas.
On matchday one in Group C, Sweden, ranked second in the world, faces off against the defending European champion, the Netherlands, which is ranked fourth in the world.
The Dutch have difference makers across the pitch, most notably up top with Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Martens. On the other side, Sweden’s collective unit is a force to be reckoned with and incredibly difficult to break down defensively over 90 minutes.
France vs. Italy
Date: Sunday, July 10 | Time: 12:00 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN+
Marie-Antoinette’s Katoko’s movements on and off the ball is causing lots of trouble for the defense.Damn she’s good all round, linkup, holdup, movement in the box, runs off the shoulder (the opening goal). Name the qualities you want in a striker she has it and good at it.
— Lavogez (@LigaLavo) June 25, 2022
France has surprisingly never made it further than the quarterfinals at the Euros and goes into this tournament desperate to end that streak. This French side is ranked third in the world and has been consistently ranked as one of the best teams for the past decade, but Les Bleues have little to nothing to show for it.
Their first test comes against an Italian squad that's impressed in recent years but definitely lacks the talent of France. For Italy, defensive structure and counter-attacking is key, but with stars such as Wendie Renard and Marie-Antoinette Katoto in the French lineup, it may be too much for the Italians to handle.
England vs. Norway
Date: Monday, July 11 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN2
"If Ellen White is fit, she should be the No 9."Kelly Smith looks ahead to England's chances at the upcoming Euros ⏳pic.twitter.com/Hq5mlvVyvC
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 2, 2022
Norway's not used to going into major tournaments as underdogs but that's the situation it's found itself in. While Norway is historically the more successful nation, England enters the Euros among the favorites. A combination of youth and experience, as well as home crowds, have the English optimistic, however, the Norwegians are no slouches.
Barcelona midfielder Caroline Graham Hansen and Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg ensure that England’s road to the knockout stages will be anything but straightforward. For England, a long list of veterans, including Jill Scott and Ellen White, are hoping to win it all on home soil. If either side drops points against a dangerous Austria side, this game could be the difference between advancing and going home early.
Germany vs. Spain
Date: Tuesday, July 12 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN2
— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) July 1, 2022
Winners of eight European Championships, including a tremendous six in a row from 1995-2013, Germany boasts the most successful historical record by quite some margin. This year the Germans are among the favorites but face stiff competition, even in group play.
Spain has a strong squad but none better than Alexia Putellas. The Barcelona midfielder is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or and has made it difficult to contest her position as the best player in the world. Her 26 goals for Spain are the most in the squad.
A strong core of Barcelona and Real Madrid players brings consistency to the Spanish camp. For Germany, the same is true with all but three playing for Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt or Bayern Munich. They will be led by forward Alexandra Popp, who leads the team with both 114 caps and 53 goals. Both teams are capable of making deep runs in the tournament but will be forced to go through each other first.
Denmark vs. Spain
Date: Saturday, July 16 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN+
"When we're on the pitch, we're not only playing for the team, but for the whole country" @PernilleMHarder chats with @KellySomers about national support and other Hot Takes on the @JustEatUK #WEURO2022 podcast.Listen here
— UEFA Women's EURO 2022 (@WEURO2022) July 1, 2022
In Group B, dropped points for either Spain or Germany could mean disaster with Denmark more than capable of winning games. The attacking duo of Pernille Harder and Nadia Nadim has 231 caps and 106 goals between them, providing an outlet for their spectacular defense to find. With just one goal conceded in qualifiers, Denmark has a great chance of spoiling the party with great tactical performances.
Both Germany and Spain will need to be careful to not leave themselves vulnerable on the counter, where Denmark could do some serious damage. Depending on how the group goes, this game could have massive knockout-round implications. Don’t be surprised if the Danes make a spectacular run this summer.