A closer look at the opening round of UEFA Women’s Euro group matches
The UEFA Women’s Euro begins on Wednesday, with the first round of group matches continuing until Sunday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the key match-ups and what to expect from the opening fixtures.
England v Austria, Wednesday 8pm
Norway v Northern Ireland, Thursday 8pm
The group featuring the two qualifying home nations is first to get under way, with hosts England kicking off the campaign against Austria.
The Lionesses won 1-0 in the two sides’ first meeting in World Cup qualifying, Ellen White with the only goal, with the return fixture still to come in September.
Sarina Wiegman’s side will be looking for another win against opponents ranked 21st in the world by FIFA, ahead of only three teams in the tournament. Austria goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger will come up against several of her Arsenal team-mates, in particular free-scoring winger Beth Mead.
Northern Ireland, lowest-ranked in 47th, begin their campaign on Thursday and face an imposing task against a Norway side boasting former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, Barcelona star Caroline Graham Hansen and seven Women’s Super League players.
Spain v Finland, Friday 5pm
Germany v Denmark, Friday 8pm
Spain and Germany are the teams fancied to advance and will look to impose their will on their respective Scandinavian opponents.
Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas leads a sizeable Barcelona contingent in the Spanish side and will look to pose problems for a Finnish defence marshalled by Brighton’s Emma Koivisto. The two sides have not met since 2018, when Spain won World Cup qualifiers 2-0 and 5-1.
Germany have an unrivalled tournament pedigree and will be heavily favoured against Denmark, but did lose their last meeting. That was back in 2017 but Nadia Nadim, who scored Denmark’s first on that occasion, remains in their squad. Twins Sara and Karen Holmgaard play in Germany with Turbine Potsdam.
Portugal v Switzerland, Saturday 5pm
Netherlands v Sweden, Saturday 8pm
Saturday brings the stand-out match of the first round of fixtures as defending champions the Netherlands take on much-fancied Sweden in Group C.
It is a repeat of the 2019 World Cup semi-final, won 1-0 by the Dutch thanks to Jackie Groenen’s long-range strike in extra time. They went on to lose the final to the United States while Sweden beat England to finish third.
Mark Parsons’ side have responded to their hammering against England by beating Belarus and Finland in the build-up to the tournament, while Sweden warmed up with an impressive 3-1 win over Brazil.
Arsenal attackers Vivianne Miedema and Stina Blackstenius go up against each other, while the Netherlands’ Lineth Beerensteyn will join Sweden’s Hanna Glas at Bayern Munich next season.
Portugal and Switzerland are expected to play for the minor places but victory is surely imperative for either to have a chance of qualifying.
Belgium v Iceland, Sunday 5pm
France v Italy, Sunday 8pm
Similarly in Group D, Italy should provide the biggest obstacle to France in the first stage – though France, at third in the FIFA rankings, are 11 places higher than their opponents.
Goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin will know all about Italy’s attacking threats, her Juventus club-mates Cristiana Girelli – who scored in the last meeting between the nations in 2018 – and Barbara Bonansea, while Everton colleagues Kenza Dali and Aurora Galli could face off in midfield.
Iceland are higher ranked than Belgium and will seek a win to challenge Italy for qualification.
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