England will hope that domestic momentum can see them through against Sweden, while Germany will have to be wary of France’s threat of set pieces
Four of Europe’s top six teams made it to the semi-finals, with England in the bottom four alongside Sweden, Germany and France.
To borrow a song text the flight of the conchords, It’s business time at the European Women’s Championship.
England meet Sweden in the first semi-final on Tuesday 26 July, followed by Germany and France the following evening, with a place in Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium at stake.
Here are IPreviews and Predictions for both games:
In 2015 England reached a semi-final in a major tournament and lost; In 2017 England reached a semi-final in a major tournament and lost; In 2019 England reached a semi-final in a major tournament and lost; In 2022, England reached the semi-finals of a major tournament to get even better.
After coming through the group stage with an impeccable record and +14 goal difference, Sarina Wiegman’s side faced their first real test of the competition in the quarter-finals against Spain. And they almost broke up.
During England’s salvage operation last Wednesday, Amex was despairing of England’s salvage operation: For a long time, the Lionesses lacked any control, Spain’s players reached into their bag of tricks, Wiegman threw off one substitute after the other, Millie Bright ended up in the lead. But they found a way.
Ella Toone’s equalizer was the product of England’s transplant; Georgia Stanway’s amazing overtime winner is a reminder of the team’s individual quality. Wiegman would have hoped for a more leisurely evening, but winning ugly was more instructive and will keep minds focused for the next challenge.
Given the impact of Toone and Alessia Russo against Spain, it will be interesting to see if Wiegman sticks with the unchanged starting XI throughout the tournament or opts for a twist. Russo has looked more effective in her cameos than Ellen White up front, while Rachel Daly had a torrid time against Marta Cardona midweek.
Sweden themselves toyed with failure in the quarter-finals, requiring an injury-time winner from Linda Sembrant to see off Belgium. VAR’s dreaded fate lines prevented Stina Blackstenius from scoring an opening goal that would have made things more comfortable and Nicky Evrard had the kind of game goalkeepers dream of. However, like England, they eventually pulled through and victory in such circumstances can only inspire confidence.
England have failed to defeat Sweden in their last three games, including in the third-place World Cup play-off final in Nice three years ago. The crowd wanted the ball to go in against Spain and with the two teams being very close, home advantage could tip the score in England’s favor in this game as well.
I‘s prediction: England 2-1 Sweden
While England, Sweden and France each finished within the last four by a mere one goal, Germany celebrated a 2-0 win over Austria, ensuring they have yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
The result might suggest it was a simple affair, but the reality was that it was anything but. Merle Frohms’ goal lived an enchanting life as the Austrians hit the post or crossbar three times and gave away both goals, particularly the second, to them.
Though Germany rode their luck, it was far from a smash-and-grab. They rattled the woodwork twice themselves and put a contender out of the tournament when Klara Buhl inexplicably missed a try when it looked easier to score with the 1-0 goal scorer.
It’s an age-old cliché but winning when you’re not in top form is what defines the champions and Germany also boast an in-form striker in all four games in Alexandra Popp.
Many tipped Germany to reach the semifinals before a ball was kicked, but France was much more difficult to predict. France have been the great underachievers in women’s football despite possessing a wealth of talent hailing from some of Europe’s most successful clubs. Your record at European Championships is: group stage, group stage, group stage, quarter-finals, quarter-finals, quarter-finals.
Manager Corinne Diacre was a polarizing figure during her five-year tenure, but she ended that hoodoo. The loss of Marie-Antoinette Katoto to a serious knee injury was a blow, but France have so far managed to manage without the prolific striker, despite missing a litany of chances against the Dutch. They recorded 13 shots on target in total, with Eve Perriset’s winner coming from the penalty spot.
Germany are considered favorites to progress, but France certainly have the means to harm them, especially on set pieces and counterattacks.
IPrediction of : Germany 2-1 France