Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Preview - UEFA Women's European Football Championships 2017

The finest women's footballers in Europe go head-to-head for continental glory this month at the Women's Euro's 2017. It is the 12th women’s Euro tournament and is hosted by the Netherlands. With more teams and more prize money than ever, Euro 2017 will be the largest Women's European Championship yet.

With the 'Battle of Britain' taking place tonight, as England face Scotland in Group D's opening fixture of the Women's 2017 European Championships, I feel now is a perfect time to preview the tournament, that kicked off a couple of days ago. England and Scotland are in the same group, alongside Spain and Portugal.

The competition comes around once every four years, and Germany are the holders following their 2013 triumph in Sweden. A total of 47 UEFA nations took part in the qualifications for the tournament, and this will be the first time the finals involve 16 teams rather than 12, with the top two teams from each group of four progressing to the quarter-finals.

The group stage concludes on 27th July, before the quarter-finals on 29th-30th July, the semi-finals on 3rd August and the final on 6th August.

A total of 31 matches will be played at seven different venues in the Netherlands, which is hosting the competition for the first time.

Deventer, Doetinchem, Rotterdam and Tilburg will all stage group matches, plus a quarter-final each.

Breda and Utrecht will also host four group games, with Breda and Enschede the venues for the semi-finals, and FC Twente's 30,000-capacity stadium in Enschede the venue for the final.

are looking to win this competition for the seventh time in a row - stretching back to 1995, and also arrive as the Olympic champions, but they will face stiff competition from France, who will call upon a number of players from a dominant Lyon team, who won their second consecutive Women's Champions League title in Cardiff in June.

Also tipped for a strong tournament are England, who want to improve on their impressive third place at the 2015 World Cup.

Since 2015, the team have been building on their success and on 1st July they beat Denmark 2-0, with both goals scored by the captain for the game, Ellen White. She is known for scoring one of the best goals in the history of the FIFA World Cup in 2011, and is definitely another player to keep an eye on in this tournament.

The Lionesses were unbeaten during qualifying for the Euros, winning seven of their eight matches, and conceded only one goal in the process.

England manager Mark Sampson announced his squad three months before the tournament – and there has been a bit of a shake up with him selecting a mixture of experience and young, up-and-coming players.
There are some familiar stars from the 2015 world cup, including Fara Williams, Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Laura Bassett and Fran Kirby – but also some new names, Demi Stokes (defender), Isobel Christiansen (midfielder), Millie Bright (midfielder) and Nikita Parris (striker) who all make their tournament debuts for England.

Spain also have a talented squad, and four years ago they stunned England with a 3-2 win in the group stages of the Euros.

Norway, runners-up in 2013, have reached two of the past three finals and and are two-time winners (1987 and 1993)

The Norwegian side includes 2017 BBC Women's Footballer of the Year Ada Hegerberg who helped club side Lyon win another treble this term.

Hosts the Netherlands, meanwhile, have six players from English Women's Super League clubs.

Teams making their debuts in the finals this year include Belgium, Austria, Portugal and Switzerland.

Scotland women have qualified for their first major championship at the 14th attempt.
Led by coach Anna Signeul, who will leave her role following the Euros after 12 years in charge, the Scots qualified as runners-up to Iceland, but injuries have robbed them of some of their key players, including Arsenal playmaker Kim Little and Manchester City centre-back Jen Beattie.

The star of European women's football going into this tournament is Norway striker Ada Hegerberg (right). UEFA's player of the year has scored a phenomenal 112 goals in 97 games over the past three seasons for Lyon, firing them to back-to-back Champions League titles - and she is still only 22.

Tournament favourites France and Germany, meanwhile, will be led by Amandine Henry and Dzsenifer Marozsan respectively. They have a bit of a rivalry going: Henry has pipped Marozsan to second place in the European Player of the Year voting two years in a row, while Lyon signed Marozsan to bolster their midfield after Henry left for the Portland Thorns. After less than a year with Portland, she returned to France to join Lyon's biggest rivals Paris Saint-Germain.

Other players to watch!

Caroline Graham Hansen (Norway) - The Wolfsburg striker missed the 2015 World Cup due to injury, but her ability is without question. Now, she has a big stage to show it off again. Often played on the right of a front three for both club and country, the 22-year-old’s quality on the ball and ability to run at defenders is almost unrivaled.

Pernille Harder (Denmark) - Wolfsburg forward Pernille Harder is the national team captain and the player that makes Denmark tick. She's the focal point, the leader and the player that's key to helping her country progressing out of the most difficult group of the first round. Harder’s goal-scoring record in Sweden for her previous club, Linkopings, was remarkable. It led her side to a league title over a Marta-inspired Rosengard in 2016, which earned Harder the league’s MVP award and a move to her current club in Germany.

Lieke Martens (Netherlands) - Vivianne Miedema is the face of the Dutch team, a deserved recognition. But playing just to the left of her in a front three - or wide in a midfield four is her team-mate, Lieke Martens. This summer, she completed a move to ambitious Women’s Champions League semi-finalists Barcelona. She has an ability to run at players with pace, Playing alongside the likes of Marta at Rosengard for the past two years has seen the 24-year-old Dutch attacker raise her game to another level.

Jordan Nobbs (England) - The Arsenal girl (below) has developed into one of England’s most dynamic midfielders and is now vice-captain in Mark Sampson’s side, despite still only being 24. Her energy and ability to play almost anywhere in midfield has ensured she is one of the first names on the England team sheet.

Uefa is using the competition to continues trialling rule-changes. Teams will be allowed to make a fourth substitution during extra time of matches. European football's governing body has already trialled the change at the men's European Under-21 Championship and both the men's and women's under-19 tournaments.

Additionally, referees will have the power to show yellow and red cards to non-playing staff in the technical area

Media coverage of the sport in the UK is improving with Channel 4 announcing that it will be showing all of the games featuring England and Scotland. Other games will be shown on British Eurosport 2.

England's first game versus Scotland, takes place tonight (July 19) in Utrecht at 19.45 UK time, live on Channel 4.

A full tournament fixture list is available on the official UEFA website

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