An absent star is returning, there's more competition than ever, but questions over stadiums linger.
1. Football's coming (back) home
England are sole hosts of the Euros for just the second time, and the excitement is already palpable. The tournament is poised to be the biggest Euros in history: More than 450,000 tickets have already been sold, smashing the record sales of 240,000 set at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands. With Wembley having served as the closest thing to a headquarters in last summer's continent-spanning men's Euros, England are keen to recreate the buzz that swept the country.
"We were so excited by the men's Euros, in terms of that atmosphere created with the whole nation. So we're really hoping that we get a massive backing from fans and the country getting behind us. A big thing for us is that we want to make everyone super proud of this England team," England's record goalscorer Ellen White told DW.
Tickets to England's group-stage matches were snapped up months ago. With the hosts kicking things off against Austria at a sold out Old Trafford and a packed Wembley lined up for the final, Euro 2022 is set to have atmospheric highlights truly befitting the birthplace of football.
2. Stars out in full force
Euro 2022 will be loaded with incredible talents who can determine a game with moments of magic. Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg recently ended her five-year dispute with the Norwegian FA and is back suiting up for her national team. The six-time Champions League winner will bring sparkling attacking flair and icy finishing to the tournament.
Hegerberg will be joined by plenty of powerhouse attackers, including Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema , who might just be the most proficient finisher in the game. Fans had also been looking forward to watching reigning Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas, but the Spain player suffered a knee injury on the eve of the tournament, ruling her out for its entirety.
In addition to established heavy hitters, there are plenty of young talents hoping to break out. German defensive midfielder Lena Oberdorf is only 20 but is a vital part of her squad’s spine, shielding the backline and orchestrating play from deep. Attacker Lauren Hemp, 21, is probably already a known commodity to England fans, but will relish the opportunity to showcase her skills on the big stage. Dazzling France forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto, a bit older at 23, is similarly hoping to impress in her first major tournament.
3. Stiff competition
The glimmering talent pool hints at one of its best selling points: Euro 2022 is primed to be one of the most competitive European Championships ever. As more nations funnel resources and attention into the game, the overall quality has reached new heights. This means it’s unlikely any one side will dominate, and results are much harder to predict than previously.
In fact, there isn't one favorite headed into the Euros: There are a handful. "The competition has gotten much tighter. There are five or six teams that wouldn't be at all surprising to lift the trophy at the end of the day," Germany keeper Merle Frohms told DW at a recent press conference.
Based on pedigree, Germany are certainly one of those sides. They’ve won 8 of the 12 past Euros, but are still rebuilding after a disappointing showing in 2017. Defending champions the Netherlands haven’t let up, home crowds will lend England a hefty advantage, and Spain have been playing jaw-dropping football in recent years. The field is wide open, so expect plenty of surprises.
4. Mixed signal on stadiums
Not everything about the tournament screams elite, though. While the opener and final will be held at historic football cathedrals, many of the games in between will be at frustratingly-small grounds.
Leigh Sports Village, in Greater Manchester, and New York Stadium, in Rotherham, are both 12,000-seaters, about as small as you can possibly justify for group-stage matches, but not as big as you’d like for the quarterfinal games they will be hosting. With a capacity of just 7,000, Manchester City's Academy Stadium is simply too small to serve as a venue for a major tournament.
England is a football-obsessed nation littered with stadiums serving professional clubs. Certainly more appropriately-sized options would have been easy to organize. Players have voiced their frustration with the small grounds, and even if these stadiums are technically large enough for expected crowds, they are simply unambitious. The tournament is about spotlighting and growing football. That means riding the momentum, crushing attendance records throughout the season, not hedging bets and potentially preventing fans from attending matches.
5. Surprises in store
The Euros won’t just be about well-known superstars and the field of favorites duking it out to reach the final. There will be plenty of other exciting stories on the pitch. One of them is Northern Ireland. They’re the only side making their tournament debut, and will hope to make a splash despite their clear underdog status as the lowest FIFA-ranked team in England. But don’t expect them to roll over. Northern Ireland held their own in a qualifying group topped by Norway and confidently swept aside Ukraine in the qualifiers to cement their place at the table.
Portugal might not be attending their first Euros (their one and only appearance was in 2017), but they did take the most unique road to get here. The team lost their qualifying playoffs to Russia — only for Russia to later be banned from the tournament following the invasion of Ukraine. With FIFA and UEFA only finalizing their decision to award Portugal Russia's place in May, the Iberians had significantly less time than other teams to prepare for the tournament. They'll still try to make the most of their unexpected opportunity.
Euro 2022: The favorites
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s squad is packed with players from Europe’s elite clubs. Germany will count on the combination between young and experienced women, with the DFB's target being the semifinals at least. Sara Däbritz, who recently joined European champions Lyon, will look to win Germany’s first big title since 2013. But the record title winners will miss Dzsenifer Marozsan, due to injury.
After the disappointment of getting knocked out in the group stages of Euro 2017, Norway will look to restore their good record in the competition, having won it twice and reached the final in 2013. Ada Hegerberg, the winner of the first ever Ballon d’Or to be awarded to a female player in 2018, has returned to the setup after a five year absence in protest at inequality in the Norwegian FA.
After underwhelming at their home World Cup in 2019, Corinne Diacre’s side will want to reassert themselves. This might be difficult due to the absence of influential players such as Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer, who have been left out of the squad. Experienced defender Wendie Renard, of reigning Champions League winners Lyon, leads a side with plenty of winning experience at club level.
The reigning European champions will look to defend their title in England, this time with Englishman Mark Parsons at the helm. Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema, the star attacker who is the Dutch national team’s most prolific goalscorer ever, is expected to lead the side into the latter stages of the competition.
The tournament’s hosts see themselves as being among the top contenders. The squad is built largely from players from the rapidly growing Women’s Super League, as well as a smattering of Europe’s top clubs. Attacking fullback Lucy Bronze has played for several of the elite, and will be looking to secure a first major title for England after agreeing a deal to play for Barcelona next term.
With a squad made almost entirely of La Liga talent, Jorge Vilda’s players will look to secure the country’s first ever European title. However, Spain suffered a major blow on the eve of the tournament, when Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas (left), considered by many as the best player in the world, suffered a knee injury in training that has ruled her out of Euro 2022.
With many of their players decorating Europe’s top clubs and a strong history, Sweden is one of the teams to watch at the Euros. The silver medalists from the Beijing Olympics will look to win a major trophy for their country for the first time since winning the 1984 Euros. Fridolina Rolfö’s good form from Barcelona could help them in achieving their goal.
Edited by: Matt Pearson
Author Dave Braneck
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