By: Tim Antoniewicz, Allie Coker, and Sara Ach
The 2022 edition of the UEFA Women’s European Championship kicks off in a few days. With 16 of the top 25 nations in the world within the UEFA confederation, this will be one of the most competitive tournaments in the last few years. The WoSo Show Podcast co-hosts Sara and Allie will be on site in England to break down all the action. Before the competition begins, our team members gave their predictions for the highly-anticipated tournament.
Group A Winner
Allie & Sara: England. The hosts are a sure favorite to take the group and possibly the whole tournament. Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead on the wings had incredible WSL seasons. Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson look to be a strong midfield duo. All over the pitch, this roster oozes with talent, but the most significant advantage will be the home environment. Domestic women’s game attendance continues to increase particularly for cup finals and matches hosted in primary stadiums. England will feel the energy of their whole country behind them.
Tim: Norway. Hosting a home tournament is a lot of pressure. We saw France fall short in 2019 and Japan in 2021. While England are the favorites on paper, look for Norway to come out on all cylinders. Ada Hegerberg is back. She has plenty of weapons around her. Both Guro Reiten and Caroline Graham Hansen ended the club seasons in red-hot form. They have a solid midfield with Ingrid Engen, Vilde Bøe Risa, and Frida Maanum. Defensively, the return from injury of Maren Mjelde will be huge for this side. Albeit questions with defensive depth and goalkeeping, look for Norway to make a splash.
Group A Dark Horse
Allie & Sara: Norway. For the reasons previously mentioned, Norway will be a force. They are a side that can beat anyone on any day.
Tim: Austria. Overall, Austria are an underrated side. They also know the other teams in their group very well. Austria, England, and Northern Ireland are all in the same qualifying group for the 2023 Women's World Cup. They also have solid performances recently against top sides including a narrow 1-0 loss to England last November and a 2-1 loss to Denmark this month. Manuela Zinsberger was the WSL Goalkeeper of the Year this season at Arsenal. Forward Nicole Billa will be one to watch, as she has been sensational with Hoffenheim in the Frauen Bundesliga.
Group A Players to Watch
Allie & Tim: Lauren Hemp. The 21 year-old English forward terrorizes defenders for fun. She is one of the best in the world at dribbling the ball with pace at defenders. She can take the ball endline or cut in for a far post rocket. Nearly impossible to mark or keep track of, she is bound to have a sensational tournament.
Sara: Norwegian midfielders Ingrid Engen and Vilde Bøe Risa will be crucial for the side as they look to advance through the tournament. It is no secret that Norway’s front line can put away goals. However, to make a serious run they will need the midfield to step up and match with the likes of England and other top nations.
Group B Winner
Allie: Germany. The hot team to pick currently is Spain, but a national team that has had little to no success in major international competitions may struggle against a side who knows how to get it done. Germany will be missing several key players, but they are surprisingly deep. Their players are used to playing together, coming largely from Bayern and Wolfsburg. They are tactical, athletic, and well-coached. Do not expect them to give in to the “new kid on the block” so easily.
Sara & Tim: Spain. While it is hard to pick against the 8-time tournament champions in Germany, it is impossible to pick against Spain right now. Domestically, their form has been outrageous for clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atlético Madrid. While it is easy to say that Spain is Barcelona, that is simply not true. Barcelona relies on a front line and outside back pool that is largely non-Spanish or unavailable for selection. For example, right back Marta Torrejón retired from international football after the 2019 World Cup. At the Arnold Clark Cup, youngster Athenea stole the show, and she plays for Real Madrid. If Spain can put the pieces together around the Barcelona spine, this team is a title contender.
Group B Dark Horse
Allie & Tim: Denmark. This is a tough group. Last tournament's runner-up could easily not advance out of the group stage against the likes of Spain and Germany. Finland are also no slouch. However, expect Denmark to upset either Spain or Germany and advance out of the group stage. Any team with Pernille Harder has a chance. Nadia Nadim back from injury looks better than ever and just scored a second half brace for Racing Louisville in the NWSL. This team may find themselves in high scoring matches, but if they score more than they concede, that's all that matters.
Sara: Germany. As mentioned, this is a tough group with no guarantees. Germany have not been the most convincing of sides lately, even though their talent level is massive. They could easily have a slow start and then have to pick it up late to come back from behind.
Group B Player to Watch
Allie & Sara: Svenja Huth. While the Spanish midfield trio of Alexia Putellas, Patri Guijarro, and Aitana Bonmatí can and will shred opponents, the performance of Germany’s midfielder Huth will make or break this group. She can play anywhere in the front six but looks to feature in a box-to-box or attacking midfield role this tournament. If she can dictate play and spring counterattacks, then this side will be hard to beat.
Tim: Lea Schüller. The German forward scored 16 goals with 4 assists in 22 league appearances for Bayern this season. It helps that several of her Bayern teammates also look to feature heavily this tournament. The added familiarity will help Schüller cement her name on the international stage this tournament. The 24 year-old already has 25 international goals in 38 appearances. Look for her to add to that tally.
Group C Winner
Allie, Sara, & Tim: Sweden. While Dutch fans are known to travel well, Sweden are a safe pick to win this group. The biggest argument for Sweden over the Netherlands is the lack of depth for the Dutch side. On the other hand, Sweden can dip into the full 23 without losing a step. They have been in great form the past two years and seem to have found the right balance of veteran leadership and youthful stardom.
Group C Dark Horse
Allie: Switzerland. If there were a third team in this group to knock off one of the favorites, it would be the Swiss. However unlikely, this tournament will be intensive for all teams, and major players may look past certain opponents. If Switzerland are given even a sliver of opportunity they can capitalize.
Sara: Netherlands. The Dutch are not a dark horse for advancing but more so to win the group. They have the starting XI but will need bench players to step up significantly to compete with the likes of Sweden.
Tim: None. I do not see a situation where either Portugal or Switzerland upset Sweden or the Netherlands. Neither of the lower ranked sides have the firepower needed to overtake the European giants. In the other 3 groups, an argument can be made for a third team to advance out of the group stage, but not in this situation.
Group C Player to Watch
Allie: Lieke Martens. Martens was one of the biggest stars of the last women’s Euros, and lightning may strike twice. After missing parts of the club season with Barcelona, Martens is finally back into top form. Expect the Dutch winger to bring her characteristic speed and creative flair to the pitch and to create some highlight-worthy goals.
Sara: Caroline Seger. Time seems to stand still for the Swedish midfield stalwart. Having amassed over 200 national team caps, the 37 year-old continues to be a necessary and effective midfield engine for Sweden. Her consistent and excellent performances make her impossible to replace.
Tim: Aside from the obvious names, two Dutch newcomers will be ones to watch this tournament. Damaris Egurrola recently declared allegiance to the Netherlands, filing a one-time switch with FIFA. She represented Spain at the youth levels and was also eligible to represent the United States. The Lyon defensive midfielder is a well-rounded player who could find her way into significant minutes this tournament.
Youngster Esmee Brugts may not start any games this tournament. However, the 18 year-old PSV forward could find herself one of the first off the bench due to the lack of depth at the position and the omission of Shanice van de Sanden. Brugts is a young star in the making who may not emerge this tournament but is one to keep an eye on for the future.
Group D Winner
Allie, Sara, & Tim: France. While they should expect a good fight, France are the class of this group. Even with some jaw-dropping roster snubs, they still have plenty of talent and leadership on all three lines. The PSG attacking trio of Katoto, Diani, and Baltimore might be one of the most prolific front lines in all of international football. However, this team's most dangerous adversary is themselves. Head coach Corinne Diacre's methods and player management skills are questionable at best, with many controversial stories emerging from the French camp since 2019. If France can keep it together, they have the talent to run away with this group.
While France are the most talented team in Group D, Italy also deserve a shout. They excel where France struggles. Italy are a cohesive side who are all well-coached. On the club side, Italy’s domestic league, particularly Juventus, has taken off the past few seasons with impressive UWCL runs. Look for Italy to finish as the Group D runners-up.
Group D Dark Horse
Allie, Sara, & Tim: Iceland. While Italy look to take the second position and advance out of the group stage, Iceland may end up playing spoils. They have a good mix of veterans and young players. Their midfield is one of the most underrated in the competition with the likes of Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, Dagny Brynjarsdóttir, Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir, and Karólina Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir. A solid midfield can make or break a team, particularly one that can score goals. However, with questions on the front and defensive lines, Iceland are a long shot.
Group D Player to Watch
Allie: Dagny Brynjarsdóttir. The West Ham midfield super-mom continues to get better and better every season. Brynjarsdóttir’s versatility is astounding. Back in Portland she played as a defensive midfielder, but for West Ham she features more offensively. She can create chances and get on the end of opportunities.
Sara: France’s attacking line. Take your pick. Between Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Kadidiatou Diani, Sandy Baltimore, Delphine Cascarino, and Melvine Malard, France’s front three are amongst the most dangerous and deepest in the competition. They can beat teams combining in the short game or they can beat teams over the top. No matter how you adjust, they have the tactical flexibility and technical ability to punish opponents. This team has the potential to produce at least three goals every game this tournament.
Tim: Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir. The young Icelandic forward excelled for Wolfsburg this season, particularly in the late stages of the UWCL. She can do it all. If defenders make a mistake, she will be there to capitalize. If her team needs a moment of magic, she will be there to create. Jónsdóttir will be the go-to player in terms of offensive production for Iceland this tournament.
Allie: Hedvig Lindahl. Lindahl will always be a favorite for this award in any major international competition. She is known to make the biggest saves in the biggest moments. Expect the same this tournament.
Sara: Whoever Germany starts. While Ann-Katrin Berger is one of the best WSL goalkeepers for Chelsea, she does not always start for Germany. Of the three German goalkeepers, she is the least capped, which is bizarre. Based on recent squad selection, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Merle Frohms will likely stand between the posts for Germany. However, if Barger gets the opportunity, expect her to shine in this tournament.
Tim: Sari van Veenendaal. This is one of the weaker goalkeeping groups of recent years. Manuela Zinsberger for Austria likely will not progress far enough in the competition. Ann-Katrin Berger does not always feature for Germany. Sandra Paños for Spain is a decent shout but may not see much action. In the end, van Veenendaal will be asked to make a lot of saves for a team that is likely to make it far in the competition.
Allie: Beth Mead. Mead is on another level these last 12 months. She can change the game single-handedly. Not only can she strike a shot from anywhere, but she can also slot in the final ball.
Sara: Lauren Hemp. We also discussed Hemp in the Group A section, but she can do it all. Hemp is a locked-in starter for one of the best teams in the tournament.
Tim: Marie-Antoinette Katoto. With a favorable group, France will look to put away a lot of goals early. Based on other players left off the roster, Katoto will get a majority of the team's minutes at the central striker position. Katoto has a nose for goal and can score in many different ways from all over the attacking third. France also are likely to make a deep run in the competition.
Allie: Beth Mead. Not enough can be said about this player. Every time she steps on the pitch, you can feel her desire to win.
Sara & Tim: Magdalena Eriksson. The best player award often goes to a midfielder or forward, and it is impossible to ignore Spain's Alexia Putellas. However, as a defender by trade, I will give a shout to the best defender on the best overall team, which is Eriksson for Sweden. Her defensive positioning, technical ability, and in-game composure are exceptional. Sweden is a team stocked with attacking talent, so Eriksson benefits from the inability to single out a favorite Swedish attacker for the award.
Who do you want to win it all?
Allie: England. It's coming home.
Sara: Sweden or England. Sweden are so strong and do not get their due respect. They have been such a strong women’s side for such a long time. They have been strong in previous tournaments but have yet to put a complete tournament together. It would be fantastic to see them finally take it all. However, I also would like to see England finish atop the podium. Seeing the home country win would be a blast and so good for the women's game in general. Of course, I am also partial to my English co-host.
Tim: Norway. I am here for the return of Ada Hegerberg. Norway feel like the ultimate dark horse. While the depth is severely lacking, they are a top-heavy team in the best way. Some of the best players in every top European league are Norwegian.
Who do you think will win it all?
Allie: Sweden or England. Hopefully England.
Sara: England. They have what it takes. The Lionesses feature a deep bench and a coach that has done it before. Home crowds will be an enormous benefit. This is the year.
Tim: Sweden. They are the most complete team top to bottom and have tons of experience playing together. They have a great balance of veterans and younger players and seem to understand their roles within the system.
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