The European Championships in England begins on July 6th. The expectations in the motherland of football are high, also for the hosts’ team. But the competition is bigger than ever.
1. Football is coming (back) home
England is hosting the European Championship for only the second time since 2005. And the anticipation is great. More than 450,000 tickets have already been sold. The upcoming tournament breaks the sales record of 240,000 tickets at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.
At the pan-European men’s EURO in summer 2021, Wembley Stadium was something of a final tournament headquarters: seven games were played there, including the two semi-finals and the final. England was in a football frenzy. “We were thrilled with the men’s European Championship, the whole country was over the moon,” England’s record goalscorer Ellen White told DW. “We hope that we too will have massive support from the fans and from the whole country. For us, the main thing is to make everyone proud of the England team.”
Tickets for the hosts’ group stage matches have been sold out for months, as has the final at Wembley Stadium. Atmospheric highlights are already guaranteed in the motherland of football.
2. Established and upcoming stars
EURO 2022 is peppered with players who can create magical football moments. Norway’s star striker Ada Hegerberg, for example, recently ended a five-year dispute with her country’s football association and is back for the Norwegian national team. The 2018 FIFA World Player and six-time Champions League winner will enrich the tournament with her brilliant attacking skills and ice-cold shots.
Hegerberg is not the only strong attacker at this European Championship. With Vivianne Miedema, the defending champions from the Netherlands have what is probably the best scorer of the tournament. Fans were also looking forward to seeing current world footballer Alexia Putellas but the Spaniard picked up a knee injury on the eve of the tournament and will miss the Euros.
In addition to the established players, there are also many young top talents at the start, who the European Championship can help to achieve their final breakthrough. This also includes Lena Oberdorf. At the age of 20, the defensive midfielder is already an indispensable part of the German team. Striker Lauren Hemp is well known to fans in her native England. Now the 21-year-old wants to present her skills on the big stage for the first time. The European Championship is also the first major tournament for the highly talented French attacker Marie-Antoinette Katoto, 23 years old.
3. Tough competition
As more and more nations promote women’s football in a sustainable manner, quality across the board has reached a new high. As a result, the outcome of the games is more difficult to predict. And it’s unlikely that a single team will dominate the tournament. There are no top favorites for the European Championships in England. “The competition has become much tighter,” German goalkeeper Merle Frohms recently told DW. “There are five or six teams that have what it takes to win the trophy at the end.”
This also includes the record European champions from Germany, who have won eight of the twelve previous tournaments. But the team of national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg is still under construction after the disappointing quarter-final defeats at the 2017 European Championships and the 2019 World Cup. The defending champions from the Netherlands were able to maintain their level. England will use their home-field advantage. And Spain has also played quality football in recent years.
4. Some stadiums are too small
Not everything at this tournament is worthy of an EM. While the opening match between England and Austria at Old Trafford in Manchester and the final at Wembley Stadium take place in football cathedrals with a great history, many other EURO matches are played in small stadiums. The Leigh Sports Village in Greater Manchester and the New York Stadium in Rotherham each have space for just 12,000 fans. This may be justifiable for group stage games, but not for the quarter-finals that are played there. The smallest EM Stadium, Manchester City’s Academy Stadium, only has 7,000 seats. A few group games will be played there.
England is a football-mad nation with many great traditional clubs. Therefore, it would have been easy to choose venues that would do justice to the importance of a European championship. Especially since this European Championship is not just about the title, but also about putting women’s football in the spotlight and promoting it.
5. Unknowns with potential for surprises
At a European Championship, the eyes are not only on the favorites. The appeal of such a tournament also lies in the fact that some teams are difficult to assess. This applies to the Northern Ireland team, for example, the only one of the 16 teams that have never competed in a European Championship before. In the current ranking of the world association FIFA, the Northern Irish are only in position 47, between Uzbekistan and Myanmar. But the EM outsiders should not be underestimated. They held their own in a strong qualifying group led by Norway, beating Ukraine.
Another unknown is Team Portugal. The country is taking part in a European Championship for the second time in a row after 2017, but this was only possible in a roundabout way. The Portuguese initially lost the playoff duel against Russia. However, because of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the Russians were banned from the tournament. Portugal moved up. Since this decision was only made in May, the Portuguese women had significantly less time than the other teams to prepare for the European Championship. Still, they will try to make the most of their unexpected opportunity.
The Danish men’s team at the 1992 European Championships proved that this can be a recipe for success: the Danes briefly replaced the team from the former Yugoslavia, which had been sorted out because of the Balkan war – and ultimately won the title. Not least because of her ease in the face of the chance that arose just before the tournament started.