The UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament has officially kicked off – here’s everything you need to know about the England women’s football team and the North East superstars to watch out for
Plus why the Lionesses could go all the way, what you need to know about their upcoming fixtures and the low-down on their rivals, as the Women’s Euros kicks off across the UK.
Could it, dare we say it, be coming home?
We know, we know – we’ve all heard it all before. The expectation and false promises, the nail-biting penalty shootouts, the heartbreak. Being a fan of English football is an emotional struggle only akin to purgatory.
But guys, this year could genuinely be our year! Finally, for the first time in Team HLN’s lifetimes anyway, England are not only hosting a major tournament right here on home soil, but they’re also entering said tournament as favourites.
Just let that sink in for a sec. Favourites. Us. England women’s football team.
And that certainly hasn’t changed following last night’s victory against our group rivals Austria at a sold-out Old Trafford. The Manchester stadium-goers witnessed yet another display of positive, attacking and aggressive football that we’ve all come to expect from this England team under new manager Sarina Wiegman. And with the Women’s Euros Weigman’s first real test (everybody knows friendlies don’t count), the importance of starting England’s campaign with three points can’t go unmentioned.
WHO ARE FAVOURITES TO WIN WOMEN’S EURO 2022?
Just because we’re being touted as frontrunners by the media (yes, we realise this kinda includes us at HLN now too) doesn’t mean England won’t have tough opposition in the competition. So, who are the other teams to watch out for in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament?
These gals were the big one. In fact, they were probably edging it as the team the majority of fans thought were most likely to lift the trophy come August, were it not for the news that broke on Tuesday night that their star talisman and most recent Ballon d’Or recipient, Alexia Putellas, was out of the squad after injuring her ACL.
Now, while the selfish part of us blew out a sigh of relief that, should England face Spain at all in the tournament, we’d be playing a side significantly weakened by Putellas’ absence. But the larger part of us which loves football for the game – and the Women’s Euros for the competition – is devastated. This tournament has been billed as the biggest Euros in the history of women’s football. It has the potential to really catapult the game into another level of popularity and respect. And so, the prospect of the current Ballon d’Or winner not being involved is a huge blow for spectators.
That being said, there’s nothing anyone – not least Putellas herself – can do about it now. And while the Spanish squad is still full of star quality, predominantly from Barcelona (who won the Champions League last year), the mental pressure of losing their star player on the eve of the tournament shouldn’t be underestimated.
They are the current European Championship title holders, after all. And the Dutch are unlikely to give up the honour without a fight.
So, what do you need to know? Well, the good news first – we’ve pinched their coach. Yep, when the Netherlands did win the last Euros back in 2017, current England manager Sarina Weigman was at the helm. So, not only have we weakened them in the sense of depriving the Netherlands of a manager of such experience, we’re also strengthened by the fact she’s now in our dressing room, leading our players instead.
The not-so-good news? The Netherlands are still a formidable football team. Star names spring out of their squad sheet just as they do in the men’s games – Arsenal goal machine Vivianne Miedema, Lyon midfielder Danielle van de Donk, the foreboding combo of Dominique Janssen and Merel van Dongen in defence and PSG star Lieke Martens on the wing.
They’re always lurking about in any football tournament’s list of favourites, aren’t they? But, once again, we can’t possibly fail to mention the French when we’re talking about potential title winners of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.
Why? Well, their recent, rather scintillating form, for one. Unbeaten this year – having claimed the scalps of Brazil and the Netherlands and netting a cheeky 24 goals in just seven matches – France are in the form of their lives. We predict they’ll be aggressive, high scorers with bags of creativity on the pitch, should they avoid sinking into that traditional French pothole of underperforming in major tournaments.
And while we mention all those goals (hard not to really, isn’t it), that’s not to say the French focus too much on attack and not enough on defence. They conceded only three goals in those seven matches played this year, marking them out as perhaps England’s biggest rivals in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.
Let’s just hope the Lionesses don’t have to play them at any point!
ENGLAND WOMEN’S MATCHES
Following last night’s win against Austria, England will be looking to capitalise on their positive start to the tournament by following it up with another victory against Norway on Monday, 11th July. Not such an easy feat, by the way. Norway have been Euros finalists six times in their history and the return of their star forward (and former Ballon d’Or winner) Ada Hegerberg marks them as the firm ‘dark horses’ of the competition. Group A’s fixtures then conclude with England’s match against Northern Ireland on Friday 15th July at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium.
Should they emerge victorious from all these fixtures and top their group, the Lionesses’ next fixture will be on Wednesday 20th July where they’ll face the runners-up of Group B. If they themselves are runners up in Group A, they’ll play on Thursday 21st July against the winners of Group B, (a group which includes Germany, Denmark, Finland and Spain, FYI).
After that? Well, you know how these things work. It gets complicated to write everything down now, with all the ifs, buts and maybes still in play. We promise we’ll cross that bridge for you if and when we come to it.
Download the full schedule of fixtures on the UEFA website.
NORTH EAST PLAYERS IN THE ENGLAND TEAM
Lucy Bronze - Defender
The first name on everyone’s lips when they think of the Lionesses – let alone the players hailing from the North East alone – is Lucy Bronze. Now a triple Champions League winner, newly-signed Barcelona player and Pepsi can superstar, Bronze was born in Berwick and came up through the ranks at Sunderland’s famous women’s academy, before making her professional debut for the Black Cats in 2007.
Rachel Daly - Forward
Rachel Daly is another northern name you’re likely to see on the team sheet this tournament. Originally hailing from Harrogate, the 30-year-old playmaker has travelled to the faraway climes of Texas pursuing her dream of playing professional football – captaining club Houston Dash as they won their first ever piece of silverware at the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup and winning both the Golden Boot and the tournament’s MVP award in the process.
Jill Scott MBE - Midfielder
You’ll spot her a mile away on the football field and Jill Scott MBE is just as obvious when it comes to being from the North East when she speaks in interviews, with that unmistakable Sunderland accent. Another Black Cats academy alumnus, Scott made history last year as only the second English woman to play 150 caps for her country, and this year will mark her involvement in her 10th major tournament with the Lionesses. But she doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon – after all, she was the last player in the squad to score.
Beth Mead - Forward
Our region can also claim credit for goal-machine Beth Mead, who was born in Whitby. Clearly all that sea air and North East humour growing up inspired Mead to greatness; another former Sunderland (and Middlesbrough) player, the former PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year winner has been on formidable form in England’s pre-tournament friendlies, netting a cool seven goals in six matches and breaking the record for most international goals scored in a single season – a record previously held by the legendary Jimmy Greaves for the last 61 years.
Georgia Stanway - Forward
Special mention should also go out to fellow northerner (although it’s the North West, this time) Georgia Stanway, who grew up in Barrow in Furness before making waves in the WSL thanks to her lightning-fast speed and keen knack for finding the back of the net. During just seven seasons at Manchester City, she became the club’s all-time record goal scorer and lifted both the FA Cup and the Continental Cup. We’re expecting to see her name on the scoresheet at least a couple of times in the Women’s Euros group stages alone.
WHERE TO WATCH WOMEN’S EUROS 2022?
The BBC has exclusive TV (and iPlayer) coverage of all 31 games this summer, so you don’t have to miss a minute (unless your boss catches you watching them at work, that is).
BBC Radio 5 Live will have commentary on selected matches, including all of England and Northern Ireland’s matches, plus every knockout game. There will also be a Daily Euros Podcast, while the BBC Sport website and app will have live texts of every match, reports, in-play video clips and match highlights.