The UEFA Women's European Championships are a matter of weeks away. The squads are rolling in, the predictions are being made and every women's football fan is getting geared up for the fixtures ahead. We put a magnifiying glass on Group D, looking at how these teams have fared against each other in the past...
When looking at Group B, the name that stands out immediately is Germany. As a nation, they have dominated the competition and will kick off proceedings as six times consecutive Champions - having claimed eight titles in total. If the expectations that comes with these accolades was not enough, Germany took home the gold last Summer in the Olympics which will attract even more scrutiny.
During the qualifying run, Germany scored 35 goals and conceded zero. In which they also faced Group B counterparts – Russia, where Germany beat them 4-0 and 2-0 home and away, respectively. With this in mind, it appears the only fixture in this group that will give Germany difficulty in moving onto the next stage is Sweden.
Manager Steffi Jones is very familiar with the tournament, having lifted the trophy herself three consecutive times with her country. However, it will be her first real test as manager of the national team and it is one weighted with pressure. During the SheBelieves Cup, it became clear that there was still some adjustments needed for Jones and her team despite finishing second.
After running a 15-day camp, featuring 29 players, Jones has whittled down the squad to 23 making amendments from the squad that featured throughout the qualifying campaign and international friendlies..
Experience has been recruited in Josephine Henning, Lena Goeßling and especially Anja Mittag, who has won three European Championships. However, Jones has omitted some of Germany’s younger talent, such as Pauline Bremer and Felicitas Rauch.
Despite the likes of Rauch and Bremer missing out on the squad, the German side is not without young talent. At only 22, Sara Däbritz has been influential for her country. During the Summer Olympics in Rio 2016, the Bayern Munich midfielder netted three times.
Having made her debut with the senior side in 2010, the creativity and flare of Dzsenifer Marozán has become a salient part of the German squad. This will also be Marozán’s first major tournament as captain and could be a defining one.
This finalized squad will be tried and tested against Brazil on July 4th.
Goalkeepers: Almuth Schult (VfL Wolfsburg), Laura Benkarth (SC Freiburg), Lisa Weiß (SGS Essen).
Defenders: Josephine Henning (Olympique Lyonnais), Kathrin Hendrich (1.FFC Frankfurt), Leonie Maier (FC Bayern Munich), Babett Peter (VfL Wolfsburg), Kristin Damann (FC Bayern Munich), Carolin Simon (SC Freiburg), Anna Blässe (VfL Wolfsburg), Isabel Kerschowski (VfL Wolfsburg).
Midfielders: Lena Goeßling (VfL Wolfsburg), Dzsenifer Marozsán (Olympique Lyonnais), Sara Däbritz (FC Bayern Munich), Sara Doorsoun (SGS Essen), Linda Dallmann (SGS Essen), Lina Magull (SC Freiburg), Tabea Kemme (1. FFC Turbine Potsdam).
Forwards: Mandy Islacker (1.FFC Frankfurt), Anja Mittag (FC Rosengård), Lena Petermann (SC Freiburg), Svenja Huth (1. FFC Turbine Potsdam), Hasret Kayikçi (SC Freiburg).
While Germany are the favourites, Sweden are close second in this group and are expected to move on from the first three matches. On July 17, all eyes will be on what can be argued as the most exciting fixture in Group B: the Olympic Gold Medal rematch.
These two European greats have played each other competitively seven times with the holding Champions taking the glory on every single occasion. Although, It is not just the recent Olympic final that Sweden will be seeking redemption in as it was Germany who knocked them out during the 2013 semi-final when Sweden hosted the competition.
In qualifying for the tournament, Sweden topped their group –pipping Scandinavian rivals Denmark to the top spot, despite losing their final qualifying match to them 2-0.
Sweden’s most recent tournament appearance came in the Algarve Cup where they fell short of expectations. Sweden also faced Russia in this competition, thrashing them comprehensively to place seventh in the tournament. In more recent friendly appearances,
Pia Sundhage has recruited an experienced squad as they set their sights on besting their third-place finish when they hosted the tournament in 2013.
This is the third time that Sweden will meet Italy in the group stage at the Women’s Euro. In their last meeting in the competition, Sweden were comprehensive in victory, overcoming the Italians 3-1.
The experience of Sundhage’s squad ranges from Julia Spetsmak’s 54 minutes of playing time to Sweden’s all-time top goalscorer, Lotta Schelin. They are one of the older sides of the competition but they do have youth such as Stina Blackstenius, who has competed at the high levels of the olympics and then later captaining the U-20 national team in at the U-20 Women's World Cup in Papa New Guinea.
Sweden's last two friendlies were a mixed bag. Caroline Seger, who will be playing in her fourth Euro, earned a late 1-0 victory over Scotland. While the
The team will have their final run out before the competition starts against Mexico on July 8.
Goalkeepers: Hilda Carlen (Piteå IF), Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea), Emelie Lundberg (Eskilstuna United).
Defenders: Jonna Andersson (Linköping), Emma Berglund (FC Rosengård), Magdalena Eriksson (Linköping), Nilla Fischer (VfL Wolfsburg), Hanna Glas (Eskilstuna United), Jessica Samuelsson (Linköping), Linda Sembrant (Montpellier HSC).
Midfielders: Kosovare Asllani (Manchester City), Lisa Dahlkvist (KIF Örebro), Hanna Folkesson (FC Rosengård), Josefin Johansson (Piteå IF), Elin Rubensson (Kopparbergs/Göteborg), Olivia Schough (Eskilstuna United), Caroline Seger (Olympique Lyonnais), Julia Spetsmark (KIF Örebro).
Attackers: Stina Blackstenius (Montpellier HSC), Pauline Hammarlund (Kopparbergs/Göteborg), Mimmi Larsson (Eskilstuna United), Fridolina Rolfö (Bayern München), Lotta Schelin (FC Rosengård).
Perhaps considered the weakest link in the group, Russia will enter this having struggeld in their most recent games. Elena Fomina's side suffered five consecutive heavy losses to the United States, Sweden and Denmark. Luckily, a double header of international friendlies against Serbia served them some momentum as they won both. Notably their 5-1 victory which saw them overcome a 0-2 defcit, scoring all five goals in the second half.
This will be the seventh apperance in the tournament for Russia, which is an admirable feat as they competition continues to heat up around Europe. However, they are yet to make it past the knockout stage and being drawn into this difficult group does not swing the odds in favour of Fomina's side.
Russia will open up their tournament by playing Italy. These two teams were acquaintaints in the Group Stage of Euro 2009, where Italy beat Russia 2-0 - the third consecutive time that. In their past five meetings, Italy has won three while the Russians have took the glory twice. The recipe for a gritty opening match, especially seeing as Head Coach fomina played her role in the two winning games.
Fomina's side ranges in age from 20 to 31, with all players being based in the Supreme Division in Russia. Joint league top goal scorer Ekaterina Pantyukhina features in the side and will be looking to feature as a regular. The forward has proven her goalscoring potential on the national side having netted 10 times in her 30 apperances.
While Russia are definitley the underdogs in this group, spectators can expect determined performances.
Goalkeepers: Alena Belyaeva (Chertanovo), Tatiana Shcherbak (Kubanochka Krasnodar), Elizabeth Shcherbakova (Rossiyanka)
Defenders: Anna Belomyttseva (VDV Riazan), Darya Makarenko (VDV Riazan), Elena Medved (VDV Riazan), Tatiana Sheykina (VDV Riazan), Elvira Ziyastinova (CSKA Moscú), Anna Kozhnikova (CSKA Moscú), Ekaterina Morozova (Chertanovo),Natalia Solodkaya (Kubanochka Krasnodar)
Midfielders: Marina Kiskonen (Chertanovo), Margarita Chernomyrdin (Chertanovo), Elena Morozova (Kubanochka Krasnodar), Catherine Pantyukhina (Star 2005 Perm), Anastasia Pozdeyeva (Star 2005 Perm), Nadezhda Smirnova (CSKA Moscow), Ekaterina Sochneva (CSKA Moscú), Anna Cholovyaga (CSKA Moscú), Marina Fedorova (VDV Riazan)
Forwards: Nasib Hasanov (Kubanochka Krasnodar), Elena Danilova (VDV Riazan), Nadezhda Karpova (Chertanovo).
Antonio Cabrini's Italy side will enter the tournament with momentum behind them. Four consecutive wins out in their international friendlies, plus a draw with England in April, stands them in good stead to take on Group B.
As mentioned previously, Italy are familiar with being in a group with Sweden as they have endured it twice already. In those previous tournaments, Sweden has always topped the group with Italy trailing asa close second. However, throwing in the reigning European Champions into the group resitricts Italy's hopes of replicating this form.
The Azzurre have qualified for every since European Championship 1991, which is when the tournament was renamed. In total, they have finished second twice but have failed to keep up with the rapid growth of the game as new teams have risen to the forefront of the game.
Cabrini is currently running two five day camps with a 30-strong national team side, on July 5 he will announce the reduced side that will travel to the Netherlands. The manager recently celebrated his fifth year as manager of the national team and will look to celebrate with some glory in a difficult group.