From here on in, there is no margin for error. No group games to seek redemption, the knock-out phase of Euro 2017 has begun. There were massive shocks, a match postponement and a Anglo-French battle royal. But who triumphed and which teams saw their European dream come crashing down?
Dutch Euro 2017 party, shows no sign of stopping
Ever since the Netherlands kicked Euro 2017 off, they have not let their foot off the accelerator, producing one excellent performance after another. Playing with a growing confidence, Sarina Wiegman’s side have played with great composure, utilising the sell-out crowds to their advantage, fuelling their surge. Against Sweden, who in the head-to-head stakes are so finely and equally matched, they produced an incredible, patient display that was hard to counter.
With an abundance of attacking riches, the Netherlands caused a back four containing Nilla Fischer, back after not featuring against Italy, a whole array of problems. Shanice Van De Sanden and opening goal scorer Lieke Martens linking up well. Martens turning provider, finding Van De Sanden in space. The Liverpool player, driving ball at feet towards the heart of Sweden's defence, picking out Vivienne Miedema unmarked to tap the ball into the net.
It’s the way in which Weigman’s side have applied themselves that has been noteworthy. Every game her side play, they become more confident. Improve in all areas of the pitch, grow into the occasion rather than be confined by it.
Winning those marginal battles across the pitch, they stuch to the game plan. Organised and disciplined, this Netherlands team do not fear the established European football hierarchy. England in some regards have been put on notice. If you want to progress, your going to have to get past a team who have demonstrated they are fully working as one, for each other and for the nation. The application of their positive attitude speaking volumes.
Should the Dutch win over England and go on and win Euro 2017, there will be a Dutch national holiday all of its own. The notion that they can't would be hard to argue with. Given Germany have exited the competition, the route to glory has firmly opened up.
Dutch fans provide a cornucopia of delight
We have seen some terrific fan support throughout the tournament. They have provided a audio and visual backdrop to the Euro 2017, all of their own. The Dutch fans have really taken to their turn in the European football limelight.
Aided by their teams exploits, the passion they have generated has been fantastic with sell-out crowds, cheering every kick, creating pre-game entertainment all to themselves.
Inside the venues, they are always creating a fantastic atmosphere. If the stadiums had roofs, they would raise them off the very foundations of the stadium. They have become a driving force for the Dutch team, who have fed off the support they have received. But can they spur their side all the way to the final?
Sweden's golden era comes to an end
When things are not going your way, they don’t in a spectacular way. For Sweden, it wasn’t their Euro 2017. In respects it feels like an end of an era for the team. With Pia Sundhage’s departure and Sweden’s exit, like neighbours Norway, they may find it hard to recover from the knock to national confidence. Sweden need a chance to digest to refresh their playing staff and generally overhaul what has looked like a team running out of ideas, giving the side the chance to find a new football identity.
Playing with a lethargic and lacklustre spirit, Sweden did not play to their strengths. In truth they were not allowed to by the Netherlands. Experience counted for absolutely nothing as a fearless and exuberant Dutch side ran riot.
There was a lack of quality from key players like Stina Blackstenius, Kosovare Asllani and Lotta Schelin up front. At the other end of the pitch, Linda Sembrant and Nilla Fischer were unable to cope with the pace of a trio of Dutch players attacking in concert. Goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl was comparable for poor positioning before Martens put the Dutch ahead. This performance was not like Sweden as we know them.
They wtill reeling after being left shell-shocked by the 3-2 loss to Italy. Even if they had won over the Azurre, they would have not subsequently won over the Dutch. Sundhage’s team playing with little belief in themselves. Key players were not performing, provided all the ingredients necessary for a recipe for disaster.
For the Scandinavians it truly feels that this is an end of an era. One of many at Euro 2017.
The rain in Holland falls mainly on Rotterdam
I'm not convinced that mops and buckets were going to solve what only could be described as a pitch so waterlogged. Playing on it would have turned the game into one of those off the wall Dutch TV comedies you only get to see on Channel 4 through Walter Presents! Farcical scenes ensued, Danish TV reporters resorting to standing bare-footed in puddles. Steffi Jones and her DFB staff were finding buckets to try and empty the dugout of water.
Then she asked a bemused member of the ground-staff to try and kick a ball to demonstrate what everyone could see as a pitch that was unplayable. Failing spectacularly, she crashed the deck hard and drenched for her effort. When the German manager tells you to do something, you simply say yes! I hear UEFA at their next conference have tabled an urgent amendment. All stewards and ground-staff have to undergo water survival training, from here on in.
It would not be as comical if it were not serious. The length of the decision to call off the game paints UEFA as indecisive and disrespectful. Seeing DFB staff having to use buckets, to clear their dugout, to insufficient equipment to clear water from the pitch does little for the image of the women's game.
It is highly probable that UEFA would have known that weather conditions would not be optimum for commencing a game of football, long before kick-off, fuelling concerns once more that UEFA in their handling of the situation are perpetuating the belief that if this happened in a men’s tournament, the game would have been called off quicker.
What is for certain, the professionalism shown by DFB and DBU staff should be commended. With both sets of players coming out on the pitch applauding and thanking their fans an incredible demonstration of fundamental respect for supporters. The same level of thanks, praise and gratitude should be afforded to the ground-staff who were throughout all the chaos, fighting a losing battle to get the pitch in a playable condition.
Magnificent Denmark send Germany crashing
Euro 2017 is a gift that just keeps on giving. Creating headlines and proving normal convention is firmly out the window. If you thought the Netherlands win over Sweden would be the major story of the quarter-finals, you would be proven spectacularly wrong.
For Germany their European title defence was abruptly ended in Rotterdam by a Danish side who put a seed of doubt into German minds, to the extent that the way in which Germany played bore no resemblance to the dominance and high technical ability they have built their success on.
A mistake from Stina Petersen inside the first three minutes saw Germany take the lead through Isabel Kerschowski. For the best part of the first-half it looked as if the script being written was going the expected way. Denmark tried to break Germany down, gaining little success, leading Pernille Harder to remonstrate with her team-mates on the pitch.
Whatever she said it worked. From that moment on, Denmark picked up the pace and improved in their decision-making. Katrine Veje, Harder and a towering presence of Nadia Nadim caused the German defensive problems on the counter-attack, equalising through Nadim and going ahead through Theresa Nielsen. Denmark produced a collective display of unity, flooding the box with defenders, with a high work rate in closing down Linda Dallmann, Anja Mittag and Mandy Islaker with a suffocating pressing game. Germany tried to be all too intricate with their play, Petersen in the Danish goal providing an insurmountable challenge to pass.
Germany not recognising that they needed to play a far more expansive game and not play through a congested Danish defence showed tactical ineptitude, and their miscalculation cost them.
Denmark won the psychologically battle, that Jones's side rarely looked able to win. Jones said of Denmark before the game that the Danes were weak. There was nothing lacking in the Danish game.
Germany have been distinctly off form this Euro 2017, in respects results flattering them. In their first tournament after Silvia Neid left the helm they have failed in incredible fashion. Even leading player Dzenifer Marozsán questioned the team's whole attitude post-match. Her assessment is correct, the attitude of the German players was not right.
An assertion like other power-houses of the women's game in Europe, that they are entitled to win from the opening whistle, cost them against the Danes. Where do they go from here now a 22-year dominance has ended? It seems the air of invincibility has gone. That in itself is a massive shift. Firing Jones would also be a mistake, Germany need time to calmly asses what went wrong. To rectify it and learn, any overblown reaction by the DFB will do more harm than good.
Danish boss Nils Nielsen said after the game "I didn't feel that we were lucky today. We found some solutions for how not to panic. It was a deserved win, or whatever you say. It was fairly equal in terms of the chances. There wasn't big pressure Germany put on us."
He must be proud of his players, in all areas. It is hard not to agree with his sentiments. Denmark looked comfortable in the end, always looking as if they had another gear if needed. They will take massive confidence in the result. Next up are Austria in the semi-final, who look devoid of attacking threat, scraping past Spain through a penalty shoot-out. Denmark look odds on to book their final place.
England survive French onslaught to rewrite history
England have delivered again, at the junction when it truly mattered as Mark Sampson's finally won over the French. Not beating France for 43 years, you could forgive England for letting history weigh heavy on their shoulders. The Lionesses played with a determination to rewrite the history books that were stacked so firmly against them. Past failure counted for nothing.
France on the other hand, finally after barely getting through to the knock-out phase, showed their high technical ability and quality. Oliver Echouafni's charges saving their best for last. Laura Georges coming in for a suspended Wendie Renard, the French defensive line, kept and stopped England's attacking trio time and time again from building momentum and cohesive attacking play, Amandine Henry and Camille Abily providing stability and causing a whole array of problems in midfield.
Chances were always going to be limited, with a single goal likely to be the difference. Deep into the game with little to separate the two sides, it would be England who would grab their chance. And who else would it be than the player of the moment Jodie Taylor? Driving at the heart of the French half leaving Griedge M'Bock Bathy struggling to get back in position, trailing in her wake, Taylor left a dejected M'Bock Bathy, her arms flailing in the air, seeing the England forward fire past Sarah Bouhaddi and sending the French fans behind Bouhaddi's goal into abject shock.
It's what happened next that would serve to highlight why England are now favourites to win. France pilling the pressure on, Henry, Claire Lavogez and Elodie Thomis seeing one chance after another pass them by. As England put everything on the line, with Karen Bardsley injured in the frenetic defensive display, it was all hands on deck, the message to France clear: you will not breach us! Jade Moore and Fran Kirby, simply gave everything they had and some. The Lionesses despite intense pressure, found a way to win.
England on the final whistle were jubilant, in contrast to the French, utterly disconsolate as they saw the Lionesses book a place in the semi-final. To face the other form side, hosts the Netherlands, there will be no fear of the expected sell-out crowd in Enschede. England knocked out Canada at the World Cup two years ago, silencing the crowd and managing the occasion, rather than letting it run them.
Wiegman's side are beatable, and England's defence are more than capable of coping with a forward line of Van De Sanden, Spitse and Miedema. There is a sense that the Netherlands have not been truly tested, facing and winning over lacklustre Norwegian and Swedish sides is very different to playing a confident and on form England side. The Lionesses have shown they are able to counter anything that has be placed in front of them.
Sampson said of the challenge that The Netherlands pose, "it will be a huge game against the hosts.We have to find a way to compete with a big Netherlands team next, and a way to the final. We believe, but we can't just expect anything."
For England have demonstrated one vital link, missing from the German, Swedish, French and Norwegian armoury a belief not to take anything for granted, to not just to turn up and believe you have the right to automatically win. Should Sampson and England continue with that mindset. This Euro 2017 journey really could be their crowning achievement.