After the unmitigated disaster of our predictions for the UWCL, our writers have put on their thinking caps once more to make some bold predictions and share their opinions ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
Starting off with something easy, who’s your favourite to go on and win the tournament?
Chloe Leadbeater: England. Technically the best in Europe at the World Cup. Things have been building from there and recent showings in friendlies have really backed up the fact that they are ones to be feared. The Lionesses are no strangers to the Euro final. They have the talent, the belief and the togetherness. Also, prep for the Euros has been going well with key players coming back from injury at just the right time. If anyone is to take Germany's crown, it's England. Going to stick my neck out here and predict it. 1-0 with a goal by Fran Kirby.
Matt Dawson: I'd have to go with either the holders Germany, or France. A few have come and gone from the 2013 triumph but they're still one of the best teams in the world, and after all, it is Germany. The men have already won the European U21 Championships and reached the final of the Confederations Cup so it would seem fitting of this summer's football if the German's were to win the Women's Euros. France will also be right up there, and the majority of their players reached the UWCL final so will be full of confidence. Of course, France seem to be the perennial bottlers though, so we'll have to see.
Rosie Filby: Germany - being the nation with the most titles puts them in a position of confidence. I think their fire power and depth in their squad will be unmatched throughout the tournament
Sophie Lawson: France - there seem to be a number of teams coming into the tournament, usual heavyweights that are missing key players or just don’t look like their usual selves so it will end up being a more open tournament. However, simply because of the sheer quality of football they routinely produce, it’s got to be France, if they can final get over the mental barrier that stops them from scoring when it matters at tournaments no one will be able to get near.
Tim Oliver: Norway. I think Ada Hegerberg will turn out to be the player of the tournament, and she could win them games single-handedly. It's like in the World Cup when it was Carli Lloyd that basically won it for the USA.
Who’s the potential dark horse that could surprise everyone?
CL: Scotland. With key players out injured, I don't think many would think they will make it out the group. However, I think they will. With what happened between them and Spain in qualification for Euro 2013, they will be out for revenge. They might face a tough quarter final though possibly against France though so we shall see.
KM: It must be a debutant because there are 16 teams in the competition now. With the 2017 Cyprus Cup under their belt and an interesting group, I’m going to go with Switzerland.
KK: Norway, the team has undergone several changes and it's very much a new look Norway that goes into the competition. Martin Sjögren is a fantastic coach who has what it take to get the best out of this talented bunch. He has only been in charge for a short amount of time, and it remains to be seen if he has had enough time to work with and Norway has a tendency to always be there when it counts, and I expect that to be true for this tournament as well.
MD: This is a tough one actually, I think there are a few teams in there that could throw up a surprise. You never know how England are going to do in a major tournament but if they were to go all the way and win it I think it would be somewhat of a surprise. In my opinion, the hosts Holland will be the real dark horse though. Their squad has a lot of talented players, no less than in attack where Shanice van de Sanden, Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Martens could all star in front of their home crowd.
RF: Spain - Despite missing some key players due to not being selected, the Spanish squad still holds great depth with world-class players. I predict they'll reach the semi's and surprise a few people.
SL: It’s got to be Norway, even considering they have made it to SIX Euro finals, their recent troubles have been there for all to see, even with the stars they have in their side recent managers have failed to get the best from the team. But with a strong team ethic and new coach with a clear vision the Norway team looks to be back on track to find their best, and what better place to announce your rebirth than at a major tournament.
TO: I think either Belgium, or Scotland could possibly go further than people expect. Don't think either will win the tournament, but getting to the quarters for both would be a huge success.
This one is always a treat, who’s going to fail to live up to expectations and make an early exit?
CL: I hate to say this but Netherlands. They are the host country but they are in a tough group. Rivals Belgium (who did really well against England in qualifying), Norway and Denmark. It will be a very close group and despite some amazing players that they have, I feel like they will just miss out.
KM: Considering expectations, Germany obviously are going to be under the microscope. They’ve held the tournament for over two decades and for good reason, I don’t think they will make an early exit. England are a team that thrived in the World Cup because of a lack of expectation, now suddenly they walk into the Euros as one of the favourites to win. Combine this with the unconventional timing of the squad announcement of the squad and I think there is a real threat that England will not deal with the newly added pressure
KK: England. Bear with me here, I do not think they’re set for a group stage exit like in 2013, but many are considering them as one of Germany’s top contenders, and I think they will find it hard to live up to that tag. They’re certainly efficient, but their play has left a lot to be desired.
MD: I think Spain have the potential to go reasonably far in the tournament, but I think they could also be the team that fails to live up to expectations. Scotland are a side that could surprise a few and in that group with England and Spain it could be a tough one to get out of. Spain haven't picked two of their major players in Veronica Boquete and Sonia Bermudez, and the fact they have a pretty young squad could mean they make an early exit from the tournament.
RF: Netherlands - I believe the pressure on the hosts to perform will restrict them to live up to expectations.
SL: Sweden, off of the back of a storming summer last year that saw them claim their first ever Olympic medals they simply haven’t looked anywhere near as good since. Arguably losing Sofia Jakobsson has been a blow but there’s more than enough attacking talent in Sweden to make up for her absence, but where they were so defensively solid last year they’ve looked fragile this year. Unless they switch to “tournament mode” as soon as they get to Holland they could be looking at a Summer that goes more like 2015 than 2016.
I also think Germany could be the shock slip-up that people don’t see coming, the team has lost countless “big” players over the last four years and failed to replace them with footballers of a similar stature, couple that will how shaky they’ve looked since Steffi Jones took over and it looks like a recipe for disaster. From an outsider’s POV the team lacks a clear identity and reliance on out-of-form players could be the nail in the coffin for Die Nationalelf. However, they’re also Germany who aren’t just serial winners but have absolutely and categorically dominated the Euros (a shoot-out loss to the hosts in Rimini in 1993 their only blip) and if they show up in a way most expect them to this predicition is going to look very silly indeed.
TO: With my completely biased Scottish hat on, England or Spain - because Scotland will go through. Not being biased at all.
The home-nation derby, which Britannia will reign supreme?
CL: Whilst I think it will be quite close, I see England just edging it. I don't think it will be a walkover for the Lionesses especially looking at previous matches. Scotland will put up a good fight but the Lionesses can grind out a win just when it's needed.
KM: On paper, everything points towards an English victory. However, football is not a logical game. Scotland have a talented squad and they are opening their first ever major tournament with a derby! That could be a recipe for an upset.…but I still think England will win.
KK: England: I think it might closer than most people think between England and Scotland, despite the latter missing key players. I do, however, think England will edge it.
MD: This will easily be one of the games of the tournament, but I'm going for England to edge it. There will obviously be more pressure on Mark Sampson's side in this game, and although I think Scotland will surprise some people at this tournament England should be able to overcome their neighbours. A good number of players in the Scotland side play for WSL teams, so they'll know the English side well. For that reason, and for the fact it's a home nation derby, it will clearly be a close game.
RF: England - With the Scots' squad damaged due to injuries, I believe they won't be able to compete with England's side.
SL: Neither. Yes, this Scotland side has been stung with the loss of three key players, but put together they’re a stronger side than many in England might expect, it will be close but I’m already feeling a late, late equaliser to leave the group on a knife-edge.
TO: Scotland of course! I think it will depend on Scotland's best defence playing, and everyone being defensively organised. But, due to the pressure England have, a bit of magic from Caroline Weir, Erin Cuthbert or Jane Ross could produce a shock. Also, not only is this Scotland's first tournament, but Anna Signeul's last. The players will want to go out with a bang for her.
Of course, not to leave everyone else out of it, with three other “derbies” across Groups A and D, who’s going to come away with the bragging rights and three bit points?
CL: Holland vs Belgium is an interesting derby but Belgium to win. Spain vs Portugal it's great that Portugal made it but I can't see past a Spain win. Norway vs Denmark, quite a tough one but Norway to edge it, they have the Hegerbergs! Need I say more?
KM: My money is on the hosts, the Norwegians and the Spanish.
RF: Netherlands, Norway, Spain - I believe all three sides are stronger compared to their neighbours
SL: Belgium managed a cheeky win over Holland when they met last year in Leuven but the Dutch dominated that game and it’s hard to see past a win for the hosts, especially with the stadium in Tilburg rocking. Although it’s not the Scandinavian derby, it ticks enough of a box to qualify it as one and it promises a solid 90 minutes of top notch football and I think the Danes might have a surprise in store for Norway. Routinely better away from home and with pride on the line, this is going to be the game that showcases Portugal’s best football however, the team is considerably far behind Spain in terms of squad strength and development and it’s hard to see a win for Francisco Neto’s team in Doetinchem.
TO: Belgium v Netherlands; it's the final game in the group so it will be tense, but I think the Dutch will win 1-0. Norway v Denmark; an Ada special Norway win. Have to say Spain will beat Portugal, although for Scotland a draw would be the best scenario.
Who’s going to be the break-out star and use the tournament to announce themselves on the international stage?
CL: I have two players as break out stars, firstly, Millie Bright. What a year she's had! She's such a key part of the Chelsea squad and has really hit the ground running with the Lionesses. Secondly, Erin Cuthbert. Yes, another Chelsea player. To be honest, I didn't really know much about her before she came to Chelsea but she has been phenomenal and has rightly been rewarded with the call up. If Scotland get through, she will have played a huge part in that.
KM: I think that with France’s chances of winning the Euros, Grace Geyoro will perform on this platform. Geyoro is a consistent and reliable midfielder and was a huge part of France’s successful U-20 Women’s World Cup campaign. Having already earned Olivier Echouafni’s attention and starting twice in the SheBelieves Cup, there will be some playing time available to Geyoro and I think she'll show what she can do with it, because that's what consistent players do.
KK: Simone Boye, the Danish centerback missed out on Euro 2013 due to injury, but has since just gone from strength to strength. She has many of the qualitites you want in a modern day defender, and Denmark's three back system first her perfectly and recently secured a move to FC Rosengård, I think this will be the tournament were everyone sees why people who follow Danish football keeps raving about her.
MD: Very difficult one this, and I'm not entirely sure. England were good for that at the last World Cup, but I don't think any of their younger players will have the chance to truly announce themselves at this tournament. I'd love to see someone like Caroline Weir do well, who after a very good last 12 months or so in the WSL will be looking to take her club form into the international stage. However, whether or not the Scots can go far enough for anyone to announce themselves will be another matter.
RF: Mimmi Larsson - Although unlikely to feature in many of Pia Sundhage's starting 11's, I believe substitute appearances will demonstrate her capabilities that has been seen this season at Eskilstuna. Her youthful style of play is something that could catch the eye of many people, given she gets enough playing time.
SL: Given the way women’s football is with sparse coverage, there are plenty of players who are very well-known at home but are completely nameless overseas, with those who follow their respective leagues people already know Jill Roord, Stine Larsen, Guro Reiten, Lina Magull and Eve Périsset (and many many more) but if you’re not following those leagues… With younger players they’re not guaranteed a start and in weaker teams an early exit could easy see them fail to really have an impact on the pitch.
Roord has been on the fringes of the Dutch squad for some time now and is coming into a team bursting with attacking talent, having just secured a move to Bayern Munich her star is on the rise but at home, given the playing time, the 20-year-old could light the pitches in Holland up. Larsen is another coming into a team with other players in front of her for a starting spot but really into her groove for Denmark this year she’s consistently offered the red and whites something when she’s played.
Leading the Toppserien for goals so far this season, Reiten looks like she can do no wrong this year, scoring for fun in a dominant LSK side, able to score from almost anywhere in the attacking third and will some superb dead ball delivery she’s sure to catch the eye if she gets the chance. Another on the back of a strong season, Magull is one of the few in-from players in the Germany team, again with more experienced players in front of her – the Freiburg star with just ten caps for the seniors – the midfielder could struggle for pitch time but if she can replicate her club form she’ll be one to watch. French full-back Périsset should already be well known to fans, having played for Lyon before making the switch to PSG as well as having played the first 90 minutes of this year’s Champion League final. With Laure Boulleau having missed out on the squad through injury, Périsset could be the next eye-catching, marauding full-back for France.
TO: Erin Cuthbert. I cannot speak highly enough of her. Whilst she is not as good as Kim Little, her presence will mean Scotland will be able to cope. Fiona Brown will also impress. Maybe with a winner against England.
Although impractical to play in, everyone loves a golden boot, so who’s going to be the top goalscorer?
CL: No surprise but I have to go with Fran Kirby (and she will score eight over the tournament), she's almost like a new player after coming back from injury. Six goals in five games for Chelsea and a key player in their Spring Series win. She also scored in her England return. You almost know she will score every time she's on the pitch but she can also assist too. Having her could really be the difference between winning the Euros and not. That's how important she is.
Ada Hegerberg. Seven against Belgium (don’t include that). I'm thinking Eugénie Le Sommer because the initial group presents some goal scoring opportunities for a team of France's stature and I expect France to be in the final, i.e. more goal scoring opportunities.
KK: Eugénie Le Sommer, the French are notorious for their inability to put the ball in the net, but Le Sommer comes of one of her best goal scoring seasons with Lyon. If France are to finally claim that elusive title, Le Sommer will have to be on form, and I think she will be.
MD: Of course Norway's Ada Hegerberg will be right up there, and after finishing as runner's up in 2013, the Norwegian's will be hoping they can go one better with arguably the best player in the world in their side. Players like Anja Mittag and Eugénie Le Sommer should also be among the goals, whilst if Holland have a good tournament then Miedema, who I mentioned before, could be in with a chance of winning the golden boot.
RF: Anja Mittag, she’s been known on the international stage for years; I believe her eye for goal will be unstoppable for many teams.
SL: Mandy Islacker, with a glut over the last few seasons the Frankfurt woman knows exactly where the goal is and has the full range of strikes in her locker from worldies from outside of the box, to poached goals two yards out and a good feel for a volley. For me, she should be the starting striker for Germany, the current holders gifted a dream group that should see them score heavily much to the consternation of their opposition.
TO: Golden Boot. Ada Hegerberg. Simple.
With 24 known match ups, which will be the pick of the group games?
CL: With Group A, it has to be Netherlands vs Belgium; the hosts vs their neighbours. With Group B, Germany vs Sweden - Germany beat them at the Olympics but remember that Sweden knocked out the USA to get there. With Group C, I would go for France vs Iceland, Iceland have decent players in their squad and shouldn't be underestimated. Finally, Group D. England vs Scotland. A feisty affair, plenty of goals but a close result.
KM: France v Iceland. I sense some attractive football in this fixture.
KK: Denmark versus Norway. As a Dane I love a Scandinavian match-up, and while the play might not always be pretty when the three Scandinavian sides meet, it’s always intense.
RF: Germany vs Sweden - the two European powerhouses will be an interesting matchup which sees some of the best players in the world play each other.
SL: It’s such an obvious answer but England versus Scotland, it’s a derby that’s alive and well, given the nature of the group and the abilities of both teams it really could be the one to watch.
TO: Pick of the group games (Scotland hat on) has to be Spain v Scotland. Scotland will be looking for revenge for the heart-breaking 2013 Euro Play-off defeat. And the game has a habit for late goals (sadly Spanish ones).
Finally, looking at hosts Holland, how will the Dutch team handle the pressure?
CL: I think they will feel the pressure a bit but also the home crowd might help a bit. Whatever happens and however far they get, it will be a great tournament, I still think they will just miss out on the knockouts but they could surprise me.
KM: They sold out their matches before the squad had even been announced, if the pressure of hosting a tournament was not enough. But I think that this support, and the right foot of Vivianne Miedema, could be enough to see them through the group stage since they have one of the more open groups in the tournament.
KK: I feel like there’s a lot of uncertainty around this Dutch side. They’ve lost great players in Renee Slegers, Manon Melis and Kirsten van de Ven, but they also have plenty of talent at their disposal. They’re not in an easy group, and it will be tough for them to advance.
RF: Quarter-finals - Despite being on home soil I think the Dutch will only reach the quarters. If they go through to the quarters they'll most likely play either Germany or Sweden - I think both sides are too strong for them.
SL: The draw hasn’t been kind to Holland, all three matches will be tough for them, even the ones they’re expected to win, the bigger issue however remains the pressure that comes from hosting. France 2016, Rio 2016, Canada 2015, Brazil 2014, whether women’s or men’s football the host nation routinely struggle to find their best form with all eyes on them couple that with losing players like Manon Melis and Kirsten van de Ven to retirement and it’s a tough ask. However with a solid first outing at a Euro finals in 2009 and a well balance squad that boasts experience and many players who are used to competitive leagues this is a team that should flourish if the home pressure doesn’t tell.
TO: Netherlands will get to the quarters at best. They've got a hard group to get out of, and even if they do, they will probably play either Germany or Sweden.