2016 Olympic qualifiers Europe

 

Update 2016/3/2:
And Michel instead of Thalmann might be an even bigger disadvantage for the Swiss.

Update 2016/3/2:
Martens out for the Netherlands is a big disadvantage.

 

That is going to be a very interesting tournament for third spot in Rio. Participating in Rio could probably mean a lot for those players (and there are only a few exceptions involved here) who do not earn a lot of money with playing football.

View back:

They are all here because they reached the same round in the WWC in Canada last year: The round of 16. The first k.o.stage match.

But with quite different backgrounds. Let us see what happened there. It is only half a year since then and the best possible way to start any thoughts about what to expect from there:

Sweden: Lost 1:4 to Germany and did not reach the expected level during the whole tournament without any win.
Switzerland: Lost 0:1 to hosts Canada in a tight encounter that could have gone either side. As WC newcomers the round of 16 was no disappointment.
Netherlands: Lost 1:2 to Japan
Norway: Lost 1:2 to England after having been up 1:0 and being in control in the last 20 minutes.

What has changed since then?

Sweden, Switzerland have changed the least.
Netherlands have changed the manager.
Norway have changed the manager and have got a key player back from injury in Hansen.

Given that Norway looked the best already in Canada and got one of – if not the best player back in Hansen they are clear favourites if the others can not find a way to up their level compared to the performances in Canada – or Norway drop theirs.

Expectations:

Expected levels:
Norway: No reason to expect their level to be dropping. Results have been ok in the meantime. Might start a little bit rosty because some players are playing in Norway and thus are coming from a long season break.
Switzerland: Despite their coach Voss-Tecklenburg working hard to improve they are yet to find a way to find the duo Dickenmann/Bachmann click together. Speedy newcomer Terchoun might add to the squad but has still a lot to learn to make the most of her talents.
Netherlands: Have beaten France and Japan in the meantime which certainly gave them an additional boost in confidence. Playing at home seems to be not much of an advantage yet in womans football.
Sweden: Have certainly much more potential than they showed in Canada. And not all players seemed to play their usual level in Canada. So their performance is the most speculative. Can they regain their former level of play?
Sweden and Switzerland have older key players. A plus for Norway and the Netherlands that their younger key players are still improving

Summary:

Probability to win:

1. Norway: 40%
2. Netherlands: 25%
3. Sweden: 20%
4. Switzerland: 15%

These are close numbers. There is no country with only a 10% chance! And the magins between all 4 of them are so small – a little bit of luck in the right moment might be decisive.

Keys to success:

Norway:
With key players Hegerberg and Hansen up front they have to make sure the defense is kept tight, and the support to launch these two is sufficient. There are other good forwards as well but maybe it is a waste of efficiency. Neither of their opponents are having outstanding defenders to completely hold them up. All countries top players are midfielders or forwards. Swedens Fischer has not yet regained her best level since Canada and the only other outstanding defender of the tournament, Rubensson – also from Sweden – is not too experienced.

Switzerland:
Key players are Dickenmann and Bachmann and despite Switzerland have developed a decent level of team play the performance of these two Wolfsburg players will still be very decisive. Dickenmann has just proofed with Wolfsburg that she actually is more comfortable in a defender role as it was the case with Lyon. Other facts are revealed in the club too. Bachmann is a "with-the-ball-runner" If there is space – very good. But if the opponents can manage to stand tight and leave no room she soon becomes very average. A reason why Switzerland have been weak when they have to come from behind. Which in turn makes them least favorites. It might be an advantage that with most players from the bundesliga they are already in regular season mode.

Netherlands:
Have a big four front with Miedema, Melis, Martens, van de Donk. The question mark is the defense including the build up play by the holding midfielders. That forces the four to work hard as well in defense. If they are forced backwards too much they might miss a little bit of power after the long way they have to make coming from deep until being up front. Not at the beginning but with 3 games in a short time they might feel that sooner or later especially also with only Miedema already started her season.  

Sweden:
Are having the most experienced team of the group. That might be a big advantage but they have to make sure that this is not levelled up by the opponents playing with more desire. Also it can often be a sign of unresolved problems within the group and the coach to have players like Asllani kicked out. Apart from that and despite Schough had shown good form as replacement (was she injured there?) after the WWC it certainly weakens their offensive alternatives.
 

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