European Championships 2017 Preview

Situation:

To get the actual picture of the performance level from the national women’s football teams the FIFA ranking is not a bad starting point though you have to keep in mind that it is based on average results of the national teams in the past and not only the last three months or so.

As per June 2017 the participating teams are ranked in the world ranking as follows:

2. Germany 2111
3. France 2076
5. England 2024
9. Sweden 1956
11. Norway 1924
12. Netherlands 1918
13. Spain 1885
15. Denmark 1872
17. Switzerland 1858
18. Italy 1841
19. Iceland 1829
21. Scotland 1788
22. Belgium 1756
24. Austria 1746
25. Russia 1738
38. Portugal 1590

And – totally against the trend of the rapidly changing ranking at the mens side – we have tried to go back and back and back. We stopped 2011.
Only once for a very short spell after the 2013 EC in Sweden England fell back. But apart from that exactly these four (Germany, France, England and Sweden) have been the same 4 among the Top ten from the European UEFA. Only the sequence within the four changed but Germany was always on top.
So pretty much time for the others to rise? Or at least for any of the “big four” to deny Germany yet another title after incredible 6 consecutive wins?
Or is there another even bigger surprise knocking at the European football Championship’s door – like with the men’s result last year ?

We have already seen it at the Olympics last year quite in contrary to the WC 2015. Big favorites USA and France both already out at the quarters in Rio. Final winners Germany beaten (and nearly even twice) already in the group stage. The tighter margins in the still rapidly growing women’s football now have reached the top national teams as well.
Still the top 4 teams are favorites when they play the teams no5-8 from the second “pot”. But only by a small margin and at least a draw is easily possible. Especially with most top teams having special weaknesses in cracking down compact defenses.

Thus every game from the quarter finals on will be probably more of a 60/40 probability affair rather than a 80/20. To win the whole thing you might need some good luck in the right moment coming your way. And an easy route after the group stage might help as well. But under the given circumstances – unlike at the Olympics – there will be probably no easy route to the final.

So we expect only small differences in the chances for the teams and no big favorites:

Our win probabilities:

1. France 18%
2. England 15%
3. Germany 14%
4. Sweden 11%
5. Norway 10%
6. Netherlands 10%
7. Spain 9%
8. Denmark 7%
9. Switzerland 5%
10. Rest together < 1%

It might be the right time for France now to leave their old pattern behind. Starting a tournament as one of the big favorites and ending up disappointingly. England will need a decent amount of good luck to win as well. They might be even more difficult to beat than France and Germany. But much more likely to get into difficulties when they need to score against lower ranked opponents who defend well. And Germany might have one big advantage that shouldnt be underestimated. With the tournament now even longer and harder they have the roster that is by far more competition stress proved than any other and they are most likely to show the least signs of fatigue towards the end.

Sweden are the counterpart to the Netherlands and more like England with a rather strong defense who is difficult to beat for every team on the day. But they will need even more good luck going forward and beating lower ranked opponents because of their weakness in attacking play.

Norway played quite well recently against the USA and France. With Caroline Hansen / Ada Hegerberg there is a dangerous duo up front while Maren Mjelde / Nora Holstad are a very solid center back pairing. That might be one of the best combination in these four crucial positions of all teams out there. But can the rest keep the team up enough? Elise Thorsnes and Andrine Hegerberg at least have shown fine form too lately. But we are not so sure.

The Netherlands might have the best team regarding midfield and attack but it are defenses that win a tournament. They might be strong enough in the back line as long as their opponents are not pushing forward too much. But it might get costly and for them and everything depends on whether that back line will hold. Not easy to see that happening long enough.

Spain have had a hard time with their national team in recent years especially at the WC 2015. But now they are back having won the Algarve Cup for example for the first time against Canada earlier this year and other fine results. Their league has improved a lot and Spains women’s football might be the one with the fastest development in Europe at the moment.Β So they are difficult to estimate and some can see them as potential surprise. They might be technically the best team out there and able to combine through a tight defense. But there is still a slight disadvantage in athleticism and experience at the very top level.

Switzerland do also have a good team on paper. But they havent yet found a very useful way to connect to each other. They would need a lot to improve to go deep in the tournament though their individuals would be good enough as well.

Like the Spanish the Danish teams put up slightly surprising good performances in the Champions League. Broendby IF even ousting Real Sociadad Bilbao from Spain. And they have Pernille Harder up front who will be the key player for them. How much has she profited from the training in Wolfsburg and the first 6 months in the Bundesliga? And will the rest of the team be able to be of sufficient support?

More previews to follow

 

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