Euro 2022: The Record-Breaking Group Stages
Euro 2022 has already been a historic event, even with the tournament still in its infancy following the culmination of the group stages last night. The first stage of the tournament has shattered records, most notably becoming the highest attended European Championships to date, with 15 games still to be played. The opening game between England and Austria broke the record for highest attendance with a whopping 68,871, whilst the 21,342 who took in the Netherlands and Sweden’s 1-1 draw set a record attendance for a tournament game without the host nation.
A Beth Mead goal got the hosts off to a winning start at Old Trafford, with their thumping 8-0 victory over Norway making England one of the tournament’s favourites. Mead was again the hero with a hattrick as England became the first side in European Championships history to score over 6 goals and achieved the biggest ever margin of victory at the tournament too. A stunning 6-goal first half had Sarina Wiegman’s side show a ruthless side that had been shown in the friendlies leading to the competition, with England becoming the first side to reach the knockout stages. A 5-0 victory against Northern Ireland sees the Lionesses progress with a 100% record and as the tournament’s top scorers with 14 goals.
Norway were unable to bounce back in their crucial winner takes all match against Austria, with the Grasshoppers exiting in the group stages following a 1-0 defeat. A Nicole Billa strike puts Austria into the quarter-finals in only their second European Championships, with a tough task against Germany awaiting them. Northern Ireland were unable to make much of a dent in their first ever appearance at the tournament, but Julie Nelson comes away with a very special moment as the first Northern Irish woman to score at a major tournament.
Spain and the tournament as a whole suffered massively as days before the Group B opener, it was reported that star player Alexia Putellas had suffered an injury that will keep her out for over a year. Spain would now be missing current Ballon D’Or holder Putellas as well as all-time top scorer Jennifer Hermoso due to injury, denting their chances of winning the tournament. Spain felt the absence of their two stars as they were defeated 2-0 by Germany who set down a marker as potential winners themselves. Spain saw themselves through with a narrow victory over Denmark to set up a tie with England in the quarter-finals. Jorge Vilda’s side haven’t made up for the loss of their taliswomen and will need to find an answer fast as they face England on Wednesday evening.
Germany join England as the only two sides with a 100% record in the tournament as well as not conceding a goal, with comfortable victories over Nordic duo Denmark (4-0) and Finland (3-0). Wolfsburg forward Alexandra Popp has scored in each of Germany’s three games with her chasing the aforementioned Mead in the race for the Golden Boot. The Germans are the tournament’s most successful side, winning 8 of the last 10 competitions and have firmly placed themselves in contention this year yet again. Their victory over Spain showed their efficiency both at the back and going forward, and with a quarter-final tie against Austria, they will be expected to make the semi-finals at least.
Group C saw the highest ranked side Sweden (2nd in FIFA rankings) progress as expected alongside world number 4 the Netherlands, with the pair unable to be separated in an evenly contested 1-1 draw. The two favourites from the group didn’t have it entirely easy, with Portugal almost giving the Netherlands a scare whilst Sweden left it late to beat Switzerland. The Netherlands are yet to hit their full potential, with a 10-minute spell against Switzerland showing the quality they do possess. 3 goals in the final ten minutes made a tight game appear like a hammering as the Oranje came out as 4-1 winners, with Sweden sending out a statement with a 5-0 battering of Portugal. Both sides will be hoping that there is more to come from them and will have a little pressure off their backs with other nations now being the tournament’s favourites.
Despite plenty of controversy off-field prior to the tournament, France had a very professional showing in the group stages going through Group D as winners. A five-goal first-half showing against Italy had Les Bleues ease into the tournament with a 5-1 victory, with Paris Saint Germain’s Grace Geyoro becoming the first woman to score a first-half hat-trick in the competition. A 2-1 victory over Belgium seems tight but France could have easily taken more off the Red Flames on another day. 7 changes were made for their 1-1 draw with Iceland as Corinne Diacre looked to keep her side fresh ahead of the quarter-finals, having already guaranteed their qualification. France will square off against the Netherlands in what looks like the tie of the quarter-finals, with both teams seeming evenly matched and probably both still yet to reach their best form.
Joining France through in perhaps the only shock of the tournament so far is Belgium, who saw off Italy through a Tinne De Caigny strike. Belgium advanced ahead of Italy and Iceland who sit above them in the world rankings, as Iceland headed out despite being undefeated. 3 1-1 draws weren’t enough for Iceland to pip ahead of Belgium with De Caigny’s goal being the most important of the group stages.
The tournament has already been a fantastic spectacle for the women’s game with records being smashed all over. With some cracking knockout affairs to come, this shall only continue as the race for European glory goes on. The quarter-finals will kick off on Wednesday the 20th with England versus Spain, with the following three ties taking place on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd, all available on the BBC.