Twenty-nine goals and several records broken in front of over 100,000 people. Let’s see how it happened in round one of the group stages!
The tournament began with 68,000 fans at Old Trafford kicking off group A! While England’s performance against Austria was not the standout of the week, the job was done with a 1-0 win following Beth Mead’s early goal. Nevertheless, it was an occasion and the atmosphere was like no other smashing the previous record for attendance at a Women’s Euros match by nearly 30,000 set previously at the Final in Germany in 2013.
Moving onto Thursday it was another historic night. Norway showed real attacking threat in their 4-1 win over tournament newbies Northern Ireland. With star Ada Hegerberg back in the Norwegian side, they looked ruthless with a stand-out performance from Caroline Graham Hansen. Northern Ireland made history when Julie Nelson became the first Northern Irish player to score at a major tournament. The side will miss Simone Magill in their remaining group games due to suffering an ACL injury in the Norway game.
Group B kicked off on Friday with a 4-1 win for Spain over Finland. The Spanish team won comfortably despite doubts after losing star striker Alexia Putellas who suffered an ACL injury just a day before the tournament began. Finland secured an early goal within a minute of play, but Spain fought back taking the lead just before half-time. They continued their attacking play into the second half tripling their lead before a penalty into stoppage time led them to the 4-1 win. Three of the four goals came from headers showcasing their aerial ability. The players dearly missed Alexia Putellas as she watched from the stands before returning to Spain for her ACL reconstruction surgery.
The second game of the night Germany vs Denmark was another spectacle to watch! Germany has not been subject to immense pressure from the outside leading up to the tournament, but their performance sent out a stark warning to competing teams. Germany had previously lost 2-1 to Denmark in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Euros and Thursday night’s 4-0 win was sweet revenge. It was an extra special night for captain Alexandra Popp who made her Euros tournament debut after being injured in every other Euros campaign despite having over 100 caps and making her debut in 2010. She polished off her night by netting their fourth goal with a diving header!
Saturday was an exciting night for Group C with all four teams gaining a point. Portugal vs Switzerland began the show. The night seemed over within five minutes for Portugal as Switzerland scored two early goals. The Portuguese side made a fantastic comeback scoring two goals within ten minutes in the second half leading to a draw for the sides. Portugal replaced Russia in the tournament and showed their quality proving why they deserve to be there.
Onto the game everybody had their eyes set on, The Netherlands vs Sweden. The game that took place in Sheffield was another record-breaker with 21,000 fans in attendance – the most ever for a non-host Euros match. Title holders The Netherlands were having a nightmare start to the game when an early clash in the box led to the goalkeeper and captain Sari Van Veenendaal coming off injured in the 22nd minute. She has now been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with a shoulder injury. Called up in her replacement was 22-year-old Daphne van Domselaar to make her major tournament debut. Despite having only one senior cap before the tournament she stepped up to the occasion! Tournament favourites Sweden went 1-0 in the first half before The Netherlands made a comeback with a late goal created by Vivianne Miedema and finished off by Jill Roord.
Group D’s campaign started last night with Belgium and Iceland battling it out first. Ending the first half 0-0, Iceland’s Berglind Thorvaldsdottir was able to redeem herself by heading a goal home after missing a penalty in the first half. Fifteen minutes later a penalty was awarded to Belgium after Elena Dhont was brought down in the box. Justine Vanhaevermaet equalized for Belgium striking straight down the middle.
Probably the biggest surprise of the week came in last night’s match-up between France and Italy. The focus on the French team was centred around off-pitch news and there were doubts about how this team would perform in this Euros tournament. They are also missing key players such as Eugenie Le Sommer and Amandine Henry. To say they made an impression last night is an understatement! 5-0 up by half-time including a hat-trick by Grace Geyoro! The front three were on fire with Italy showing no real threat. Credit to Italy in the second half who hit the ground running and were able to prevent conceding any more, expose France at the back, and even bagged a goal in the 76th minute. Although the second half showed France is not the finished product, they were able to put the dressing room turmoil behind them and perform on the big stage.
That concludes a ground-breaking week for women’s football and brings on week two which kicked off with Group A last night! Tonight, the second round of games begin for Group B with a game between Denmark and Finland at 17:00. This is followed by Spain vs Germany at 20:00 which is likely to decide which team will top group B and face England in the quarter-finals!