Here we go, the 2022 European Women’s Championship is about to reach its climax and you can’t help but be excited about what you are about to watch.
It’s not often that the top four teams – in this case, England, Sweden, Germany and France – advance together into the round of four in a major tournament. You often have surprises, disappointments, overachievers, miserable, etc. Not this time. This time around, we have what we’ve all been waiting for since the tournament draw: The four winners of the group face each other in a semi-final dream pair that will lead to the marquee final, no matter who makes it to Wembley on July 31.
But let’s not get carried away too much. Let’s first enjoy two main courses before eating dessert: England v Sweden on Tuesday (Live broadcast 3PM ET on ESPN2, ESPN+(France vs Germany Wednesday)Live broadcast 3PM ET on ESPN2, ESPN+). The best four teams in Europe and the best four teams in this tournament, without a doubt.
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Imagine a Wimbledon semi-final with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at their best. Imagine the last NCCA March Madness Final with the top four seed Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke and Villanova. Imagine two laps to go at the Formula 1 Grand Prix with Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso all still racing for the checkered flag. That’s what we’re talking about here. Excellence in football, the game at its best, with the biggest prize of the season at stake.
And all the novels are perfect, too. Drama, excitement and storylines are here for us to enjoy. England are finally close at home to their first major victory since the 1966 Men’s World Cup. Sweden, the best losing team of the 21st century, have always been in the last four but have never won. Germany, the eight-time winner of this tournament, is trying to get back to winning ways with some old heads and a talented new generation. And France, and finally broke the curse of the last eight. It’s hard to guess it’s full of quality. Exciting to look forward to.
The fact that England are there with the best group of players and the best coach they have ever had as well as incredible support at home means that anything short of reaching this stage could have been a failure. Now, this is their biggest test in a very long time because they are in a position where they can, and should, beat Sweden.
The Scandinavians want Euro 2022 finally to be when they go home bearing the trophy next, only to name recent setbacks, having lost back-to-back finals in their last two Olympics and World Cup semi-finals in 2019. Peter Gerhardsson did. He did a great job since he took over as coach in 2017; Now he just needs that last batch.
For Germany, it is, after all, a return to the big time. Since taking Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, they have failed in 2017 and 2019. Now is their chance, with a stunning front three from Alexandra Pope, Clara Paul and Svenia Huth.
Then there is France. After five consecutive tournaments where their campaign ended in the quarter-finals, they finally took the next step. Now they will have freedom for the talents of Delphine Cassarino and Kadediato Diani at the front to cancel the handbrake, relying on the expertise of Wendy Renard and Pauline Perrod-Maghen at the back.
These four countries have given us the best stories about the tournament so far. There is compensation for 31-year-old German striker Bob, who participated in her first Euro after missing the last two due to injury, and who had not scored for her country for 972 days prior to this tournament. There is a miracle for England striker Fran Kirby, who has long been unsure if she will ever be able to walk again, let alone play football, after suffering from pericarditis and then extreme fatigue. There was grief for France goalkeeper Pierod Magnin, who lost an ex-girlfriend who was still very close to her before the tournament kicked off. And there was the persistence of Caroline Seeger, 37, Sweden’s captain and most experienced player, who missed a penalty that could have won Olympic gold for her country in Tokyo and is still here at this Euros, which was probably her last.
These four teams and these two games offer everything we need and everything we want. There will be talent, entertainment, experience, scenery, speed, fun, passion. There will be goals, there will be tension, there will be drama. We can guarantee that it will not be boring or boring because all four teams love to play and attack.
It’s the perfect squad at the perfect time, in a football house full of stadiums and a great atmosphere. We only have a few days to wait.