Soccer Football - Friendly match - Norway v New Zealand - Ulleval Stadium, Oslo, Norway - June 25, 2022?Norway's Ada Hegerberg celebrates after scoring a goal Terje Pedersen/NTB via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.NORWAY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES INNORWAY

The interest in the European Football Championship is enormous – that much is already clear, although the tournament only starts on Wednesday evening. 16 teams are fighting for the title and the field of participants is probably more balanced than ever.

Of course England are among the favorites as hosts, but Spain, Sweden and France also have good chances. The fact that it is so difficult to identify a clear candidate for the title this time is something that distinguishes this European Championship from previous major tournaments.

The mere fact that the German women, as record winners with eight titles, are not among the absolute top favourites, the reigning European champions from the Netherlands rank behind the four aforementioned teams and Denmark and Norway are only granted the status of secret favorites beforehand, speaks for itself the enormous development of many countries in women’s football in recent years and especially since the EM 2017.

This new level of balance is likely to lead to tight group duels, in which surprises may well occur which, on closer inspection of the participating countries, might not be all that surprising.

Results as clear as England’s 6-0 win over Scotland at the last European Championship are unlikely to happen again, on the one hand all teams are at a similarly high level and on the other hand supposedly smaller nations have improved tactically and technically to such an extent that they are now with can keep up with the others.

Austria proved this impressively when they took part in the European Championship for the first time in 2017 and when they sensationally reached the semi-finals. The Icelanders are one of the most exciting teams at this European Championship, and their squad, like the Austrians, is peppered with a few players from the Bundesliga.

And then there’s Denmark and Norway, who are certainly more than just secret favourites. Denmark finished second five years ago and while Norway didn’t feature at the last Euro, that is likely to change this year, largely because of one player: Ada Hegerberg.

The former world footballer long boycotted the national team in protest at unequal conditions, but made a brilliant comeback this season after a two-year injury break and is the great hope of Norwegian fans.

The German national coach, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, is also aware of the strong competition and even goes so far as to say that the level at this tournament will be tactically, technically and athletically much higher than at previous finals.

All of this speaks for a real football festival, where it’s fun to watch and at the end it’s completely open who gets to lift the European Championship trophy in Wembley.