After the draw for the 2022 European Football Championship, there was talk of a hammer group in which progress for Germany was anything but a matter of course. Denmark and Spain in particular have world-class players in their ranks, but Finland shouldn’t be underestimated either.
In the first game of Group B on Friday evening (9 p.m., live on ZDF), Germany will meet a nation that the German players will probably not have fond memories of. At the European Championships five years ago, Denmark ended Germany’s 22-year streak of success at European Championships in the quarter-finals and narrowly missed out on the title itself in the final.
The Danes are particularly well positioned on the defensive. At Euro 2017, they only conceded one goal in regular time up until the final. Pernille Harder from Chelsea will play a central role in attack. The former Wolfsburg player has twice won Europe’s Footballer of the Year and after being injured many times this year, she recovered in time.
Another factor in the game forward could be the highly gifted Nadia Nadim. Off the field, however, the 32-year-old caused unrest within the team, especially among her queer teammates, due to her role as ambassador for the men’s World Cup in Qatar later that year.
The team of head coach Lars Söndergaard, who has been in office since 2017, varies between a three-man and five-man chain, which you will rarely see at this European Championship. The full-backs push very high, which means that Sofie Svava from Real Madrid in particular could play an important role. Similar to Germany, the squad is a mixture of different types of players that have to be reconciled. Should Söndergaard succeed, Denmark should be more than just a secret favourite.
So the first game is already a real challenge and even a draw might not be enough considering the second group opponents Spain. The Spanish national team is considered one of the favourites, even though they didn’t really play a role in women’s football until 2013, when they qualified for a European Championship for the first time. That could also have been due to the then coach Ignacio Quereda, who is said to have blocked the development a little. The players finally turned against him in an open letter in 2015, and since then Jorge Vilda has been the national coach.
In terms of football, Spain is one of the top favorites for the title, mainly due to FC Barcelona and its development in recent years. “La Selección” has to do without world footballer Alexia Putellas for the short term, whose loss is difficult to compensate for.
But even without her, the squad consists to a large extent of excellent players such as central defender Mapi León or Aitana Bonmatí in central midfield in Barcelona and Ona Batlle from Manchester United. Doubts about Spain’s dominance could only be raised by looking at their record of knockout games, as they haven’t won a single one so far.
Germany meets Finland in the third group game. An outsider who has the potential to become a stumbling block. The Finnish team lives less from individual class than from a cohesive team performance. Coach Anna Segneul is considered very tactical and can draw on an experienced squad led by captain Emmi Alanen.
Finland is known for aggressive and run-intensive pressing. Goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela will play a key role because of the tough opponents.