As the group stages go into their final games it’s time to take a look at some of the action since Italy’s early exit after defeat to Germany on Friday.
Since then there have been six games played in total with Group A the only group to have completed all of it’s fixtures. The Netherlands reached the last eight of the Women’s Euro 2017 with a 2-1 victory over Belgium with Denmark joining them after their 1-0 defeat of Norway.
The Netherlands had been very impressive so far in their first two games of the group stage and they didn’t really disappoint with their final game either. Confident of qualifying for the quarter finals, the Dutch went about their business in a professional manner. Sherida Spitse’s second penalty in the group stage gave the Netherlands the lead in the 27th minute. Shortly in the second half Belgium’s Tess Wullaert levelled from long range in bizarre fashion to give them an outside chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. They would need to score again though if they really wanted to solidify those chances but Barcelona winger Lieke Martens’ deflected shot 15 minutes from time ensured that the hosts would top Group A with a 100% record.
Katrine Veje opened the scoring for Denmark after just five minutes with a well struck effort on her left foot sailing into the back of the net. Two-time winners Norway had a great chance to equalise from the penalty spot after Ada Hegerberg was fouled by Sanne Troelsgaard but Caroline Hansen missed the spot kick. Norway’s frustrations continued as they hit the woodwork twice in quick succession and had a goal ruled out for offside during the build up. Norway, one of the pre-tournament favourites return home after a huge disappointing campaign.
In Group D England continued to impress as they showed immense determination, work rate and adaptability as they beat a possession hungry Spain 2-0. The Lionesses showed patience and discipline with Spain holding 74% of the possession throughout the game but they lacked any real bite in the final third. Mark Sampson’s defensive game plan and execution by his players proved vital as the likes of Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor were given licence to thrill going forward. England broke the deadlock early on as Frank Kirby found herself through on goal after just two minutes and slotted home without second thought. Spain rarely troubled England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley but hearts were in mouths as the referee awarded Spain a penalty in the 74th minute after Ellen White tried to clear the ball while off balance and moving the ball onto her flailing arm. Bizarrely, the referee then reversed the decision, much to Spanish dismay as England then went on to win the game late on with Jodie Taylor latching onto Jordan Nobbs’ flick to make it 2-0 with five minutes left to play.
Scotland were keen to restore their pride against Portugal but they just weren’t good enough as they went down 2-1. Vaila Barsley failed to clear a cross from the Portguese left as Carolina Mendes thought Christmas had come early. She controlled it well and placed it into the back of the net in the 27th minute. Portugal were comfortable on the ball and were rarely troubled by Scotland in the final third. However, substitute Erin Cuthbert showed real fight and determination in the second half as she held onto the ball and committed to a lovely one-two passing combination with Caroline Weir before finishing the move off with a fabulous strike into the bottom right corner of the goal. At 1-1 Scotland were hopeful of getting something from the game but they were caught on the break as a neatly flicked header found it’s way to Ana Leite who exposed Barsley’s lack of pace and placed it confidently into the back of the Scottish net in the just four minutes later. Scotland still have an outside chance of qualifying for the knockout stages but it’d be a surprise to see anyone other than Spain or Portugal joining England in the quarter finals.
Group C remains wide open for qualification to the knockout stages. France were impressive with possession but failed to carve out any real opportunities to score. They started brightly with Marie-Laure Delie linking up well with Gaetine Thiney as their one-two passing combination yielded a golden opportunity to score but Austrian goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger was equal to it. A poor kick from French goalkeeper Sara Bouhaddi nearly allowed Laura Feiersinger to score but Boudhaddi recovered well and saved the attempt well. The deadlock was broken in the 27th minute as Lisa Makas capitalised on some poor French defending and smashed the ball home to give Austria the lead at half time. It didn’t take France long to equalise as Amadine Henry’s bullet header 15 minutes into the second half levelled the scores. The result did nothing to help either team take control of the group as Switzerland beat Iceland 2-1 in Doetinchem.
Iceland’s Fanndís Fridriksdóttir found herself through on goal in the 32nd minute and was clinical with her finish as Iceland looked to get their first points of the tournament. Their wait continues though as Laura Dickenmann equalised 10 minutes later as she guided the ball into the back of the net unmarked and leaving the Icelandic defence in disarray. Ramona Bachmann found herself with some space in the 52nd minute to head home the winning goal after receiving an exquisite cross from Noelle Maritz on the left hand side.
The games continue to be exciting as teams are scoring plenty of goals in a flurry of attacking football here in the Netherlands. Norway and Iceland have now joined Italy on the early plane ride home as the Netherlands and Denmark book their places in the quarter final. As Group B comes to a close tonight with Germany, Sweden and Russia are all capable of qualifying with the Netherlands waiting to play the runner up and Denmark waiting to play the winner of Group B.