Germany dominated Russia in Group C but failed to score from open play thanks to a combination of poor finishing and stunning goalkeeping by Tatyana Shcherbak. However, it was a combination of an odd decision by Shcherbak to punch a German cross clear, albeit poorly, while Daria Makarenko flung Mandy Islacker to the floor in a moment of sheer madness. Babett Peter stepped up to squeeze the ball past Shcherbak and put Germany ahead after nine minutes. Germany’s captain and arguably player of the tournament so far Dzsenifer Marozsán whipped in a beautiful cross from a corner for Peter to head towards goal as she forced a magnificent save from Shcherbak who managed to tip the ball onto the bar and out of danger. Germany continued to be wasteful in front of goal with Islacker and Sara Däbritz guilty of missing golden opportunities time and time again. In the 55th minute Germany extended their lead thanks to a Dzsenifer Marozsán penalty that went in off the post. Margarita Chernomyrdina will undoubtedly be annoyed with herself after pulling Däbritz by the shirt which brought her to the floor and conceding the penalty early in the second half. Russia can be proud of their performance in the Women’s Euro 17 tournament but Germany will remain concerned at their lack of killer instinct as they struggled to score a host of chances throughout the game. They will undoubtedly be given as many clear cut opportunities in the latter stages of the tournament.
Italy have already been eliminated from the tournament and you could tell that the pressure had been lifted from their shoulders. They attacked Sweden early on with Alia Guagni bursting down the right-hand side and delivering a fine cross that was poorly dealt with by Linda Sembrant as the ball fell to Daniela Sabatino. Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl could only look on as she was helpless to prevent the opening goal. Their lead only lasted 10 minutes though as Stina Blackstenius was fouled by Federica di Criscio. Lotta Schelin scored the penalty with consummate ease to the right of the goalkeeper. Barbara Bonansea continued to impress in an Italy shirt but it was Sabatino who would grab the headlines with her beautiful volley into the back of the net in the 37th minute. A route one delivery met with the kind of technical quality you would expect from an Italian player. Magnificent finish. Italy led 2-1 at half time. Sweden started the second half the stronger team and they equalised thanks to Blackstenius meeting a low driven cross that fizzed across the six-yard area with the inside of her foot. It was Italy who would end the group stages on a high though as they scored the winning goal just five minutes from time. Cristiana Girelli found herself in the perfect position to tap in Bonansea’s cross to put a smile on Italian faces as they overcame Sweden 3-2.
In Group D it was a tense affair between Switzerland and France with the Swiss needing nothing less but a victory. For Austria, it was less tense as they played the pointless Iceland.
Austria were favourites to beat Iceland and they did so in impressive fashion. A rather tame cross was fumbled by Icelandic goalkeeper Gudbjörg Gunnarsdóttir and the ball fell nicely to Swiss number nine Sarah Zadrazil as he guided the ball home in the 36th minute. However, Austria weren’t finished just yet as Nina Burger squeezed in her header from a Sarah Puntigam corner just before half time. A corner, coincidentally that was brought about by Burger’s long range effort that was well saved by Gunnarsdóttir. Austria lead 2-0 at half time and the game looked dead and gone from an Icelandic point of view. They rarely threatened the Austrian goal despite having an equal share of possession. Austria’s substitute Stefanie Enzinger, only on for three minutes, scored Austria’s third goal in the 89th minute. Laura Feiersinger’s cross was met by Zadrazil who forced Gunnarsdóttir into a save but the Icelandic goalkeeper couldn’t parry the ball far enough away from the danger area and Enzinger was there to tap the ball in. Frustration for Iceland as errors cost them the game but jubilation for Austria as they reach the quarter finals in magnificent fashion as the lowest ranking team left in the tournament.
France, on the other hand, couldn’t have had a worse start in such a crucial game. Sakina Karchaoui lost the ball in midfield allowing Ramona Bachmann to gain possession of the ball and run at the French defence. Eve Perisset’s challenge was clumsy and sent Bachmann to the floor as the referee sent Perisset to the stands with a red card in the 17th minute. Martina Moser floated in a fantastic free kick for Ana-Maria Crnogorčević (Switzerland’s record goalscorer) to head beautifully into the top right corner of Sarah Bouhaddi’s goal. Down to 10 men, 1-0 down and up against it, France were on the verge of exiting the tournament. Switzerland’s hopes of qualifying for the quarter final relied heavily on beating France but in the 75th minute, a rather tame looking free kick from Camille Abily wasn’t dealt with very well by Gaëlle Thalmann as she appeared to hesitate at the flight of the ball and try to punch it with one hand. France sneak through by the skin of their teeth and more than likely will face England in the quarter finals. England however, have not beaten France since 1974 and it promises to be a fantastic game.
Probable Quarter Final Fixtures:
Netherlands v Sweden
Germany v Denmark
England v France
Austria v Spain/Portugal