Sweden (6/5 to win group) have been the nearly team of recent international tournaments and Peter Gerhardsson’s side appear to be the ones to beat in Group C of this summer’s UEFA Women’s European Championship.
The Blue and Yellow exceeded expectations to finish third at the 2019 World Cup and runners up at last summer’s Olympics and they could now be ready to make the step up and land their first major tournament title since lifting the inaugural Euros in 1984.
First the Swedes must negotiate their way through a group that also contains defending champions the Netherlands (4/5 to win group), Portugal (40/1) and Switzerland (12/1), with their opening match against the Dutch this Saturday likely to prove crucial in deciding which team tops the group.
Who should progress?
Sweden (1/9 to qualify) are past masters at reaching the knockout stages of major international tournaments, as they have done so at each of the last seven European Championships.
They are also bringing plenty of momentum into this tournament, as they are unbeaten in 12 matches, winning 10 of those games, including a recent 15-0 rout of Georgia in World Cup qualifying.
Coach Gerhardsson will expect a minimum return of seven points from this group, which should be enough to see them finish top of the pile.
The Netherlands (1/12 to qualify) are likely to join Sweden in advancing despite Oranje not being the same team they were when they lifted the European Championship in 2017 or when they reached the World Cup final two years later.
Both those successes were under the guide of former coach Sarina Wiegman, but since her departure for England last year, the Dutch have struggled, as was epitomised by last month’s 5-1 defeat to the Lionesses.
The Dutch are unlikely to launch a serious bid to defend their title, but they should have enough to get through this group, with both Switzerland (10/3 to qualify) and Portugal (8/1) competing at the Euros for just the second time and neither have ever got beyond the group stage.
As mentioned, Sweden’s form is impressive, as they have not tasted defeat since losing the Olympic final to Canada last summer and even that defeat was only via a penalty shootout.
On paper, the Netherlands’ form is also solid, as they have lost just twice in 13 games, but those defeats have been damaging ones against England and France, which suggests the Dutch are falling short against the very best teams.
Portugal are unbeaten in their last four games, but two matches against Greece and clashes with Bulgaria and Australia make it hard to fully gauge where Francisco Neto’s side are at, while Switzerland’s form is terrible, they are without a win in six and have been thrashed by both Germany and England over recent weeks.
Sweden’s quality is largely built on their collective rather than any individual stars and they boast a strong spine from goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl through to Barcelona forward Fridolina Rolfo.
There is no doubting the star of the Dutch team, with Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema (8/1 tournament top scorer) set to spearhead their attack. She has scored a staggering 92 goals – a record for her country – in 110 international appearances.
Switzerland’s squad is sprinkled with quality and captain Lia Walti and forward Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic are likely to catch the eye, while Portugal goalkeeper Ines Pereira is likely to need to perform well if her side are to be in with a chance of progressing.
July 9 – 17:00 – Portugal v Switzerland
July 9 – 20:00 – Netherlands v Sweden
July 13 – 17:00 – Sweden v Switzerland
July 13 – 20:00 – Netherlands v Portugal
July 17 – 17:00 – Switzerland v Netherlands
July 17 – 17:00 – Sweden v Portugal