Women's Euro 2022 predictions: England can shine in Group A
Women's Euro 2022 is upon us, with 16 teams set to battle it out to be crowned continental champions.
Much is expected of tournament hosts England, who take on Austria in the curtain-raiser at Old Trafford today and those two nations are joined by Norway and Northern Ireland in Group A.
Lionesses ready to roar
Sarina Wiegman led the Netherlands to glory on home soil at Euro 2017 and the Dutch coach will be hoping to do exactly the same with England this summer.
The Lionesses have made the semi-finals of the last three major tournaments and with partisan crowds behind them this time around, it would be a serious shock if they were to fail to make it out of their group.
England look the most likely to book their spot in the quarter-finals with a plethora of Women's Super League talents in their ranks, from captain Leah Williamson to the experienced Fran Kirby and dangerous forward Lauren Hemp.
Depth is also crucial for Wiegman's side, who have been rotating personnel in pre-tournament friendlies to good effect, having beaten Belgium 3-0 and the Netherlands 5-1 already this month.
Assessing the rest of Group A, it looks like a toss-up between Austria and Norway for second spot and given how things unfolded five years ago, the Austrians could well join England in the knockout stage.
Making their major tournament debut at Euro 2017, Austria advanced all the way to the semi-finals under Dominik Thalhammer.
Thalhammer has since been replaced by Irene Fuhrmann as head coach but they have retained many of the key players from 2017, such as Viktoria Schnaderbeck and Sarah Puntigam.
On top of that, Austria looked sharp in qualifying for this year's European Championship, having shipped just three goals in eight matches as they finished runners-up to France, who they managed to hold to a draw in their home encounter.
While Austria look like potential dark horses to qualify for the knockout stages, that does not take away from the fact it would be a failed tournament for Norway if they do not make it out of Group A.
They may have finished rock bottom of their group five years ago but they won all six of their qualifying fixtures and possess former Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen in attack.
However, they did look unconvincing in the Algarve Cup against Portugal and Italy earlier in the year and could fall short.
Shiels short of options
Battered 4-1 by Belgium in their only pre-tournament friendly, Northern Ireland could be set for a tough time in their tournament debut.
The Green and White Army suffer from a lack of depth and quality, emphasised by the fact captain Marissa Callaghan and defender Ashley Hutton have been included in their final squad despite injury concerns.
Kenny Shiels' team snuck through in qualifying with four wins from eight matches and they are unlikely to be a cause for concern for any of England, Austria or Norway.
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