Women's Euro 2022 predictions: England and Spain face tough draw
Five years on from the last edition of the tournament, the Women's European Championship is back this summer with England hosting the festival of football.
Matches will take place across eight cities from Manchester to London throughout July and the tournament hosts get the action underway at Old Trafford against Austria.
England will be looking to build on their run to the semi-finals in 2017, when they were outclassed by eventual champions the Netherlands.
We take a look at the favourites and pick some dark horses ahead of the summer extravaganza.
Mead crucial for hosts
Fresh from an excellent Women's Super League campaign in which she scored 11 times and laid on eight assists, Beth Mead could indeed be crucial for England as they prepare to face Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland in their group.
That makes for a relatively soft section but the route to the final may not be straightforward.
The way the draw has panned out means England could face outright favourites Spain or a talented young Germany side in the competition's quarter-finals, meaning the value in the outright market could be elsewhere.
Dangerous draw for tournament favourites
For the same reason, Spain could be worth swerving, although it is clear to see why they are favourites.
La Roja are loaded with talent from Barcelona's treble-winning side, including star midfielder Alexia Putellas.
Group C also features two dangerous sides in defending champions Netherlands, who are spearheaded by Arsenal great Vivianne Miedema, and Sweden, who took the silver medal at Tokyo 2020.
But perhaps the best outright bet at the Women's Euros 2022 could be France.
In-form France looking good
Spain and Germany enjoyed near-flawless qualifying campaigns but so did France, who won seven and drew one of their eight matches and scored 44 goals in the process.
They were also the only nation to not concede in qualifying, with veteran Wendie Renard marshalling the defence.
At the other end of the pitch, they are blessed with one of the brightest young players in women's football in Marie-Antoinette Katoto.
The 23-year-old bagged seven goals for Paris Saint-Germain in the 2021-22 Champions League and has 24 goals in 28 appearances for the French national team.
Les Bleus reached the quarter-final stage of the tournament in 2017 and that remains their best finish at a European Championship, having achieved the same result in 2009 and 2013.
It is asking a lot of them to go from making the last eight to winning the entire competition but plenty has changed over the last five years.
Beaten finalists offer value
Among those with more of an outside chance, Denmark may tempt some after reaching the final of the last Euros and veteran Chelsea forward Pernille Harder always gives them a chance.
Norway too have some big players in their squad from Caroline Graham Hansen of Barcelona to tricky Chelsea winger Guro Reiten, and may be ones to watch.
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