Women's Euro 2022 predictions: France can overcome Katoto absence
The Women's Euro 2022 group stage ends on Monday and while France have already guaranteed a quarter-final place, all three of the other teams in Group D can still reach the last eight.
After two 1-1 draws, Iceland face the most difficult task when they head to Rotherham to take on Les Bleues, who followed their 5-1 opening mauling of Italy with a 2-1 success over Belgium.
Unless there is a big surprise in South Yorkshire, the chances are the winners of the Belgium-Italy game at the Manchester City Academy Stadium will qualify as group runners-up.
Iceland vs France (Monday, 8pm)
Along with England’s 8-0 Group A win over Norway, France’s 5-1 victory over Italy, when all their goals came in the first half, has been the strongest team performance of the tournament.
Grace Geyero scored a hat-trick in that game, and while their success over Belgium was less spectacular — they did miss a penalty — they have done more than enough to justify their position as one of the tournament’s favourites.
Iceland, meanwhile, have shown plenty of attacking intent in their matches and, as a strong team physically, they may not prove a pushover.
Iceland look set to be unchanged as they look to book their place in the last eight, while France suffered a huge blow in their win over Belgium when PSG striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto was floored by a serious knee injury in the early stages.
The 23-year-old has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament and will be a big miss.
Her place is likely to be taken by Paris FC striker Ouleymata Sarr, but she is hardly prolific, having scored just five goals for her country and needs to step up to the plate.
Iceland’s draws with Italy and Belgium were perhaps unspectacular, but their two defeats in their last 11 matches have come against World Cup winners the United States and defending European champions the Netherlands, so they cannot be taken lightly.
However, it has to be a concern that they have scored more than once in just two of their last eight games, particularly as they will likely need to win this to progress.
The USA, are the only team to have beaten France since February 2019 and Les Bleues have won each of their last 16 matches.
France are one of the strongest teams in the competition and look likely to have too much quality for Iceland, who may lack the firepower needed to punish Les Bleues.
While there could be changes to the French team, who are likely to miss Katoto, Corinne Diacre's side should make it three wins out of three in what may prove a low-scoring clash.
Italy vs Belgium (Monday, 8pm)
Italy can probably consider themselves a little fortunate to still have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals after being shell-shocked by France before conceding inside just three minutes against Iceland and they can ill afford to take Belgium lightly.
The Belgians made life tough for France, so they will fancy their chances of gaining the win that could take them into the last eight.
The Italians have no fresh injury concerns but Barbara Bonansea and Cristiana Girelli entered the fray against Iceland as substitutes and could be given starting berths for the crucial clash.
Belgium will be without Amber Tysiak, who was sent off against France, but as she had been used as a replacement, the chances are strong that the starting line-up will be unchanged for the third successive game.
Belgium have posted 11 victories since December 2020 but a 4-1 friendly win over Northern Ireland last month has been the only one against a team who qualified for these finals.
Both teams have scored in five of their last seven matches but the Italians have netted more than once in just two of their last eight games.
Italy’s defence has been pretty tight too as they have conceded more than once in just two of their last 14 outings.
These two have it all to play for and victory would probably be enough to book a place in the quarter-finals, so we can expect both teams to go on the front foot.
It would not be a huge surprise if both managed to find the net or if the game in Manchester featured three or more goals.