Women's Euro 2022 predictions: Iceland can snuff out Red Flames
Much-faniced France make their tournament bow at the Women's Euro 2022 when they take on Italy in their Group D opener.
And before that it is the turn of group rivals Belgium and Iceland, who clash in Manchester with the whiff of a minor upset in the air.
Belgium vs Iceland (Sunday, 5pm)
Manchester City's Academy Stadium stages the first of the day's two Group D matches between Belgium and Iceland.
Belgium, ranked 19th in the world, are making just their second appearance at the Euros.
Iceland, ranked two places higher at 17, are in the tournament for a fourth successive time.
Belgium head coach Ives Semeels reports a fully-fit squad, meaning he can field his golden attacking trio of Janice Cayman, Tine de Caigny and skipper Tessa Wullaert.
Iceland are also at full strength with coach Thorstein Halldorsson to decide whether to hand 18-year-old Bayern Munich keeper Cecilia Runarsdottir the gloves.
Iceland know they need to improve on their finals record, which has seen them score just four goals across 10 matches at the last three Euros.
Belgium, who have failed to win four of their last eight matches, will be reliant on Cayman, De Caigny and Wullaert who, between them, have scored more international goals than the entire Iceland squad.
There is clearly gold dust in that Belgian attack, but Iceland have enjoyed seven wins to nil over the last 10 games and boast an abundance of experience at the back.
They also have a superstar in Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir who can ensure Iceland, at the very least, do not lose the game, and quite possibly win it.
France vs Italy (Sunday, 8pm)
Never past the last eight in six previous tries, France are now one of Europe’s elite and would expect to get off to a winning start at Rotherham’s New York Stadium.
Italy, hoping to repeat what their men did last summer, cannot match France’s results going into the tournament.
However, there is a real sense of self-belief in their totally home-based squad.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto will lead France’s line with coach Corinne Diacre having to decide which two of Delphine Cascarino, Kadi Diani and Sandy Baltimore flank her.
Superstar Sara Gama will be at the heart of Italy’s defence, though whether that is a back three or four is not clear, with boss Milena Bertolini having experimented with both.
France are on a 14-match winning streak and qualified for the Euros without conceding a single goal.
Italy are also strong defensively, having conceded only four goals in their last 13 competitive matches.
Diacre’s side are bursting with attacking panache and pace, though they will be tested by a stubborn Italian outfit.
The class of Les Bleues, and the goal threat posed by the likes of Katoto, Diani, Cascarino and others, gives them the edge.
Expect France to win, but win narrowly, maybe in a game featuring under 3.5 goals.
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