Women's Euro 2022 predictions: Spain to make solid start
The opening matches of Group B kick off in the Women's Euro 2022 on Friday, with Spain facing Finland before Germany take on Denmark.
Spain were considered the pre-tournament favourites this summer having not lost since March 2020, but they will still need to be at their best to top the group.
They have Germany — the most successful team in the competition's history with an impressive eight titles — standing in their way.
Spain vs Finland (Friday, 5pm)
Spain open their account at Stadium MK against Finland and while they are widely considered to have the best squad, La Roja still have a point to prove having never lifted this trophy.
Their opponents are seen as one of the outsiders of the group but they can look to a memorable run in 2005 for inspiration, when they reached the semi-finals.
Spain have not had it easy on the injury front.
Record scorer Jenni Hermoso will be watching on from home after suffering a knee injury last month, while current Ballon d'Or holder Alexia Putellas now joins her on the sidelines after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury on Tuesday.
Finland have a clean bill of health and they will hope their experienced backline can keep Spain at bay, with Tinja-Riikka Korpela starting in goal and Anna Westerlund and Natalia Kuikka playing alongside each other at centre-back.
Spain's current unbeaten run stands at a staggering 23 matches and they warmed up for this summer's Euros by thumping Australia 7-0 before securing a 1-1 draw against Italy.
Jorge Vilda's side have won 19 of that 23-game streak — a record that is chalk and cheese compared to Finland, who have tasted success in just one of their last eight outings.
There is no doubt that Spain's squad is not as strong as it could be after the withdrawal of Putellas, but Vilda's group are well-rounded and should be better than Finland in all areas of the pitch.
Spain to win to nil could be the way to go, with La Roja winning two of their previous three against Finland without conceding.
Germany vs Denmark (Friday, 8pm)
Fans will pack inside the Brentford Community Stadium on Friday night as Germany and Denmark square off.
Germany have won six of the last seven editions of this tournament but they will be wary of Denmark, who reached the final in 2017 before losing to the Netherlands.
Although there are no injury concerns for Germany, head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has several selection headaches ahead of this opener, including the battle between Lea Schuller and Tabea Wassmuth to get the nod up front.
For Denmark, Lene Christensen will take her place in between the sticks and it is expected she will have a back-three ahead of her, while Chelsea star Pernille Harder will feature in the final third.
While Germany have broken numerous records over the years, their form could be better heading into Friday's clash. They have lost three of their last five and conceded seven goals during that run.
Denmark, meanwhile, have only tasted defeat on one occasion during that same period and they will feel that they can pick up a positive result, having avoided defeat in the last two meetings between the pair.
Friday's encounter should be a close contest and there is every chance that both sides find the back of the net during the 90 minutes.
However, Germany's experience at the tournament could be pivotal and they may be able to sneak this one by a one-goal margin.
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