Women's Euro 2022 predictions: Sweden to pip Dutch in Group C
Heavyweights Sweden and Netherlands are the star names in Group C at Women's Euro 2022 this summer.
And it is hard to see Switzerland or Portugal preventing either from making the quarter-finals later this month.
Olympic pain driving on Swedes
Sweden, the inaugural European champions, and Netherlands, the reigning and defending champs, are the class acts in Group C.
The big hitters meet in the opening round of matches at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane and Sweden look the bigger threat this time round.
Peter Gerhardsson's side finished third at the World Cup in 2019 and went one better at last summer's Olympics, reaching the final.
They went into the showpiece against Canada unbeaten having crushed the mighty USA in the group stage but ultimately would be pipped in a penalty shootout.
That left a bitter taste and a vow they will get it right at the next opportunity.
The Swedes have stars all across the pitch — Magda Eriksson, Caroline Seger, Fridolina Rolfo and Stina Blackstenius are the pick of a bunch of world-class talents — with one of the best defences in the tournament.
Dutch defence will be tested
Netherlands arrive with a target on their back having won this competition for the first time five years ago. Two years later, they would reach the World Cup final.
This is a nation that made great strides in a hurry under Sarina Wiegman — the current England head coach — but their new boss Mark Parsons is still trying to stamp his style on the side.
Blessed with the astonishing goal threat of the prolific Vivianne Miedema, the Dutch remain a threat to anyone and the core of the side from 2017 is still involved to add welcome experience in those clutch moments.
But over the last 12 months they have struggled twice against the Czechs in World Cup qualifying and have been beaten by both France and England since the turn of the year
Swiss and Portugal making up the numbers
Group C has the look of a two-horse race with Switzerland and Portugal praying they can catch either of the leading contenders on an off-day.
Switzerland's confidence will have been rocked by a 9-0 battering at the hands of Germany in their first warm-up fixture.
Meanwhile, Sweden have recently demonstrated they have Portugal's number, thrashing Francisco Neto's side 4-0 during the Algarve Cup in January.
Indeed, Portugal are lucky to even be at the Euros. They lost their play-off tie against Russia, whose subsequent disqualification gifted the Iberians their 'lucky-loser' card.
Portugal's obvious disadvantages are that they are inexperienced at this level, while most of their players earn their keep in the country's relatively sub-standard domestic league.
Switzerland have one or two stars — notably Arsenal's Lea Walti and Barcelona's Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic — but coach Nils Nielsen needs peripheral players to stand up and be counted if they are to improve on their predicted finishing position of third.
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