August 11, 2022

5 group stage games to watch on ESPN

On Wednesday 6 July at Old Trafford, England and Austria will kick off the opening match of what should be an exciting and highly competitive European Women’s Championship. When looking at the groups, it’s amazing how many blockbuster matches are lined up. In anticipation, we’ve selected our top five games that you absolutely must circle on the calendar.

Netherlands v Sweden

When: Saturday July 9 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | Television: ESPN2

It never seems fair to have one of the best matches in the tournament at the start. It’s much more poetic to keep it to the end as the group stage builds in suspense until the knockout round, until we come to a nice crescendo at the end of it all. The football gods have other ideas.

On the opening day of Group C, Sweden, ranked second in the world, take on defending European champions, the Netherlands, ranked fourth in the world.

The Dutch make the difference on the pitch, especially with Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Martens. On the other side, Sweden’s collective unity is a force to be reckoned with and incredibly difficult to break down defensively in 90 minutes.

France against Italy

When: Sunday July 10 | Time: 12:00 p.m. ET | Television: ESPN+

France surprisingly never made it past the Euro quarter-finals and enter this tournament desperate to end that streak. This French team is ranked third in the world and has always been ranked among the best teams of the last decade, but The Blues have little or nothing to show for it.

Their first test comes against an Italian side who have impressed in recent years but are definitely lacking France’s talent. For Italy, defensive structure and counter-attacking are key, but with stars such as Wendie Renard and Marie-Antoinette Katoto in the French roster, that may be too much for the Italians to handle.

England v Norway

When: Monday July 11 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | Television: ESPN2

Norway aren’t used to going to major tournaments as underdogs, but that’s the situation they find themselves in. While Norway is historically the best performing nation, England enter the Euros among the favorites. A combination of youth and experience, as well as home crowds, have kept the English optimistic, however, the Norwegians are no slouch.

Barcelona midfielder Caroline Graham Hansen and Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg ensure England’s road to the knockout stages will be anything but simple. For England, a long list of veterans, including Jill Scott and Ellen White, are hoping to win it all at home. If either team drops points against a dangerous Austrian team, this game could be the difference between advancing and going home early.

Germany vs Spain

When: Tuesday July 12 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | Television: ESPN2

Winner of eight European championships, including six formidable ones in a row from 1995 to 2013, Germany has the most successful historic record by far. This year, the Germans are among the favorites but face stiff competition, even as a group.

Spain have a solid team but no better than Alexia Putellas. The Barcelona midfielder is the current Ballon d’Or holder and has made it difficult to challenge her position as the best player in the world. His 26 goals for Spain are the team’s most.

A strong core of Barcelona and Real Madrid players bring consistency to the Spanish side. For Germany, the same is true with all but three playing for Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt or Bayern Munich. They will be led by striker Alexandra Popp, who leads the team with 114 caps and 53 goals. Both teams are capable of making deep runs in the tournament but will be forced to cross paths first.

Denmark v Spain

When: Saturday July 16 | Time: 3:00 p.m. ET | Television: ESPN+

In Group B, losing points for Spain or Germany could spell disaster with Denmark more than capable of winning games. Forward duo Pernille Harder and Nadia Nadim have 231 caps and 106 goals between them, providing an outlet for their spectacular defense to find. With only one goal conceded in the qualifiers, Denmark have a good chance of spoiling the party with some great tactical performances.

Germany and Spain will have to be careful not to leave themselves vulnerable on the counter, where Denmark could do serious damage. Depending on how the group plays out, this game could have massive knockout implications. Don’t be surprised if the Danes have a spectacular run this summer.