After a five year COVID hiatus, the women’s European championship is back in England and filled with some of the best squads to hit the tournament. Of course the championship field is packed with European powerhouses Germany, France, and the most recent champions, The Netherlands. However, what you should be looking forward to is the underdogs and bright stars that are set to make waves in the tournament. The tournament is also set to see a resurgence of some of the most well-known teams in women’s soccer as well as serve as a farewell tour for some of the greatest to play the game. 

The Year of the Underdog

Northern Ireland, an international squad you’ve probably heard little about, reached the tournament field for the first time in their history. While some may think that they may not be a serious threat in the tournament, they get to play soccer how it’s meant to be played; with nothing to lose. However, a duo of Northern Ireland’s star players are out with injury for the tournament. Megan Bell has undergone surgery to repair her severely damaged hamstring, which is one of the many injuries that has plagued this bright star’s international career. The green and white will also be without veteran Caragh Hamilton as she is out with a rare quadricep tear that only rest and rehab can fix. This means two of Northern Ireland’s biggest stars will be out but their gritty attitude and relentless style of play may just be enough to get them out of the group stage with rival and host, England. But will their lack of experience on the international stage hinder their success?

Like I said, this is the year of the underdog, but more importantly second chances. Portugal did not follow the traditional path of qualification. Following the disqualification of Russia, Portugal got their second chance at glory. Featuring former NWSL standout and current Benfica star, Jessica Silva is looking to prove herself once more as she hits the pitch for Portugal. Her champions league gold has cemented herself in Portugal’s squad but also brings in much needed experience for the young team. However, Portugal are really going to have to rely on Diana Silva to rake in the goals for the team. The young superstar has something to prove after a disappointing stint at Aston Villa and this is certainly the tournament to do so. 

Something to Prove

This tournament is home to some of the world’s greatest women’s players and teams in the modern game and Sweden is certainly one of them. The Blue and Gold come into the tournament with the highest FIFA ranking, but aren’t garnering the recognition they deserve. Bolstering two Olympic Silver Medals in the modern era, the Swedish women return an experienced squad that can give the likes of France and the Netherlands a run for their money. If there’s anything the Swedish need it’s Stina Blackstenius performing at her absolute peak. Blackstenius is no stranger to the international goal scoring stage, scoring goals in both the 2020 and 2016 Olympics and numerous goals on the club side. The recent Arsenal transfer has become one of the most prolific players in the game, but can she bring her game to the big stage once more? Not only do the Swedish have a powerful front line, but their wealth of experience in the back is something that teams seriously need to consider. Two Chelsea Stars, Magdalena Eriksson and Jonna Andersson, bring experience to the backline that is unmatched. Now, more than ever, is the time for Sweden to grab gold but can they live up to the hype?

The lionesses host this summer’s tournament with all eyes on them. Manager Sarina Wiegman has some tough choices to make for her squad with a large array of veterans and new talent, which means narrowing down her roster may be tougher than she thought. Arsenal’s Beth Mead has steadily cemented her importance to the Lionesses year after year and is definitely one of the top players to watch in the tournament. During qualification Mead was a key player in over 20 of the goals scored, making her a huge offensive threat. What the Lionesses have going for them is a highly experienced pool of goalkeepers. Mary Earps, currently England’s top choice in goal, brings a wealth of experience needed in the backline, but will this be enough? The possibility of a missing Fran Kirby and recently poor tactical performance lead me to believe that even a home field advantage won’t be enough for the Lionesses. However, the lionesses have been a proven threat day in and day out so I am hoping they can prove me wrong. 

The Bright. The Bold. The Future. 

If you are still looking for a reason to lock in to the Women’s European championship, let me give you three. Svenidis Jane Jonsdottir, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, and Ella Toone are the bright young shining stars to watch in this year’s tournament. 

Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir

The 20 year-old and Iceland’s reigning women’s footballer of the year, Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir is looking to leave her mark on her first major international tournament. Fresh off of her Frauen-Beundesliga championship, her pace, skill, and talent are what Iceland needs to be successful in this tournament. Following a tough qualifying campaign, Jonsdottir is looking to make waves with Iceland, but can she take the pressure of this international stage?

Marie-Antoinette Katoto

France, a major European powerhouse, is looking to showcase the future with Marie-Antoinette Katoto. After missing the 2019 World Cup at home, Katoto is looking to do more than be the star, but follow the path of redemption. Her presence is something that France will need to make it out of arguably one of the toughest groups in the tournament, Group D. With an aging group of core players, Katoto will have to prove that she is here to stay and is ready for the international stage. 

Ella Toone

If Fran Kirby can’t make a triumphant return, the lionesses will desperately need a number 10 who can dominate the pitch and they’ve certainly got it with Manchester United Star Ella Toone. Toone has only made 13 international appearances in her career, but has followed that with an impressive 10 goals. This is the tournament for her to cement herself in England’s starting XI,  but also prove that her inexperience isn’t something we should be worried about. 

A Break from Tradition?

The obvious choices of success in this tournament are Germany and the Netherlands, but this year’s tournament could be a break from the usual. However, injuries that plague the German side and a lack of multifaceted talent could be their downfall. 2017 European championship winners the Netherlands certainly have everything to prove this go around. Frequent criticism of the dutch cites home field advantage as the reason for their past success, begging the question “Can they do it again?”  With the rising amount of young talent and thirst for a new champion this could be the tournament that breaks from tradition. If you are looking for a team to write out of the tournament, don’t. Young talent and a field of underdogs prove that this is going to be the tournament to watch.