Group play of the 2013 women’s Euro in Sweden concluded yesterday, and the teams emerging out of the dirt and drama to continue in quarterfinals July 21-22 consists of the usual suspects and some unexpected contenders. Sweden (Group A), Norway (Group B) and France (Group C) rule the roost, but one country you won’t see is England, who surprisingly were not in their best form during group play. Germany, the reigning Euro champs, also slipped a bit, finishing in second behind Norway in Group B.
The top two teams from each group automatically progressed along with the two third-placed teams with the highest number of points. Iceland finished third in their group with 4 points and qualified. However Denmark and Russia finished third in their group, level on points and therefore a draw was held between the two, which saw Denmark grabbing the last golden ticket.
Sweden and Denmark kicked things off on July 10, and Denmark looked like they were in it to win it, with Mariann Knudsen opening scoring minutes into the first half. Sweden’s Nilla Fischer equalized off a header soon after, ending the game in a draw with all eyes on Denmark’s hero of the day- goalkeeper Stina Peterson, whose two courageous penalty saves against Sweden’s star striker Lotta Schelin in the 67th minute and Kosovare Asllani minutes later, held Sweden at a 1-1 draw.
It wasn’t the glorious win anticipated for host Sweden, but head coach Pia Sundhage kept her signature positive outlook.
“It is a long tournament and we have two more games. The fact we couldn’t score from two penalty kicks, that’s not the best situation, Sundhage tole UEFA. “But at the end of the day we played in front of a big crowd, we have started the first game and now we are in the tournament. Yes, I am satisfied.”
Sundhage came under a bit of fire, as some began to compare her team’s performance to that of the U.S. WNT back when she coached them. Nonetheless, they received the confidence boost they needed against Finland three days later, with a runaway victory 5-0. They wrapped up group play with a 3-1 win over Italy on Wednesday, putting them at the top of Group A with 7 points.
Italy advanced to the quarterfinals with a second place finish in group A. They opened against Finland July 10 in a scrappy game that saw more tumbles and tackles than anything else. Needless to say, both moved on with a 0-0 draw.
Italy needed points, and earned it with a 2-1 win over Denmark three days later. Constant attack and two quick goals in the second half from Melania Gabbiadini and Mia Boggard gave them some breathing room.
Denmark needed those points badly as well, and after Italy’s upset were able to garner one point more with their final match on Tuesday when they tied 1-1 with Finland. They got their third place ticket to the quarter finals after a drawing was administered between them and Russia.
Group B teams got their opening day fix on July 11, with Iceland drawing 1-1 with Norway. It looked like Norway would take the cake, with a an early 26th minute goal from Kristine Hegland after she collected a long ball from Ingrid Hjelmseth and beat an attack from Iceland’s Gudbjorg Gunnarsdottir. But, Iceland had some last minute tricks. Margret Lara Vidarsdottir equalized from the penalty spot with only three minutes remaining in the game.
A 0-0 draw between Germany and the Netherlands on July 11 was a shocker, as reigning champ Germany looked nervous and the Netherlands- more determined than ever. But German coach Silvia Neid was not at all worried about the outcome of the first group B match.
“We musn’t look at everything negatively as there were some good things but I’ll definitely show the players some incidents from the game,” Neid told UEFA. “We’ll try to make the perfect analysis, and we’ll brief them about the Iceland team so that we’re perfectly prepared. All the teams in the group have a point so there is no reason to panic or feel bad.”
Germany fired back three days later with 3-0 shut out against Iceland, but faltered in the final round, losing to Norway 0-1. Germany ended in second place, while Norway heads the group with seven points. Norway had great success, starting with a draw for the opener and adding two wins against the Netherlands 1-0 and as mentioned, Germany. The Netherlands are out of the tournament with one point.
After Groups A and B produced all draws for opening games, France set the precedent with the first win, which not only shot them to the top of standings, but foreshadowed a French takeover for the remainder of group play.
Marie-Laure Delie scored a brace and Euginie Le Sommer added the final touch to defeat Russia 3-1. Delie scored consecutive goals, the first in the 21st minute and the other just minutes after, easily brushing past Russian defense, and prompting Russia head coach Sergi Lavrentyev to switch up his backline. France continued to keep a firm grip on the game, and despite a goal by Russia’s Elena Morozova in the 84th min, it was clear who would win.
France added two more victories: the next 3-1 against Russia on July 12 and the final blow to England yesterday 3-0. Elodie Thomis played a vital role for France, with unparalleled speed, she was able to break away with the ball numerous times, and although she lost composure when it came to scoring, she was one of the most dangerous players for any opposition.
Spain played incredibly hard, earning a second place spot in the quarterfinals. They took on England for their first match on July 10, ending in one of the most thrilling games with goal action up to the very last second.
England didn’t have their usual pizzazz, and Spain put on the pressure with dogged determination. Spain’s Veronica Boquete opening scoring in the fourth minute, but England was quick to respond. Eniola Aluka equalized in the 8th minute, and it was obvious that this game would be a nail biter. Spain pulled ahead again with a goal scored by Jennifer Hermoso in the 86th minute, but there was England close behind, with Laura Bassette’s equalizer in the 89th for a 2-2 score. As stoppage time commenced, it looked like a draw would be the result, but Spain persevered, adding a surprise goal by Alexia Putellas to clinch the tight win.
England shocked fans by not making it to quarterfinals after drawing with Russia 1-1 and losing to France.
“We’re disappointed,” midfielder Anita Asante told UEFA.com after their final game against France. “But of all the three group games we played, this is probably the one we’ve performed the best in. We’ll take a lot of lessons from this, and try to improve again for the future. All the players left everything they had out on the field, and really showed heart and passion to try and stay in it.”
Group A (Host country: Sweden)
Group B (Host country: Sweden)
Group C (Host country: Sweden)
- 21 July: Sweden v Iceland
- 21 July: Italy v Germany
- 22 July: Norway v Spain
- 22 July: France v Denmark