The biggest European women’s football show comes to England this summer as the country gets set to host Euro 2022. 16 nations will compete for the title of Champions of Europe over three weeks with matches taking place in 10 stadiums across eight cities.
Originally scheduled to take place in 2021, the tournament was pushed back a year to avoid a clash with the men’s Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympic Games, both of which were delayed from the summer of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since England last hosted the tournament in 2005, women’s football has been transformed in this country thanks to the efforts of the Football Association. With its Gameplan for Growth launched in 2017, the FA sought to double the number of women and girls playing football from 1.7 million within three years.
By 2020, 3.4 million were playing the sport. Helping to fuel this rising popularity is the Women’s Super League. Founded in 2010, the WSL turned entirely professional in 2018-19 with clubs having to run an academy as a condition of their licence. The WSL is now considered one of the world's best women’s football leagues.
Euro 2022 now provides an even bigger opportunity to grow the women’s game in England. Here is your guide to the tournament, how you can get involved and the next steps if it inspires a newfound interest in girl’s football.
When does Euro 2022 take place?
Euro 2022 kicks off on Wednesday 6th July when England faces Austria in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 73,000 at Old Trafford. The group stages conclude on Monday 18th July with the quarter-finals taking place between Wednesday 20th July and Saturday 23rd July.
The semi-finals are on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th July and the tournament concludes at Wembley on Sunday 31st July. Tickets for the final have already sold out, meaning that a crowd of around 89,000 will set a new attendance record for a single game in a European Women’s Football Championship.
Which nations are taking part in Euro 2022?
16 nations have qualified for Euro 2022 and they are split into four groups of four. The top two from each group progress to the knockout stages, which start with the quarter-finals.
As hosts, England is the seeded team in Group A alongside Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland. Euro 2022 is the first time that Northern Ireland has qualified for a European Women’s Football Championship.
Group B contains Germany, the most successful nation in Women’s Euros history having won eight of the previous 13 tournaments. They will face Spain, Finland and Denmark. The Danes finished as runners-up at the last European Women’s Championships in 2017.
Reigning champions the Netherlands are in Group C alongside Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal. The Portuguese were a late addition to the tournament, taking the place of Russia following their removal from all UEFA competitions due to the war in Ukraine.
Group D contains France, Italy, Belgium and Iceland. The French have reached the quarter-finals for the last three tournaments in a row. Ranked fifth in the FIFA World Rankings, they will be hoping to progress beyond the last eight for the first time.
Who are the favourites for Euro 2022?
Between 1995 and 2013, there was always a very simple answer as to the favourites for any European Women’s Championship– Germany. Die Nationalelf won six consecutive titles over 18 years before their dominance was broken by the Netherlands, who won their home tournament last time out in 2017.
Women’s football in Europe is now as competitive as it has ever been and that means that there are probably six nations who harbour realistic expectations of lifting the trophy at Wembley come to the end of July.
Spain – The Bookies’ Favourites
Spain is the bookmakers’ favourite, despite the fact they have only reached the semi-final of a major tournament once in their history. Their popularity stems from the fact that most of their team play their club football for Barcelona, currently the outstanding team in European club football whose sensational Champions League triumph in 2020-21 was one for the ages.
Barca had been the hot favourites to defend their crown in this season’s final, only to suffer a shock defeat to Lyon.
France – The Unpredictable
And that Lyon victory has subsequently pushed France into the picture. The French have arguably the strongest set of players of any nation involved but they are besieged by off-the-field issues and personality clashes.
Head coach Corinne Diacre has continually overlooked Lyon duo Eugenie LeSommer and Champions League final player of the match Amandine Henry. If France could put aside their difference, avoid distractions and come together for one month then they would have a strong chance of taking the title. That is huge, though.
Sweden – The Dark Horses
Sweden comes into the tournament as the highest-placed European team in the FIFA World Rankings. They claimed the silver medal at last year’s Olympics and yet have found themselves overlooked when discussions focus on the favourites for Euro 2022.
That may be because they do not have one stand-out player. What they do have though are tournament experience, organisation and a cohesive unit. That can count for a lot when it comes to winning international titles.
Germany – The Relentless Winning Machine
Germany only being talked about in passing tells you everything about the strength of Euro 2022. They have a young side with a lot of potentials, but this tournament may have come a little too early for an inexperienced group.
The Netherlands – The Reigning Champions
The Netherlands are the reigning champions and any nation with a striker of Vivianne Miedema’s ilk will fancy their chances. Goals are guaranteed with Miedema – the only question is can they keep them out at the other end with a young defence yet to be truly tested at the highest level?
England – The Hosts
And what of England? The Lionesses reached the semi-finals last time under Mark Sampson and finished fourth at the 2019 World Cup with Phil Neville in charge. The Netherland’s Euro 2017 winning head coach Sarina Wiegman took over in September 2021, winning the Arnold Clark Cup in February 2022.
The anticipation is that success in that tournament can provide a springboard to bigger and better things. Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead dazzle out wide, Ellen White is her country’s record goal scorer and the spine of the team looks as strong as any other.
England’s biggest boost however will surely come from home advantage. It carried the Netherlands all the way in 2017 and the men’s team clearly benefited from playing five of their six matches at Wembley on route to the final of Euro 2020.
With packed stadiums and a nation fully behind the Lionesses, football just might be coming home this summer.
Five players to look out for at Euro 2022
Euro 2022 will see some of the biggest stars in women’s football in England. Here are five who are worth keeping an eye on during the tournament.
Vivianne Miedema – The Netherlands
Miedema needs no introduction to regular WSL watchers. The Arsenal striker is the most feared not only in English football but across the whole of Europe.
She has 74 goals from 89 appearances for the Gunners, making her the WSL’s record scorer. Miedema is also the Netherlands’ record scorer, having plundered a scarcely believable 92 goals in 108 internationals. Included in that total were 10 from six games at Tokyo 2020, setting an Olympic record.
The scariest thing about Miedema is that she is only 25 years old. Her best years are still ahead of her and a recent positional tweak has seen her drop a little deeper, playing as more of a number 10 than an out-and-out striker.
This has had no detrimental impact on her goals output; it has simply meant she is now assisting as many as she is scoring. Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright subsequently described Miedema as being the best striker and the best playmaker in the world at the same time.
Lauren Hemp - England
Manchester City winger Hemp made history recently, becoming the first-ever player to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award on four separate occasions. It is easy to forget that Hemp is just 21 years old; it feels like she has been around forever, having burst onto the WSL scene at the age of 17 with Bristol City.
A move to the Etihad Academy Stadium followed in 2018 and there has been no looking back for Hemp. She went to the Tokyo Olympics with Team GB but this will be her first international tournament with England and she has all the tools needed to be the breakout star of Euro 2022.
Football fans love nothing more than seeing a wide player take opponents on with pace, power and trickery. Lauren hemp brings that in abundance and alongside Mead and Ella Toone, provides England with the sort of supply line needed to make a real impression on Euro 2022.
Alexia Putellas – Spain
As you would expect, Spain possesses the most technically gifted midfield of any nation at Euro 2022. Patri Guijarro, Aitana Bonmati and Alexia Putellas can run rings around most opponents.
Ballon d’Or winner Putellas is the best of the lot and is largely considered to be the greatest player in the world right now. As the beating heart of Barcelona, she has won six Primera Division titles, and six Copa de la Reina trophies and was instrumental in the 2021 Champions League victory over Chelsea, scoring one and assisting another as Barca hammered the Blues 4-0.
Alexia Putellas has been described as “the perfect Barcelona player” for her combination of skill, vision and passing ability. No less a judge than Andreas Iniesta has said Putellas is a role model for any aspiring young player for the way she encapsulates the values of Barcelona.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto - France
Paris Saint-Germain has designs on becoming a European powerhouse and central to those plans is their academy product Katoto. Top scorer in Division 1 Feminine in 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2021-22, this will be her first international tournament after Diacre controversially left her out of the 2019 World Cup held in France.
Diacre publicly criticised Katoto’s attitude and application in the lead-up to that tournament, causing widespread condemnation as the absences of LeSommer and Henry have this time around. Katoto has answered Diacre in the best way possible, scoring 24 times in 28 outings for her country.
She also became PSG’s record scorer back in February and now sits on 108 goals from 113 matches – all achieved by the age of 23. If France is to overcome the disharmony in the camp, Katoto putting the ball in the back of the net will be central to it.
Ada Hegerbeg – Norway
Hegerbeg’s impact on women’s football goes far beyond her talent on the pitch. A Lyon player since 2014, she has had 154 goals in 134 games for her club and is the leading all-time scorer in the Champions League, which she has now won six times.
Off the pitch, she is a leading advocate for gender equality. In 2017, she stopped representing Norway in protest against the Norweigian Football Federation’s treatment of women’s football. Her self-imposed exile resulted in the NFF doubling the remuneration pot for women, leading eventually to Hegerbeg returning in April 2022 following a five-year absence.
Having missed the 2019 World Cup, Hegerbeg will be in a determined mood to go one better than the runners-up spot she helped Norway achieve at the European Women’s Championship in 2013.
What stadiums are being used for Euro 2022?
A variety of stadiums will host the Euro 2022 tournament. In London, Wembley will be the venue for the final with the Brentford Community Stadium hosting Group B matches and a quarter-final.
Manchester provides another two stadiums, Old Trafford and the Academy Stadium where Manchester City play their home WSL games. The home of Manchester United women is also to be used, Leigh Sports Village being added as a venue in place of Nottingham Forest’s City Ground when the FA submitted its final list to UEFA.
Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane and Rotherham United’s New York Stadium give South Yorkshire two grounds in close proximity. Bramall Lane hosts one semi-final with the other taking place at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes.
The final two venues are situated on the south coast. St Mary’s in Southampton and the Falmer Stadium in Brighton (sponsorship rules mean it cannot be known as the Amex during Euro 2022) both host England games in Group A. Should the Lionesses top their group, then Falmer will also host England’s quarter-final.
Questions have been asked over the selection of some of the stadiums for the tournament. The Manchester Academy Stadium can only hold 4,700 fans due to a restriction on the use of terracing. Leigh Sports Village is restricted to 8,100 fans compared to its capacity of 12,000 for the same reason.
Including two stadiums with such low capacities has been described as disrespectful to the women’s game and led to criticism that Euro 2022 would not reflect the growth of the sport.
The geographical distribution of venues has also been criticised. Where the Manchester area gets three stadiums in close proximity and South Yorkshire two, no stadiums in the North East of England of the Midlands have been selected.
Missing out on the North East was particularly controversial given it is a hotbed of women’s football, with the likes of Mead, Steph Houghton, Jordan Nobbs and Lucy Bronze all coming from the region.
How can I watch Euro 2022?
Although every England game and the final have sold out, there are still tickets left for some Euro 2022 matches. Prices start from as little as £5. For more information, to see what is available or to buy, please visit the Euro 2022 ticketing website.
Every game from the tournament will be broadcast by the BBC, either on BBC One, BBC Two or via iPlayer. Heading up the coverage will be ex-Arsenal and England international Alex Scott alongside Ian Wright.
England’s most capped player of all time Fara Williams will be providing analysis with a host of other former Lionesses, including Kelly Smith, Anita Asante, Rachel Brown-Finnis and Sue Smith. Current Everton midfielder and owner of 31 England caps Izzy Christiansen will also be involved.
Capitalising on Euro 2022
Other than breaking attendance records and England lifting the trophy come the final at Wembley, what will ultimately determine the success of Euro 2022 is whether it increases the popularity of women’s football across the country.
The dream scenario is that millions of girls are inspired by a month-long festival of football into taking up the sport, either by attending future WSL games and matches in leagues further down the pyramid or by playing themselves.
For girls aged between 4 and 12 who want to play football, then We Make Footballers is the perfect place to start their journey. Our academies offer weekly football training for children of all abilities across England, provided in a fun and safe environment by FA-qualified coaches.
Anyone inspired into becoming the next Miedema, Hemp or Putellas can find their nearest We Make Footballers academy and book a free first session via the We Make Footballers website.