Missing the men’s FIFA World Cup this summer? Try this instead.
The 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championship kicks off Wednesday, delivering nearly a month’s worth of high-stakes games between some of the top sides in the world … and some of the United States women’s national team’s top competition in their quest to three-peat at the Women’s World Cup next summer.
Who is the reigning Women’s European champion?
The Netherlands, which concluded a surprising run to the 2017 title with a 4-2 win over Denmark in the final. Two years later, the Dutch reached the World Cup final before falling to the USWNT.
When and where is Women’s Euro 2022 being held?
After the COVID pandemic pushed it back a year, this edition will feature 16 teams and stretch from July 6-31. The group stage will take place from July 6-18, the quarterfinals from July 20-23, the semifinals on July 26-27, and the final on Sunday, July 31.
The tournament is being staged in England across eight cities and 10 venues, including storied grounds like Wembley Stadium in London and Old Trafford in Manchester.
How can I watch Women’s Euro 2022?
Every game will be available on ESPN. The main network will carry two games, including the final and also the Netherlands-Switzerland group stage match on July 17, while ESPN2 will air 21 matches and the ESPN+ streaming service will air eight games exclusively. Kickoff times are all either noon ET/9 a.m. PT or 3 p.m. ET/noon PT. Here is the full broadcast schedule.
What’s different about Women’s Euro 2022?
Investment. Not only is UEFA offering a total prize pool of $16 million, even more money has poured into the club level.
England’s Women’s Super League has grown by leaps and bounds and has attracted some of the planet’s top talent, and just re-upped with Barclays in what’s understood to be a $35 million total sponsorship deal. Spain has funneled its fervent footballing culture to the women’s side as well, with Iberdrola extending its sponsorship of the Spanish Primera División for a reported $1 million a year, and Barcelona growing into one of the best clubs in the world.
In France, Paris Saint-Germain has emerged as a genuine rival to club titan Lyon, which won the women’s Champions League in May for the sixth time in seven editions. Moreover, Norway, Spain and other nations have struck equal pay deals, and while they may not be as robust as the USWNT’s historic deal, they’re steps in the right direction. And much like the American women, stars abroad like Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg are continuing the fight for respect on all fronts.
Taken together, from a quality and enthusiasm and financial perspective, women’s soccer is in as a strong a place as it’s ever been.
Women’s Euro 2022 contender rankings: The champion
Previous titles: 1 (2017)
Key player: Vivianne Miedema, FW — The 25-year-old Arsenal frontwoman can drift anywhere in the attacking third and be effective, whether striking from long distance, creating chances for teammates or good old-fashioned poaching in front of the net. She is as lethal as forwards come.
They will win if … they can outscore everyone and summon past big-tournament performances. If we’re being honest, the Netherlands probably isn’t the best team at Euro 2022. But they are the champions until someone says otherwise. The attacking contingent, led by Miedema and also featuring standout winger Lieke Martens, is largely unchanged over the past few years and can score goals in bunches to protect a pedestrian back line. Two results under Mark Parsons, who left the NWSL’s Portland Thorns last season to take the Netherlands job, ring loudly: a 3-1 loss to France in February and a 5-1 dismantling in late June against England and former manager Sarina Wiegman. Can the Dutch fend off those and other challengers to their throne?
Women’s Euro 2022 contender rankings: The top challengers
Previous titles: None
Key player: Jennifer “Jenni” Hermoso, FW — This comes with a gigantic caveat: Alexia Putellas, the goal-scoring, match-controlling machine and winner of both the 2021 Ballon d’Or Féminin and Best FIFA Women’s Player, is officially out for this tournament after tearing her ACL in training on Tuesday. Since she can’t go, Spain will have to lean on Hermoso, who at 32 is on the down side of her career but still possesses big-match experience and an attacking quality few players can match. Honorable mention goes to Aitana Bonmati, a burgeoning star in her own right a 24 years old who assumes stewardship of the midfield in Putellas’ stead.
They will win if … they remain a conduit for Spain’s growth in women’s soccer. Losing Putellas is gutting, and the Spanish are in the toughest group, but a lot of their top players play together for Barcelona now, and the national program’s efficient infrastructure can realistically withstand some blows. How big of a blow? We’re about to find out.
Previous titles: None
Key player: Lucy Bronze, DF — England’s attacking ranks are flush with talent, but it’s Bronze who might provide the biggest uplift. Already perhaps the best player in her country’s history, Bronze can dominate the entire right flank from her fullback position, world-class not only as a disciplined, ball-pressuring defender but as a playmaker firing forward. If the 30-year-old is all the way back from knee surgery she underwent last summer, look out.
They will win if … their talent comes together under new manager Sarina Wiegman and they ride their home support. England is loaded, and its citizens are known for their fiery national team fandom (both good and bad). If they get behind the women’s team as people on the ground in the United Kingdom suggest they’re going to, it could provide the extra spark needed to win a first major international trophy. You know who has experience in that department? Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to the 2017 title and has the Lionesses in rocket form heading into the Euros.
Previous titles: None
Key player: Marie-Antoinette Katoto, FW — France might have been the most talented team in the world when it hosted the World Cup in 2019, but the lack of a consistent goal-scoring threat proved costly. Well, Katoto solves that in spades. A modern No. 9 in every sense, from her explosiveness to her dribbling to her knack for goals and her ability to involve teammates, the 23-year-old is a nightmare to defend. Killer name, too.
They will win if … Corinne Diacre sees what few else can. Though France possesses a formidable veteran core, Diacre’s managerial tenure has been plagued by tumult. Longtime captain Amandine Henry described the 2019 World Cup atmosphere under Diacre as “total chaos” and was left off the Euro roster, along with fellow star Eugénie Le Sommer. Her player relations, especially when it comes to Lyon’s stalwarts, is suspect at best, and she might be fumbling the bag with a talent-rich nation. Luckily for Diacre, she has the support of French federation president Noël Le Graët, who believes in her vision for the team. What is that vision, exactly? This might be Diacre’s last chance to show us.
Previous titles: 1 (1984)
Key player: Fridolina Rolfö, MF/DF — It’s tempting to go with top-tier defender Magdalena Eriksson here, but Sweden will need every bit of Rolfö’s versatility and incisiveness going forward. The Swedes aren’t exactly hurting up front, but they’re a notch below other contenders in terms of attacking, and Rolfö can help open up both opponents and her own team’s more compact tactical mindset.
They will win if … the grind finally pays off. Sweden won the very first Women’s European Championship 38 years ago, and hasn’t won a major trophy since. Moreover, they’ve been runners-up at the Euros, World Cup and Olympics six times, and semifinalists 15 times. They sent a message to the world by walloping the USWNT to open the last Olympics … then lost the final on penalties. If their tournament-best defense holds strong, and they can unlock enough goals at the other end, the trophy is theirs.
Women’s Euro 2022 contender rankings: The former titans
Previous titles: 8 (1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013)
Key player: Sara Däbritz, MF — The only thing that might contain Däbritz this summer is rust. The 27-year-old has made only one international appearance this calendar year after a concussion suffered on club duty prevented her from being called up for World Cup qualifiers in April. But she’s a dynamic, unassuming playmaker with goals in her game.
They will win if … their talented pieces can fit together. The Germans were one of the first true women’s soccer powers, constructing a fruitful foundation ahead of most other countries in the 1980s, but they haven’t won a major trophy since the 2016 Olympics and have fallen behind on the continent. Figuring out which striker to play between Lea Schüller, Tabea Wassmuth and Jule Brand is one dilemma. So is maximizing the midfield mix. But aside from an ACL injury that will keep influential midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsán out of the tournament, these are good problems. Most of the core players are young or in their prime. If Martina Voss-Tecklenburg gets it right, Germany can make a run to the final.
Previous titles: 2 (1987, 1993)
Key player: Ada Hegerberg, FW — Teammate Caroline Graham Hansen is important, but Norway’s story starts with Hegerberg, who returned to club play last fall after missing nearly two years with a torn ACL, then returned to the national team this spring after nearly five years in a self-imposed exile to protest of inequities within the federation. The 26-year-old’s form since returning suggests she’s capable of recapturing her Ballon d’Or-winning ways of 2019.
They will win if … Hegerberg and Hansen put the team on their backs. Decades removed from their Euro-World Cup double from 1993-95, the Norwegians are imperfect in so many areas — and also the envy of the planet in being able to line up Hegerberg and Hansen together every match. It would be an upset if Norway raises the trophy, but it’ll also be a fascinating watch.
Women’s Euro 2022 contender rankings: The true dark horses
Previous titles: None
Key player: Pernille Harder, FW — Harder is the only elite player on Denmark’s roster, but she sure is special. The 29-year-old has hovered near a goal per 90 minutes for the national team for years now, and the freedom she’s afforded in the setup (especially vs. club level) keeps everyone honest.
They will win if … their Euro magic continues. The Danes made the final in 2017 and were semifinalists in 2013, so there’s something about this tournament that seems to active them. A lot of the key components of five years ago are gone, however, so manager Lars Søndergaard’s best bet is to continue unleashing Harder and hope for the best.
Previous titles: None
Key player: Cristiana Girelli, FW — If Italy is going to get out of the group stage, it will likely need to beat Iceland. And with Iceland adept at mucking things up, Italy will need the creativity of the 32-year-old Girelli, who’s starred domestically in recent seasons.
They will win if … their project is ahead of schedule. Though the core is on the older side, there’s a lot to like with the Italians and their quick-precision style. Italy made the World Cup quarterfinals in 2019 and announced it’s fully professionalizing Serie A Femminile starting next season. There’s young talent being developed, too. So while difficult to envision, a European title arriving this summer also isn’t particularly far-fetched.
Women’s Euro 2022 contender rankings: Here to rattle cages
Key player: Sarah Zadrazil, MF
Best-case scenario: Escaping Group A and drawing the winner of Group B (aka the Group of Death) in the quarterfinal
Key player: Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir, FW
Best-case scenario: Nicking second place in Group D through toughness and opportunism and gaining knockout-stage experience for a rising program
Key player: Lia Wälti, MF
Best-case scenario: Giving a good account of themselves as Sweden and the Netherlands move on from Group C
Key player: Tine De Caigny, FW
Best-case scenario: Swiping third place in Group D ahead of Iceland. Or Italy. Or if everything falls into catastrophe, France
Key player: Inês Pereira, GK
Best-case scenario: Performing admirably in defeat is the most achievable goal for the Portuguese, which lost their playoff qualifier to Russia but made the tournament when Russia was kicked out due to the ongoing war in Ukraine
Key player: Natalia Kuikka, DF
Best-case scenario: Despite winning a qualifying group that included 2019 World Cup participants Scotland, the Finnish are not advancing out of the Group of Death. But they can at least make Spain, Germany and Denmark feel their presence
Key player: Simone Magill, FW
Best-case scenario: Northern Ireland is the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, but maybe fans will hop the Irish Sea and buoy their side to respectable performances. An upset of England in the Group A finale would live in shocking infamy
Women’s Euro 2022 groups