After Covid forced its postponement last year, the Women’s Euros are fast approaching with England set to host a tournament bigger and, quite possibly, better than any previous edition.
One hundred days before the opening ceremony at Old Trafford on 6 July tickets went on general sale at 8am on Monday morning. By 8.43am all available seats for the final at Wembley on 31 July had sold out and by 9.45am the same applied to the England v Northern Ireland Group A game at Southampton’s St Mary’s on 15 July.
Given that more than 350,000 seats available for advance purchase had been snapped up, sales already exceeded the 240,045 bought for the last women’s European Championships, in the Netherlands, in 2017.
Tickets have been purchased by a diverse, youthful demographic by residents of 89 countries: 48% of those buying are female and 34% aged under 35. With pricing ranging from £5 to £50 per seat it is expected the opening game between England and Austria at Old Trafford on 6 July will swiftly sell out. Indeed, there is widespread confidence attendances will shatter all sorts of records for women’s games, often by considerable distances.
Tickets for all 31 fixtures are available at www.uefa.com/womenseuro/ticketing
Second-guessing the latter stages of the 16-team event seems harder than ever. Several countries are fast-improving but it remains likely the winner will emerge from England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. With Russia suspended by Fifa, their replacement’s identity is to be determined but Portugal are the favourites to step in.
The Netherlands, the holders and losing 2019 World Cup finalists, have lost Sarina Wiegman, who choreographed the 2017 triumph, to England and are now managed by an Englishman, Mark Parsons. A 35-year-old former Chelsea women’s reserve coach, Parsons impressed in the United States during stints in charge of Washington Spirit and Portland Thorns.
The bookmakers fancy Spain’s chances, primarily because of the large numbers of players from Barcelona, the European champions, in their ranks but good as Alex Putellas, Jennifer Hermoso and co are Jorge Vilda’s team are newcomers to the international big time and remain a work in progress.
After winning eight of the 12 Women’s Euros, Germany boast formidable pedigree and can never be discounted but they are still arguably in a transitional phase under Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. While France invariably appear strong on paper, they are serial tournament underachievers and do not lack creative tensions under their controversial coach Corinne Diacre. That said, they have just won 10 consecutive games. Meanwhile, Peter Gerhardsson’s Sweden, Olympic silver medallists in Japan, should not be underrated.
After reaching the semi-finals of the 2015 and 2019 World Cups and the 2017 European Championships, England are desperate to reach their first final since Euro 2009 in Finland when they lost 6-2 to Germany. The Lionesses seem significantly enhanced under Wiegman. Unbeaten in nine games they have home advantage and top-class talent in Fran Kirby, Lauren Hemp and Lucy Bronze. Even so, they should not underestimate the challenge posed by a potentially awkward Austria and a Norway XI bolstered by the returning Ada Hegerberg’s outstanding attacking talents.
The initial group stage also features Northern Ireland, who have qualified for their first major tournament and the largely part-time players are preparing for it by spending seven months away from their day jobs and studies, living as full-time professionals. Northern Ireland do not intend merely making up the numbers.
The tournament will take place at Wembley, Brentford, Milton Keynes, Old Trafford, Manchester City’s Academy Stadium, Leigh Sports Village, Sheffield’s Bramall Lane, Rotherham’s New York Stadium, Brighton and Southampton.
The only shame is the distinct lack of geographical balance with the north-east’s exclusion appearing extraordinary; surely the 52,000 St James’ Park – situated slap-bang in Newcastle city centre and close to an international airport and mainline railway station – would have been a strong addition? Among other grounds, Bristol City’s Ashton Gate, Plymouth’s Home Park, Norwich’s Carrow Road and Birmingham’s Villa Park would also have made appealing, atmospheric venues but the south-west, East Anglia and the West Midlands have also been omitted from the tournament map.
More positively, England’s Arts Council are organising a series of exhibitions and events in all host towns and cities. If this cultural programme can mirror the grace of the Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema (on view in group stage action in Leigh and Sheffield), the Spain midfielder Alex Putellas (Milton Keynes and Brentford), the France defender Wendie Renard (Rotherham) and England’s centre-forward Ellen White (Manchester, Brighton and Southampton), it should be a big hit.