Last year, women’s football delivered an unforgettable Olympic tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
This year, all eyes are on Europe as the highly-anticipated UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 gets underway in England.
The event was postponed a year due to the knock-on effect of Covid-19.
But this time round it’s taking centre stage, with the opening game set to be played in front of a sold-out Old Trafford on Wednesday 6 July.
And it will conclude at Wembley stadium on 31 July, with yet another sell-out crowd expected.
From group stages to knockouts, the stars involved, and how to watch the action: here are the top things you need to know about the 2022 Euros.
The Netherlands are the current holders, winning in 2017
Picture by 2017 Getty Images
How it will work: Euro 2022 format
Before we get into the preview, let’s break down how the next month will play out.
The sixteen teams that successfully qualified for the Euros have been drawn into four different groups.
Each team will play each other once during the group stage, earning three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss.
The top two teams from each group will then advance onto the knockout stages.
Eight quarter-finalists will be halved into four semi-finalists, before we are left with the top two teams of the tournament.
In a bid for European glory, they will go head-to-head for the trophy.
The groups: Hosts England in Group A, holders Netherlands in Group C
Here are the four groups that the sixteen countries have been drawn into:
Group A: England, Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland.
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland.
Group C: Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal.
Group D: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland.
Women’s Euro 2022 Preview: The favourites and the underdogs
If there is one thing we know about international tournaments, it is that they can be wildly unpredictable.
The Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021 bore witness to that, with Canada perhaps surprising many as they emerged with gold medals resting around their necks, and the highly fancied USA taking bronze.
This year the tournament favourites include Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, and hosts England.
Where Sweden are concerned, a second placed finish at the Olympics – the highest among the European teams – puts them front and centre of the conversation.
Stina Blackstenius (pictured), Fridolina Rolfo and Sofia Jakobsson helped Sweden to silver in Tokyo
Picture by GETTY IMAGES
Their Swedish frontline of Stina Blackstenius, Fridolina Rolfö, and Sofia Jakobsson was unplayable in Tokyo; the fluidity is increasingly difficult for any backline to deal with.
Reigning champions, the Netherlands, will fancy their chances of retaining their title.
But it won’t be easy, especially as they find their feet under new manager Mark Parsons.
Thankfully, they can call on their all-time top scorer, Vivianne Miedema, to help their Euros defence.
And much like the Dutch did in 2017, hosts England will be hoping their home support can help carry them to a major title.
They’ve been runners-up twice in this competition, the most recent being in 2009.
And of course we can’t forget Spain, home to – according to Ballon d’Or standings – the world’s best player: Alexia Putellas.
Ballon d’Or winner Putellas earned 100th cap for Spain in 2022
Picture by 2022 Getty Images
She is joined by multiple FC Barcelona teammates, with the club dominating Europe of late in spite of their recent Champions League loss to Lyon.
The European Championships love to throw up an underdog story – the Netherlands’ unexpected 2017 is proof of such.
Iceland could be one to surprise a few; back in February 2022 they finished second in the SheBelieves Cup, losing just one game (vs USA) and held their own very well.
Elsewhere, newcomers Northern Ireland will be hoping to cause an upset in their tournament debut.
And a team that may not be on the radar of spectators as an out-and-out favourite, but perhaps should be, is Italy.
At the 2019 World Cup, they topped their group and made it to the quarter-finals before losing to the Netherlands.
But they showed signs of developing into a very strong team and could demonstrate as such when they hunt for European glory this month.
Stars to watch at Euro 2022
The beauty of international tournaments is that there is always an abundance of talent to boast about.
Even when it’s limited to just Europe, that remains a constant fact.
From veterans of the game to the new kids on the block, here are just some of the names you should be looking out for at Euro 2022.
Electric winger Hemp one to watch
Picture by 2022 Getty Images
Group A stars to watch
Lauren Hemp: Manchester City’s Hemp comes into the Euros on the back of winning her fourth PFA Young Player of the Year award in England, which is a testament to just how consistently good she has been.
The blistering winger will undoubtedly be an integral part of the English team’s Euro 2022 campaign, and has the ability to single-handedly change the outcome of a game.
Caroline Graham Hansen: In keeping with the winger theme, it wouldn’t be ill-judged to deem FC Barcelona’s Graham Hansen as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
At the top of her game, CGH is unplayable and a nightmare for any fullback – although after the UCL final Lyon’s Selma Bacha may be able to give tips on how to keep her quiet.
With Ada Hegerberg back in the frame, Norway and CGH now have an elite no.9 to create for and they’ll be hoping things click into place as they hope to mount a title-winning campaign.
Group B stars to watch
Alexia Putellas: What is there to say about Alexia Putellas that hasn’t already been said?
The Spanish midfielder plays for club and country with her heart on her sleeve and finds a way to deliver on almost every occasion.
Putellas’ individual accolades speak for themselves, with UEFA Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or titles to her name, and now she faces the expectation of leading Spain to a successful Euro campaign.
Giulia Gwinn: Germany had long dominated the European Championships until their last winning run in 2013, earning their spot as the competition’s most successful side with eight titles under their belt.
But now it’s time for the new kids on the block to take over and build their own legacy.
At 22, Gwinn spearheads the new generation of Germans, and has already proven to come up clutch for them.
At the 2019 World Cup, she scored the only goal in their opening game and went on to be named the Best Young Player of the tournament.
Gwinn suffered an ACL injury that kept her out of Germany action until late 2021, and now back in full-flow she will be hoping to deliver another standout campaign for her country.
Group C stars to watch
Vivianne Miedema: The Netherlands comfortably have one of, if not the, most well-rounded forwards in the game at their disposal.
While many strikers focus on their goal scoring, the 24-year-old is able to deliver in front of goal as well as create them from deeper.
She is her country’s leading goal scorer, and at Tokyo 2020 in 2021 broke the record for most goals scored in a single Olympic women’s tournament.
The Arsenal forward might not be stealing the WSL headlines after last season, but she should never be written off.
Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic: Two-time Champions League winner Crnogorcevic is simply indispensable for Switzerland.
The 31-year-old is her country’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 61 goals.
And with Alisha Lehmann withdrawing herself from the Euros, her role could be even more crucial as Switzerland hope to progress through the competition.
Her versatility is a big component of her game, playing either along the front-line or at right-back as she has with FC Barcelona.
Group D stars to watch
Marie-Antoinette Katoto: The world of women’s football is certainly not lacking in talented forwards, and France’s Katoto is among the best. When Katoto plays, she elevates everyone around her.
Her reading of the game is what makes her so difficult to play against for defenders; consistently making the right kind of runs to compliment overlapping fullbacks.
Not only does she have the movement and ability to create chances, but she has the end product to match.
108 goals in 113 games for PSG, and 24 in 29 games for her country: Katoto is already one of the world’s best.
Laura Giuliani: When it comes to standout players, forwards will often get their accolades because of their impact with goals scored. But in the 2019 World Cup, goalkeeper Giuliani was one player that impressed hugely.
She helped Italy keep two clean sheets and to a quarter-final appearance where they fell to eventual finalists the Netherlands.
Key saves, including a penalty save from Australia’s Sam Kerr, put her on the radar of many fans.
In the 2023 World Cup qualifiers group stages, she conceded just three goals – two to Switzerland and one to Spain – solidifying her place as one of Italy’s most important players.
Giuliani is one of Italy’s key players
Picture by 2021 Getty Images
Euro 2022 Schedule
The group stages will run from 6 July to 18 July. Hosts England kick things off with a game against Austria on matchday one.
All quarter-final fixtures will be settled between 20 July and 23 July, before the semi-finals on 26 July and 27 July.
And lastly, the final of the Euros will be held on 31 July.
A complete breakdown of the schedule can be found here.
How to watch the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 action across July
At this point, you have the key things to know going into the first game on 6 July.
But if you’re not there in person, how can you watch the action unfold?
Regardless of where you are in the world, Euro 2022 will be available to watch and stream live globally.
A full list of the broadcasters and digital platforms where you can watch the action is available here.
Buy tickets for Euro 2022
This year’s European Championships is projected to be one of, if not the, biggest to date.
Over 500,000 tickets have been sold so far.
And organisers have made more tickets available to buy in response to high demand.
If you want to be at the heart of the action and support your country in England, those tickets can be found on the UEFA website.