Friday 14 July 2017, 06:12

Europe seeks its latest footballing heroines

  • Germany aiming for seventh European title

  • Five teams to make their continental debut

  • Tournament expanded from 12 to 16 teams

The wait is finally over! The UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 kicks-off in the Netherlands on Sunday, as the hosts take on Norway. This year, for the first time, 16 teams will battle it out for European glory and the chance to bring Germany’s era of dominance to an end.

The tournament will be held across seven venues from 16 July to 6 August. In the wake of the rapid progress made by the women’s game in recent years and the increasing depth of competition throughout the sport, fans and players alike can look forward to an enthralling and high-quality tournament. takes a look at what the next few weeks have in store.

Group A: Netherlands (hosts), Norway, Denmark, Belgium Group B: Germany (defending champions), Sweden, Italy, Russia Group C: France, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland Group D: England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal

The format The competition begins with a traditional group stage until 27 July, with each team facing every other team in their pool. The group winners and runners-up will progress to the knockout stages, starting with the quarter-finals and semi-finals. The final will be played on 6 August to find out who can emulate Germany’s 2013 triumph and return home as champions.

What you need to know 1 UEFA held the first European tournament for women’s teams in the early 1980s, with the competition taking place every two years until 1997. The event was given European Championship status between the 1989 and 1991 tournaments. Eight teams took part in 1997, the final year in which the event was held every two years. Finland hosted the tenth UEFA Women’s European Championship in 2009, when 12 sides competed for the trophy for the first time. Eight years later, the field of participants was expanded once more, with 16 teams eagerly waiting to start their campaigns at the Women’s EURO 2017.

2 It is often said that life is all about second chances – but sometimes you get a few more opportunities to set the record straight. Germany and Sweden have met on 26 previous occasions, including two European finals. In 1995, the Germans triumphed 3-2 over a Sweden side that included current coach Pia Sundhage, before repeating the feat with a 1-0 extra-time win in 2001. The group stage will play host to the latest meeting between these two heavyweights after they met in the final of last year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament.

3 While Austria and Switzerland join Belgium, Scotland and Portugal as European debutants at this year’s tournament, Austria coach Dominik Thalhammer and Switzerland’s Martina Voss-Tecklenburg can call on a host of experienced names to take on this new challenge. Fourteen of the 23 Austrian players travelling to the Netherlands ply their trade in Germany, including star striker Nina Burger. In the Swiss ranks, Ramona Bachmann, Lara Dickenmann, Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic and Vanessa Burki feature for some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

Players to watch Vivianne Miedema (NED): Many players can tell a story or two about the pressure facing the hosts at a major international tournament. As the EUROs get underway in the Netherlands, many local hopes will be pinned on Vivianne Miedema, who is fast becoming one of the country’s key performers. She made her debut for the national team at the tender age of 17 and scored her first international hat-trick in her second match – despite only stepping onto the pitch against Portugal as a 75th-minute substitute. Miedema netted 16 goals in qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, making her the competition’s leading goalscorer. She scored all three of the Netherlands’ goals in the two decisive play-off matches against Italy to fire the Dutch to their first-ever Women’s World Cup two years ago.

Harpa Thorsteinsdottir (ISL): Iceland’s preparations for these EUROs have been far from ideal. With Margret Lara Vidarsdottir, her sister Elisa, and Dora Maria Larusdottir all sidelined through injury, coach Freyr Alexandersson will have to cope without these three key players – but he has an ace up his sleeve in the form of Harpa Thorsteinsdottir. Iceland’s Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2014 found the target ten times in qualifying for the Netherlands 2017, making her an instrumental part of her country’s success.

Sakina Karchaoui (FRA): At just 21 years of age, Sakina Karchaoui has already established herself as a permanent member of the France squad and found her niche on the left wing. She made her senior international debut in April 2016 and featured at that year's Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Rio. Less than three months later, Karchaoui played at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, where she and her team-mates were eventually beaten in the final.