It’s the summer where women’s football could come home, but watch out England – there are plenty of countries looking to spoil the party.

The Women’s European Championships begin next week and,as hosts, England are placed as one of the favourites to lift the crown for the first time.

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But the best players in Europe will be fiercely queuing up to stop them this month. So what strengths do the Lionesses’ main rivals hold ahead of the tournament and who is best placed to win the Euros?

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We take a look at some of the phenomenal players in the WSL who will be performing in Euro 2022.

Spain

The advancement of the Spanish club game over the past few years, with Barcelona’s stunning form and record crowds hitting the country’s biggest stadia, means Spain are widely deemed as the favourites to lift this summer’s European Championships.

The Barcelona side that won 30 league games out of 30 last season – scoring 159 goals and conceding 11 in the process – makes up a large part of this team. For example, the centre-back partnership of Irene Paredes and Maria Pilar is impossible to breach in the club game and this has been transferred to the international stage: la Roja are unbeaten in 21 games.

Up front, there’s plenty of talent in this Spain side, even though star forward Jennifer Hermoso – who scored 23 goals for Barcelona this season and averages a goal every two international games for Spain – will miss the tournament through a knee injury.

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Spain manager Jorge Vilda has an array of talent up front

In Hermoso’s place, keep an eye out for her club team-mate Claudia Pina, after the 20-year-old scored 14 league goals in 24 matches last season – adding 11 assists in the process. The Barcelona starlet can play in both midfield and attack and that versatility could be key for Jorge Vilda’s side.

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Whether Spain can take Barcelona’s style of play into this tournament is another question, given La Roja have reached the semi-finals of this competition only once. But the firepower is there and there could be too much talent for opposition teams to keep an eye on this summer.

One to watch: Alexia Putellas

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Spain have an all-star cast including Alexia Putellas (third right)

It is clear who the star player is in this Spain side this summer. The reigning Ballon D’Or and FIFA Best Player winner ended the league campaign with 34 goals in 42 games – despite being a midfielder.

The mood in the Spain camp

Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas: “You always have to be aware of the progress we are making and you have to have that vision of where we want to go. This is the beginning of a long road that we want to travel. The future of women’s football in Spain is exciting.

“We are going to give everything, but this is a marathon. There are many other teams that go with the same idea. There are eight teams that can win. Once we’re there, in England, we’ll see what happens.”

Netherlands

Don’t look into their 5-1 friendly loss to England too much, there’s no doubt the Dutch have the best tournament experience of any side competing in this summer’s European Championships.

The Netherlands are not only the reigning Euros champions, but they also finished as runners-up in the most recent World Cup, only losing out to the fiercely strong United States side.

Despite losing manager Wiegman to England, there is still plenty of firepower in this Dutch side that goes way beyond star striker Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal.

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Netherlands have firepower and experience up front

This Netherlands squad is almost like a ‘who’s who’ out of the top European leagues. Alongside WSL-based stars Miedema and Jackie Groenen, there is Barcelona hotshot Lieke Martens, Lyon midfielder Danielle van de Donk along with Germany-based starlets in Dominique Janssen and Jill Roord.

Meanwhile, Juventus’ Lineth Beerensteyn looks a handful up front with her pace and power as she looks to share the goalscoring burden with Miedema.

Holland also have a young English manager to look out for in Mark Parsons, who has been tasked with following up Wiegman’s success during her reign.

The 35-year-old has risen through the ranks of the women’s game after taking charge of Chelsea men’s reserve team – where he managed Reece James and Mason Mount at U8s level.

Netherlands’ One to Watch: Vivianne Miedema

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Vivianne Miedema (left) is the big player to watch for the Netherlands

Fans of the Women’s Super League will know just how good the Arsenal forward can be on her day. She’s taken on more of a team role with the Gunners over the past 12 months, but she’ll be back as the main figure up front on English soil this summer.

The mood in the Netherlands camp

Netherlands manager Mark Parsons: “The expectation is we should beat everyone – we’ve won the Euros and been to the World Cup final, but if I had lived my life just thinking about people’s expectations, I wouldn’t be here today. It would just make life impossible.

“Other countries may be further along as a group right now because of their journey – we’re still moving and developing – but we have individuals that can win a game in any moment. When we’re playing well, we’ll be fine. But when we’re not playing well, if we’re together, we’ve got talent that can win those games. We’ve just got to got to keep growing. That’s the pressure.”

Sweden

On paper, Sweden are the best side in Europe as they are the highest-ranked side on the continent in the official FIFA rankings.

There’s a good reason for this: Peter Gerhardsson’s side have lost just once since March 2020 – and that sole defeat was via a penalty shootout. Take that shootout loss aside and they have not been beaten in 90 minutes in 29 matches. They’ve also only conceded three goals in their last 12 games since August 2021.

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Sweden have Arsenal's Stina Blackstenius in their squad

Sweden were also responsible for ending the United States’ emphatic 44-game unbeaten run by thrashing Megan Rapinoe and co 3-0 in the Tokyo Olympics group stages, before going onto claim the silver medal in Japan.

Gerhardsson also has plenty of key players to rely on in England this summer. Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius is so talented she forced Miedema to take up a deeper role in north London, while the Gunners star is backed up by Barcelona’s Fridolina Rolfo and Lina Hurtig in attack.

Captain Caroline Seger and Real Madrid’s Kosovare Allsani are the lynchpins in both midfield and the final third, while Everton youngster Hanna Bennison is one of the most expensive players in Women’s Super League history.

Sweden’s One to Watch: Magda Eriksson

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Magdalena Eriksson is key at the back for Sweden

The secret behind such a solid unbeaten record is a rock solid defence, and centre-back Magda Eriksson is widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world. Vocal but calm, the Chelsea captain holds the keys to Sweden having success this summer.

The mood in the Sweden camp

Sweden’s Caroline Seger: “I honestly think this could be the hardest tournament we ever played because, in technique, tactics and physically, every women’s team is now developing so fast.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic tournament to watch and play in, and my expectation is that the tempo – which was already high and really good at the 2019 World Cup – will reach another level in England. Whoever wins will need to fight really hard for it.”

Germany

You can never write off Germany at any major football tournament. Die Nationalelf have won this competition eight times, more than any other side and you wouldn’t be surprised to see them take number nine on English soil this summer.

What makes this German team particularly impressive is the mix of youth and experience in the squad.

Experienced figures such as captain Alexandra Popp, goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger of Chelsea and midfielder Sara Dabritz are backed up by young prodigies Jule Brand, Lea Schuller and Lena Oberdorf, who all bring youthful exuberance by being aged 24 and under.

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Germany beat England at Wembley in 2019

Germany have won eight of the last 10 European Championships and will be keen to make sure their quarter-final exit in 2017 was merely just a blip.

However, they also exited the 2019 World Cup at the last eight stage and failed to qualify for last summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics altogether. An early exit in this tournament will hint at a major fall from grace.

Germany’s One to Watch: Lea Schuller

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Germany's Lea Schuller is the spearhead of this young Die Nationalelf team

Voted Germany’s player of the year last year, Schuller has the best international record out of anyone in their squad. The Bayern Munich forward scored 16 goals in 22 games this season – and has 25 goals in 38 games for Germany.

The mood in the Germany camp

Chelsea and Germany goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger: “We’d never be satisfied to come second, third or fourth place. I think there is always – and there will always be – an expectation in Germany to win.

“That’s always there and like I said, we have young players coming through and a lot of experience so I believe we should do well at this Euros, just because we don’t have the biggest names compared to maybe England and Spain.

“People aren’t talking about us but I think that can be good for us: to be the underdog in that case. I’m just excited for the performances we’ll have in our locker.”

France

In France, Lyon and PSG are fierce rivals in the women’s top-flight title race, but this summer players from both sides will have to come together and unite for Les Bleues’ Euro 2022 title challenge.

It’s the Lyon players who will command France’s defensive line through captain Wendie Renard and club team-mate Griedge Mbock Bathy – who are two of the best defenders in Europe on current form.

The duo were integral in Lyon winning the Champions League final in the season just gone and will be hoping for a second trophy celebration this summer.

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France's Griedge M'Bock Bathy

Up front, it’s all about PSG, with in-form forward Marie-Antoinette Katoto set to lead the line alongside club colleagues Sandy Baltimore and Kadidiatou Diani.

Manager Corrine Diacre is not afraid to make the big decisions for this French national team, bravely leaving out Lyon duo Amandine Henry and Eugenie LeSommer from her last few squads – and that boldness could come across in the tournament this summer.

One to watch: Marie-Antoinette Katoto

Katoto will be a fearful prospect for any opposition defender, with the 23-year-old boasting a record of 32 goals in 33 games this season, plus 24 in 28 at international level.

The mood in the France camp

France manager Corinne Diacre: “This remains a major competition for us. The pressure from the last tournament in France was mainly from the media, we don’t have any less pressure just because we’re playing in England this time.

“We have a clear ambition – to go the final. We have to stay focused on the objective we have set ourselves. The pressure must be positive, not negative. You have to use it to get places.”

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