2017 Women’s Euro: Handicapping Group C

Group C is expected to be dominated by France. While Austria, Iceland and Switzerland are all quality sides, France is on a whole different level, especially in 2017. France was the second favorite, after Germany, to win the whole tournament at 3-1 odds, so you can imagine that they are huge favorites in this group. The only team to make the 2015 World Cup aside from France was Switzerland who squeaked through to the knockout stages with just 3 points, and only France made the 2016 Olympics.

 

Country FIFA Ranking Odds to Win Group
France 3 1 to 5
Switzerland 17 10 to 1
Iceland 19 14 to 1
Austria 24 20 to 1

France is the Clear Favorite

 

It’s hard to think of much to say here because unlike every other group in the tournament, France has no real competition in their group. While anything is possible in a game of soccer, France has done everything right leading up to this tournament. In the qualifying group for the Euro France won all 8 games while scoring 27 goals and allowing 0. The French won the She Believes Cup when they played a round robin tournament with Germany, England and the United States, and they didn’t lose any of their friendlies before the tournament.

France really won the tournament draw here, because they didn’t get any top opponents but they also didn’t get any pushovers. Switzerland, Iceland and Austria are all solid teams with the potential to put a great product on the field, but they don’t pose much of a realistic threat to the French squad. The French have so much speed and individual talent, but they tend to fall short in major tournaments. Let’s revisit this thought in the knockout round when the slow and methodical German side meets the quick and polished French squad. France should be well warmed up by the time they face the losers of Group D.

 

Switzerland

 

The Swiss side had a flawless qualifying group, winning all 8 of their matches. Unfortunately, their friendlies didn’t go well as they lost to England and Norway. One major issue comes to light here and persists across most of the women’s international soccer world: too many good teams are left without quality opponents or don’t have the necessary funds to travel to play friendlies. While other teams have played upwards of 10 games already in 2017, the Swiss have only played two friendly games and they lost them both. Switzerland did travel to play the Cyprus Cup, which they won, but the tournament is a less impressive version of the Algarve Cup. Most of the teams did not qualify for the Euro at all, but Switzerland did beat Italy 6-0 in that tournament.

Realistically the Swiss side is battling for 2nd place in the group and an opportunity to play the winner of Group D. Switzerland faces Austria in their first match, and securing a victory here would make them favorites to move forward while a defeat would almost certainly doom them to an exit in the group stage. Otherwise I don’t know much about the Swiss team, apart from watching them get demolished by England in Switzerland, but I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of very equal soccer.

 

Iceland

 

 

Iceland has the unfortunate task of facing France during the first match, but given that France is expected to sweep the group  it could be a positive. If they can move past the likely defeat by a dominant French side, they will already know which opponent is their toughest competition by focusing on the team that comes ahead in the Switzerland vs Austria match. They will also have the advantage of already knowing their goal differential against France, so they will have very specific targets in each of their subsequent games.

On the negative side, Iceland has been pretty lackluster since the qualifying matches. Iceland has only won one of their five games so far in 2017, and they haven’t won any games against tournament-quality opponents. They had a decent showing in the Algarve Cup where they beat China and tied Spain and Norway, but they suffered losses to Brazil, Japan and Netherlands. All this really means is that Iceland isn’t a strong enough squad to beat France, but they are basically on par with Switzerland and Austria in the battle for second in the group. They are hoping to get a quality game out of the recently-healthy Dagný Brynjarsdóttir of the Portland Thorns in the NWSL.

 

Austria

 

I was surprised to see that Austria was ranked last in the group according to the odds-makers around the world. Like Iceland, Austria hasn’t had many opportunities to prove themselves during 2017, but at least they won a game against Denmark. It’s very hard to handicap a team with so few games played, none of which I have seen in person. The team is very young on the whole, which is true of most upstart women’s soccer clubs, but many of the players are rostered in the F. Bundisliga so they should be used to this level of competition. This is Austria’s first major tournament ever, so they have to be excited to get out and play in front of a few big crowds.

Like Switzerland, Austria competed in the Cyprus Cup, but they didn’t experience the same positive results. Austria only beat New Zealand while losing to Scotland and tying South Korea.

 

Final Prediction

France will certainly come first, and I will go with Switzerland to advance only because they get to play France in the last game. It is entirely possible that we see at least 3 points from every team, but the chance of tying France once they have locked up the group pushes Switzerland over the top.

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