2017 Women’s Euro: Handicapping Group D

The final group of the tournament is very similar to Group B in that there are two teams expected to push through and two teams expected to falter. Group D consists of the favorites – England and Spain – and the underdogs -Scotland and Portugal. Portugal was the very last team to qualify through the play-in game where the worst two second place group qualifiers played each other for a place in the final tournament. 7th best Romania and 8th best Portugal played to a 0-0 draw and a 1-1 draw, but because Portugal scored on the road they got the final spot in the tournament. Needless to say, Portugal is widely considered to be the worst contender at the tournament.

Country FIFA Ranking Odds to Win Group
England 5 7 to 10
Spain 13 2 to 1
Scotland 21 20 to 1
Portugal 38 100 to 1

 

England Has the Most Experience

England is one of just five teams in the tournament that have made it through to the final match in a previous Euro, with England losing to Sweden in 1984 and to Germany in 2009. Since 2009, women’s soccer in England has improved significantly, with the team jumping from the cluster of mediocre teams around 10th in the FIFA rankings to 4th place after the 2015 World Cup where they came third by knocking off Germany in the third place match. That success has energized fandom for women’s soccer in England to previously unseen levels, although it still falls well short of the support the men’s side receives. England has dropped to 5th in the world standings because they were not allowed to qualify for the Olympics due to IOC rules and Canada was placed above them by earning a bronze medal there.

England see this Euro at their chance to finally come away the winners in a major tournament, and their draw puts them in a great position. If England can win their group they will likely avoid both France and Germany during the knockout stage until the final game of the tournament. Coach Mark Sampson has put his team in an excellent position for success by booking a number of friendly games against top competition, including 8 of the 15 teams that are participating in this tournament. England came away the loser in two of those games – against Norway and Germany – but won 4 of them. Personally, I have seen a lot of games involving the English side, but I don’t think they have quite what it takes to win the whole tournament, but I’m sure they would love to prove me wrong.

 

Spain is the Upstart

2016 and 2017 have been explosions of success for the Spanish side. After decades mired in failure, Spain finally qualified for the 2015 World Cup and made it through to the knockout round. They made the 2013 Euro after failing to qualify every time except for a lucky run in 1997, and they have never made the Olympics. Given that, imagine the surprise when Spain won all 8 of their Euro qualifying matches by scoring 39 goals and allowing just 2. Since then, Spain has lost just one game, a friendly against Brazil where they held the lead for 70 minutes before giving up two late goals, while securing first place in the Algarve Cup by beating Canada (4th in the world), Japan (6th in the world) and Norway (11th in the world). Spain did lose by 1 goal to both England and France at the very end of 2016, but the fact that they have been able to secure such strong competition speaks to their growing reputation around the world.

Given the Algarve Cup, I think this Spanish team has what it takes to win the group. It feels like the Spanish side has been motivated by their continued success, and they looked extremely competent in their game against Brazil. The first game against Portugal should be a nice warm up, and if they can win that game by 3 or 4 goals they will definitely shift the odds in their favor. Both Scotland and Portugal are much weaker sides than Spain and I am rooting for them to win the group and make the finals.

 

Scotland

Injuries have plagued the Scottish side, and I think they will struggle to win against England or Spain. While Scotland technically has the higher spot in the group over Spain due to UEFAs personal rankings, the loss of Kim Little is huge and their recent results have been extremely disappointing. They have won just 4 of their 10 games this year, with only one of those wins coming against a tournament contender – Austria. While Scotland should be able to beat Portugal, they will have difficulties finding success against England in their first match or Spain in their final match. This is Scotland’s first appearance in the Euro.

The most logical path to the knockout stage for Scotland would be to earn a draw with either England or Spain and hope to get through on goal differential by crushing Portugal, but given that Little was one of their most accomplish goal scorers in the history of Scottish women’s soccer that seems like a long shot. I think Scotland will come a distant third in the group, but so far we’ve seen that anything can happen once the whistle blows. Maybe they can find some magic.

 

Portugal

In the opening paragraph I laid out the narrative that Portugal is just lucky to have qualified. This is their first appearance at the Euro and they have only beaten Wales and Northern Ireland so far this year. Those results don’t scream success when you lost your own tournament – the Algarve Cup – coming in last place out of 12 teams. Honestly there isn’t much else to say about Portugal. They were the last team to make the tournament, they are the lowest ranked team in the tournament, and I’m sure they would be happy to earn any result. I wish them the best of luck and hope that they can surprise me like Russia did.

 

Final Prediction

Spain comes first and England second with 3 points to Scotland and 0 to Portugal.