This year’s June issue is full of EURO 2013 content. We were able to get personal with some of the players and learn more about the teams competing. If you enjoy watching the players on the field, check out some of their stories in our current print magazine. The animated gifs are provided by Ashley Dyce, a graduate of the Art Institute of California with a degree in graphic design.
Group C is perhaps the most wide-open group in this summer’s EURO Championships. Each of the four teams has something to prove this July. At one end of the spectrum, France and England are the more established two teams in the group, currently ranked sixth and seventh in the latest FIFA rankings and are expected to grab the top two spots. Spain, who qualified for their first EURO finals in 16 years, is hoping that success in this edition of the tournament could bring positive attention to women’s soccer in the nation. And while Russia is the lowest ranked team, they are coming into Sweden looking to erase the bad memories from EURO 2009. Here is a look at each nation that comprises Group C:
This is the fifth time that France has qualified for the EUROs but only once in their previous four occasions have they advanced out of the group stage. That was back in 2009, when they bowed out of the quarterfinals to the Netherlands after a penalty kick shootout. The French have been one of the fastest rising teams since that point, turning some heads with their play in both the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2012 London Olympics. But on both occasions they have finished in fourth place, continually left with a bad taste in their mouth from major tournament performances. After convincing play in qualification for the tournament, winning all eight of their matches and conceding only two goals in the process, expect a surge from Bruno Bini’s squad this summer.
The key for the French is their cohesion on the field and their possession game that allows for a lot of flair on the ball. That cohesion comes from the major fact that 11 of the 23 members of the French team play for the Division 1 Féminine Champions Lyon, including Louisa Necib and Elodie Thomis. Necib is one of the premier central attacking midfielders in the women’s game right now, has the ability to pace the game to her liking and can hit that killer pass to set up goals. Thomis headlines the speedy forward line for France and has a great nose for the goal as well.
If France can get out of their group, expect them to make a long run in this tournament.
Similar to France, The Three Lionesses have been on the cusp of greatness but have yet to bridge that gap. Currently England is ranked seventh in the world, only one place below their highest ever rank back in July 2011, and are playing some good soccer at the moment. Hope Powell’s side is looking for some major redemption however, due to their disappointing collapse at the hands of Canada in the 2012 London Olympics. While technically it was Team Great Britain that lost that match, 16 of the 18 players on the squad are England internationals and many people were hoping that 2012 was going to be the true springboard for women’s soccer – especially after their emotional victory over Brazil at Wembley Stadium in the group stage. So, England is back in the EUROs for a seventh time and is coming off of a surprise finals appearance in 2009. This time the roster includes the most capped player in English National Team history (male or female) in Rachel Yankey, who was dropped in 2009 due to a streak of poor performances. But the Arsenal midfielder is back in 2013 and brings one of the more lethal left-footed shots in the world. Another Arsenal Ladies player that will feature for England is left back Steph Houghton. For a back, she hits very dangerous set pieces; anytime England is near the box, expect her to take charge. Plus, she has an incredible knack for scoring goals, coming up big in all three group stage matches for Great Britain in London last summer.
This is only the second time Spain has qualified for a major tournament. The last one was back in 1997 when they made a surprise semi-final appearance after beating Russia and drawing with France in the group stage, only to be beaten 2-1 by Italy in the semis. Since then it has been quiet on the finals front for the senior team. With major success at the youth level in the past few years, though, winning the 2010 and 2011 UEFA U-17 Championships and a bronze at the 2010 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the senior level is expected to see the benefits at some point. Spain hopes that this summer’s tournament will be a platform to grow the women’s game in its country.
What does Spain have weighing heavily in their favor though? Two top forwards in Veronica Boquete and Adriana Martin. Boquete, who plays for Tyresö in Sweden, scored the goal that sent Spain to this tournament in extra time of their second place playoff second leg match against Scotland. And fans in the US have seen Adriana play for Western New York Flash for the past two seasons and has proven as a strong target forward but can play out wide as well.
This will be Russia’s fourth visit to the European Championships when they take to the pitch in July. But in their three previous appearances, they have failed to win a match, and have only drawn once in their 12 total matches. Currently they are the lowest ranked team in the competition with a ranking of 22 overall by FIFA. During this tournament Russia hopes to improve on their previous experience and the difference this time around might be that many of their top players play for Rossiyanka, the Russian League Champions and frequenters of the UEFA Women’s Champions League knockout stage. Look out for Natalia Shlyapina, a Rossiyanka striker who recently scored the winner in a EURO tune up for Russia over Ukraine. She will be the target striker for teams to watch out for in this tournament.
JJ Duke is a graduate of Rider University in New Jersey with a degree in Digital Media Studies: Film, Television and Radio. He currently is living in Fairfield, Connecticut and covers the NWSL and other US-based leagues for Our Game Magazine. After high school, he traded in his cleats and goalkeepers gloves for the microphone and since then has broadcasted high school and collegiate sports plus most recently professional baseball for various radio stations in the Northeast.