UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 – Staff Predictions

After finishing the previews, the staff was able to have a little fun predicting the winners. Surely there will be a friendly wager and likely some not-so-friendly banter on Twitter. Join in on it and let us know what team you have winning this year’s tournament.

JJ Duke: Sweden 

Traditionally in 12-team tournaments that feature group and knockout stages, Group A teams have a supreme advantage. They avoid having to face the winners of both Group B and C because they are both placed on the other side of the bracket once knockout play begins, and most likely teams from Group A may have to play each other again in the semifinals (as the winner of Group A plays one of the third place finishers and the runner up of Group A plays the runner up of Group B; with the two winners of those matches meeting up in the semifinals).

With that being said, my winner will be Sweden for a few reasons. Outside of the obvious home field advantage, they are in form right now and have a winning coach on the bench with Pia Sundhage. Plus, they received a group that they could handle winning with playing Italy, Denmark and Finland. Granted, they would possibly have to play Germany or Norway late in the knockout round and while Sweden doesn’t possess the best records against either of those sides, you have to figure that at that point the home field advantage has to kick in and having the will to win this tournament in front of their fans.

With star players like Lotta Schelin (who right now is one of the best forwards in the world), Caroline Seger and Kosovare Asllani, this team has what it takes.

This is why I’m picking Sweden to win EUROs. (Side note: I’m feeling good picking a top team right now, because after correctly picking No. 1 seed Louisville to win the NCAA basketball tournament, why not use the same strategy again.)

Tiffany Weimer: Spain

My predicted winner is a team hasn’t been in a major tournament since 1997. Spain’s Women’s National Team has been impressive over the past couple of years and I truly think they have a shot at winning this thing. There is something to be said for a team that has no expectations going in. With their most recent friendly against Denmark ending in a 2-2 tie and Veronica Boquete bagging both goals, I think this team is ready for what Sweden 2013 has to offer.  My favorite statistic about Spain this year is that they scored 47 goals in qualifying, putting them second in that category only to Germany.

The toughest part for Spain will be to get out of their group. France is a likely lock to finish first. England will be a hot competitor for the second position, but the Spaniards won’t go down without a fight.

The X factor for Spain is their special players. I would take Boquete and Adriana over any other two forwards in the tournament. Spain’s youth success is another reason I’m backing them. Over the past three years, the U-17 WNT won the 2010 and 2011 EUROs and finished third in this year’s, and the U-19 WNT finished second in the 2012 EURO tournament.

The bottom line…. special players win games for teams, not defenses (don’t quote me on that). Boquete and Adriana have proven their worth at every level of women’s soccer – this is their time to show they and their team belong with the big dogs. VIVA ESPAÑA!

Rachael Caldwell: England

In the 2009 edition of the EURO tournament, England was the runner up. Usually that’s looked upon as an accomplishment in itself, but when the final score of the game was 6-2, it’s hard to see the success.

However, four years is a long time and this is a very different England team, one that has a lot of confidence coming off recent successes. Excluding the Olympics (where they played as Team Great Britain), the England side hasn’t lost in over a year.

In those 10 games, England has 8 wins and 3 ties. Most recently, they held the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion Japan to a 1-1 draw. Earlier this year, England were named champions at the Cyprus Cup with a 1-0 win over Canada.

With these good results comes a fair amount of confidence heading into the EUROs, and I think that definitely gives this team an edge. It is part of the reason I think they will be crowned this year’s champion.

Now, for this to play out as I have predicted, England needs to do three things. The first is that their forwards must keep producing. England has had 13 total goals in 2013, with 7 of them coming from Eniola Aluko, Ellen White, Toni Duggan, and Kelly Smith. Smith is coming off injury, but if the other three forwards continue to play well, the pressure will be off Smith.

Second, the midfield needs to continue to support the attack, but help in shutting down the counter attack as well. England’s midfield is filled with attackers (heck, even England’s defense has Steph Houghton), but because of that, England’s defense is often left exposed. They must limit counter-attacking options for opposing teams.

Finally, England’s defense needs its veterans to step up and for communication to be at an all-time high. With Rachel Unitt and Claire Rafferty out due to injury, coach Hope Powell called in uncapped defenders Gemma Bonner and Lucy Bronze. If those players see any time, captain Casey Stoney, along with Alex Scott and Steph Houghton, will need to be communicating.

After Team Great Britain’s performance at the Olympics, things have been going well for women’s soccer in England, despite the drama surrounding FAWSL. With this potentially being the legendary Kelly Smith’s last tournament with England, there is extra motivation to bring the trophy home.

Ciara McCormack: France

My prediction to be crowned EURO winner for 2013 is France. After a remarkable ascent to the upper echelons of women’s football over the last decade, and a couple of painstakingly close podium finishes in the last two major world events, I see no reason why the third time is not a charm, and France comes home with the title.

What I see the French needing to focus on is putting away their opportunities and the match when they have the ability to do so. If they can do that, I believe they will be lifting the trophy on July 28.

The French boast a remarkable lineup from front to back. Sarah Bouhaddi from Lyon has multiple major tournament experience in her back pocket and will again be counted on to lead from the goal line. Although Wendie Renard missed the Norway tune-up match with illness, she is a stalwart in the back for the French and probably one of the best center backs in the world, with her combination of aerial prowess, composure on the ball, tactical awareness and speed. Renard is the complete package and with her firing on all cylinders, France has a back line that is difficult to penetrate. Louisa Necib has pulled the strings on the French attack throughout France’s ascension into the elite of the world stage, and I expect the same from her once again. Gaetane Thiney is in peak form, evidenced by her match-winner against Norway in a 1-0 win in the last couple of weeks, and coupled with the speed of Elodie Thomis, opponents will have a hard time shutting down one player and affecting the French attack. Significant also to the French chances is the return to the national team of top midfielder Amandine Henry, who came back to the squad after a three year absence.

Keys for me for France ultimately ending up on the top step of the podium is to take advantage and put away the chances that their exquisite possession allows them, and not letting teams stick around.

I think with 12 members of the French squad being members of Lyon, the freshness of their loss to Wolfsburg in the Champions League final is timely and will give added motivation to dig deep and find a way to finish at the top. For captain and France’s most capped international Sandrine Soubeyrand, who turns 40 in August, it would be a fantastic finish to her fifth consecutive EUROs.

 Brandi Ortega: Germany

The seven-time UEFA European Champions (five titles straight starting in 1995) breezed in qualifying against lesser-established teams, scoring 64 goals while conceding only 3 and a record of 9 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses. Germany will be bringing a mixture of younger and older players to the tournament after a string of injuries leaves the German’s injured reserve a Who’s Who: Linda Bresonik, Verena Faißt, Kim Kulig, Viola Odebrecht, Babett Peter, and Alexandra Popp. Head Coach Silvia Neid has added six players, none of whom have more than 10 caps for the senior side. Despite the loss of quality, Germany still boast an impressive squad. Célia Okoyino da Mbabi was the top scorer in qualifying and teams will have their hands full keeping on eye on the striker. Joining da Mbabi in the attack are Dzsenifer Marozsán and midfielder Nadine Keßler. The defense is anchored by stalwarts Saskia Bartusiak and goalkeeper Nadine Angerer but is bolstered by newcomers such as 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam’s Jennifer Cramer and FC Bayern Munich’s Leonie Maier.

The Germans will advance out of Group B and their first challenge will be a quarterfinal match against the runner-up from Group C – the “Group of Death.” Here, they could face Spain again, the only squad able to take a point off of the team in qualifying in a 2-2 draw. In all likelihood, though, the team will face France or England, neither of which will be an easy task. The semifinal will see the Germans face the winner of Group C – odds are either France or England – before advancing to the final. To get to the final, Germany will need to maintain its focus and patience, and avoid its habit of playing to the level of lesser opponents during the group stage. The midfield will need to maintain possession and avoid sloppy giveaways. Expect to see Sweden, bolstered by home pitch advantage and former player now coach Pia Sundhage, advance out of its group in one of the top two slots, leading to a Germany-Sweden final. The Germans will be hungry for a title after crashing out of the 2011 Women’s World Cup and missing out on the 2012 London Olympics. In the end, Germany’s experience and attacking nous will prove too strong for the Swedes, resulting in a record sixth straight title for the country.