AUSTRIA DEFIED THE ODDS TO TOP THE GROUP AFTER ANOTHER STERLING PERFORMANCE SAW A 3-0 WIN OVER ICELAND. THEY WILL BE JOINED IN THE LAST EIGHT BY AN OUR OF FORM FRANCE WHO HAD TO GRIND A RESULT OUT AGAINST SWITZERLAND, AND WITH A PLAYER DOWN FOR 70 MINUTES. A 1-1 DRAW WAS ENOUGH TO CLAIM THE RUNNERS-UP SPOT.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE GROUP
This edition of the EUROs has proved to be far less predictable than anyone had ever expected, but yet just as exciting. When the tournament draw came out, it was pretty much written in stone that France would win Group C and the real battle would be for second place.
But at the end of the day, if there was anyone who successfully projected the finishing order to be Austria, as the 14th best team in UEFA, winning the group and France being the runner-up while Switzerland and Iceland failing to advance, a lot more fans and experts will have to utilise their crystal ball for future tournaments.
But Austria was the most consistent side of the tournament and deserved to win the group, while France are very close to setting up a classic quarterfinal match with their longtime rival, England.
FOR THE TEAMS WHO ADVANCED, WHAT WORKED
There isn’t a whole lot of history when talking about the Austrian Women’s National team. They have never qualified for a major senior international tournament prior to this one and their youth teams have qualified for just two tournaments, with the U-17’s making the UEFA U-17 Championship once in 2014 and the U-19s going to the tournament Finals in 2016.
But Dominik Thalhammer’s team looked far from nervous throughout the group stages as they defeated Switzerland in their opener and followed up with a passionate 1-1 draw against France.
Their true colours came out in their dominating 3-0 victory over Iceland, posting 16 shots on target and always looking the far superior side for 90 minutes. This group is a young and energetic squad, with 17 of the 23 players aged 25-years-old or younger, and are playing with absolutely no fear. And combining all those elements together with their unbeaten record, they will be a very dangerous side heading into the knockout round.
It was anything but easy on the other hand for France as they advanced from the group with a narrow victory over Iceland in the opener and then two less-than-ideal draws against Austria and Switzerland.
Most notably in that Switzerland game, they were forced to play 72 minutes a player down after Eve Perisset got sent off 17 minutes in for a last-ditch tackle on Ramona Bachmann. It was already nervy goings for Olivier Echouafni’s side when Bachmann was terrorising the back-four and Wendie Renard picked up her second yellow card of the group stage, forcing her to miss the quarterfinal stage. France will now be without two of their starting defenders in the quarters.
The issue is that their on-field play hasn’t been terrible as they still possess the ball well and force their opposition to chase the game. Even against the Swiss, they completed 87% of their passes and had over 60% of the possession. But they have lacked a killer finish up front and without that bite in front of goal, teams haven’t feared Les Blues as much as other times.
Now, they go in to the knockout rounds without much confidence, missing two starters and the likelihood of facing England on Sunday, who are flying as high as anyone right now. Plus, their record in the knockout rounds has never been in their favor so it will be tough to see them making it to the last four.
FOR THE TEAMS WHO WERE ELIMINATED, WHAT DIDN’T GO RIGHT AND WHAT CAN THEY BUILD ON
Switzerland won’t be overly happy how the tournament ended for them, as they had France at their mercy on Wednesday and if they held out for another 15 minutes, it would be them advancing to the quarterfinals and not their border rivals.
But in the end, the Swiss didn’t do enough in multiple matches and ultimately, that was their downfall. Despite allowing a couple of golden chances to Austria in the opener, they created plenty of their own but didn’t put any away.
Against Iceland, they had nearly 60% of the possession but only generated five shots, with three coming on target. And with France down a player for almost three-quarters of the match, they were on their heels far too often for their liking and didn’t put France away after scoring immediately after Perisset got sent off.
They did a lot of decent things on the field and Ramona Bachmann continues to be their driving force out wide and the creator of many chances. However now, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg will have to go back to the drawing board in order to make it back to the Women’s World Cup, especially that now time is starting to run out on making an impact run in a major tournament with the veteran group that they have.
In all the chaos of this group, it would be easy to throw Iceland aside and disregard their performance as nothing more than uneventful. But that would be the complete opposite as this program continues to rise in the right direction.
They competed well in all three of their matches and could very well have gotten results against France and Switzerland. But luck was not on their side at times and at others, their defines and goalkeeping, especially in the Austria match on Wednesday, was not good enough. And that will be something Freyr Alexandersson will need to address prior to World Cup qualifying, but if they can make those changes in the back, there is no doubt we will see better showings from Iceland in tournaments to come.
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER OF THE GROUP
WINNER: Sarah Zadrazil (Austria)
HONORABLE MENTION: Ramona Bachman (Switzerland), Amandine Henry (France)
The EUROs started off brightly for Sarah Zadrazil, as she played a well-weighted ball to Nina Burger in the lead up to her winning tally against Switzerland. But in the final few minutes, a rash tackle forced Zadrazil off with a lower body injury and there were real questions of her availability through the rest of the tournament.
But after missing Austria’s second match against France, she was able to find herself back in the starting lineup against Iceland. Her absence was notable in the France match as Austria’s attack looked less potent than it did in their opener and lacked her element of combining well with Burger in transition.
So with the former East Tennessee State striker back in, she made an impact right away as a few minutes before halftime as she pounced on Guðbjörg Gunnarsdóttir’s mistake to give her side a lead. And she continued to find herself in the right places in the second half and created a couple more chances as well. Austria will definitely be keying on her in the attack in the knockout round and with her being able to rest up a bit more prior to the quarterfinals, expect more big things coming from Zadrazil.