This article was worked on by multiple members of the WSX team, and we wanted to give them each a quick shout-out for their hard work. Jess Simpson wrote the Belgium preview, MK Ferry wrote the Italy preview, and Savannah Miscik wrote the France and Iceland previews!
Belgium may well be the underdogs in this competition. In 2017, the Red Flames didn't make it past the group stages, finishing third in their group. They performed well in qualifying for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, placing second in their group, and making it to the playoffs. However, they ultimately lost to Switzerland on away goals. In December 2020, Belgium beat Switzerland 4-0 to top their Euro qualifying group for the first time in their history.
Belgium are clearly a goalscoring side, with 37 goals in the 8 qualifying games, with 21 of those goals coming from superstar forwards Tessa Wullaert and Tine De Caigny. The Red Flames will be coached by Ives Serneels, who has led the team since 2011 and has overseen more than 120 international matches.
Players to Watch
Tessa Wullaert is arguably the biggest women’s football star to come out of Belgium. At 29, Wullaert is Belgium’s all-time leading scorer, with 67 goals in 109 games. In her last two seasons ta Belgian club Anderlecht, Wullaert has been involved in 136 goals, scoring 79 and assisting on 57. She won the Belgian Golden Boot in 2016, 2018, and 2019, and led Anderlecht to consecutive league titles in 2021 and 2022. Wullaert is one of the most experienced players on the team and is one of the most important creative outlets for the team. She is simply a tremendous player and will make a huge impact for the Red Flames in this year's tournament.
Another experienced player that will be important to Belgium’s side is the most capped player, Janice Cayman. With 126 appearances, Cayman has been a part of this team since 2007, when she was 18. Now aged 33, Cayman has spent time abroad in the United States, winning the NWSL in 2016 with Western New York Flash, and more recently, since 2019, she has played in France for European giants Olympique Lyonnais. There, she has won two UEFA Champions League titles. Of her national team, Cayman said “We’ve made a great deal of progress in recent years. A generation has come of age, while talented young players have come through to strengthen the squad. Today, we have a nice mix of youth and experience."
Amber Tysiak is a young player that people should watch out for in this tournament. The 22-year-old defender is fast, skillful, and a powerful player. Currently playing for OH Leuven in the Belgian league, Tysiak was promoted to the senior national team in 2021, having made 16 appearances since then. Despite being a defender, Tysiak has scored 5 goals in those 16 appearances, showing that she can be quite the daredevil when it comes to moving forward up the field. While she did end the domestic season injured, Tysiak is on track to be fully fit by the time the Euros kick-off.
Despite their reputation in world football, France has never won a Euro tournament. The closest they ever came is the quarter-finals in 2009, 2013, and the most recent Euros in 2017. Led by controversial head coach Corinne Diacre, Les Bleues are missing some of their most notable players such as Amandine Henry and Éugenie Le Sommer due to “sporting reasons.” Coincidentally, these players have also spoken out about alleged mistreatment by Diacre.
France has several impressive goal-scorers to help them make it to the finals this go-around. Marie-Antoinette Katoto, forward for Paris Saint-Germain, has scored six goals in her last five appearances for France. Melvine Malard is another player sure to get in on the action, bagging two goals in her last four international appearances. Lastly, never count out the indomitable Wendie Renard to use her height to her advantage and score some headers. The center-back has scored 33 times in over 130 appearances.
Given the talent and intensity France has, will this be the year they overcome the odds and finally win a European championship?
Players to Watch
This France roster is full of names familiar to those who follow the global game: Wendie Renard, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Sandy Baltimore, and many others. That being said, there are two names that may be unfamiliar: Ouleymata Sarr and Clara Matéo. Both are forwards for Paris FC and both were not selected for the 2019 World Cup roster.
26-year-old Ouleymata Sarr is a versatile goal-scorer. She can score on set pieces, chip the goalkeeper, and shoot long-range, to name a few weapons from her arsenal. She spent 2021 recovering from injury, but in 2022 she scored 8 goals for Paris FC. For France, she most recently came off the bench and scored twice against Cameroon in their 4-0 victory on June 25. Sarr has 16 caps with France and 5 goals. Judging by her great 2022 so far, there will likely be more to come.
23-year-old Clara Matéo is a more traditional forward in the vein of an Alex Morgan or Ashley Hatch. Matéo had a great season in the Division 1 Féminine, scoring 11 goals and netting herself Player of the Month in February 2022. Although she has only 11 caps with France and only one goal, she started in her last two appearances with Les Bleues. Look for her speed and positioning to make an impact, especially in combination play with Katoto.
Much like France, Iceland has never made it past the quarter-finals. In the most recent Euros in 2017, they did not make it out of the group stage. Led by head coach Thorsteinn Halldórsson, the team has won every game against a European opponent this year. Their only loss was to the United States in the SheBelieves Cup final in February 2022.
Iceland’s two-star players are well known to those who follow the top international leagues. Captain Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir helped Olympique Lyonnais win their eighth UEFA Champions League title earlier this year as a midfielder. She had a child in November 2021 and returned to play for Iceland in April 2022 only five months later. She now plays for Juventus.
For those who watch the NWSL, the name Gunnhildur “Gunny” Yrsa Jónsdóttir should sound familiar. A midfielder with the Orlando Pride, Gunnhildur Yrsa can be counted on to not only power Iceland’s offensive engine but to score goals herself.
A dark horse to win it all, will Iceland be able to exceed expectations against formidable France, Italy, and Belgium to advance?
Player to Watch
Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir is a forward with 2022 Frauen Bundesliga winners VfL Wolfsburg. International viewers may remember her strike that caused the Leah Williamson own goal in the second leg of the 2022 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against Arsenal. The most notable quality of Sveindís Jane’s game is her killer instinct. She seems to finish goals wherever she goes. In 19 appearances with Iceland since 2020, she has scored seven goals, the last coming in the 3-1 win over Poland in a June 29 friendly. She also has a wickedly long-throw similar to that of Washington Spirit player Sam Staab. Sveindís Jane’s penchant for scoring will prove to be a massively important weapon for Iceland.
After a shocking run in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, making it to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1991, the Italian team is back and ready to win. The Italians recently took part in the 2022 Algarve Cup and impressed many as they made it to the final against Sweden. They played two games to place them second in the table and send them to the final. In those two games, the team faced Group B contender Denmark, winning 1-0, and Group A contender Norway, winning 2-1. The Italians fell to Sweden on penalties after a 1-1 in regulation.
Players to Watch
Captain Cristiana Girelli holds many trophies and personal victories but is looking to add another to the shelf after fighting through the qualifying round and then drawing in a match against powerful Spain. Girelli currently plays for Juventus and since 2018, she has scored 53 goals in 58 appearances for the Italian club. Girelli isn’t doing it alone, she has the help of midfielders Manuela Giugliano and 21-year-old Arianna Caruso who has been a recent powerhouse for not only Italy but also Juventus with 8 goals in 19 games. Giugliano has been a part of the Italian national team since 2014 and has 35 appearances. She currently plays for A.S. Roma and helped the club win its first major trophy since its inception in 2018 in its 2021 Coppa Italia campaign after defeating A.C. Milan 3-1 on penalties.