By Andrew Crawshaw
Austria 2 v Northern Ireland 0 – this match went according to the form-book, Northern Ireland showed plenty of industry, but never really looked to have the touch of class they required to beat Manuella Zinsberger in the Austrian goal.
England 8 v Norway 0 – this was a real statement performance by England. Norway are (I think) ranked 7th in the World at the moment and definitely no mugs so this made everyone take notice. Two Gunners started the game, captain Leah Williamson and right forward Beth Mead who had probably the best game of her life and was simply unplayable, ending up with an assist and three goals.
Ellen White got two goals and won a penalty, certainly soft to the point of generosity by the referee, which Georgia Stanway converted to open the scoring. The other two goals came from Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo but the game belonged to Beth Mead. It was one of the best games I have ever seen both from an individual and team perspective. England through to the Quarter finals as group winners with a match to spare.
Denmark 1 v Finland 0 – a cagey game with little to keep the neutral spectator interested for long periods. The only goal of the game scored by Pernille Harder with a header in the 72nd minute. Realistically Denmark still need to win their last group game against Germany to qualify for the quarter-final and that looks to be a monumental task.
Germany 2 v Spain 0 – on paper the standout game in this group. How would the German organisation cope with the intricate passing flair of the Spanish? It transpired quite well, a horrendous mistake from the Spanish keeper in the third minute gifted German striker Klara Bühl the ball inside the penalty area and she made the most of the opportunity giving Sandra Paños no chance to recover. One nil to Germany.
After that Germany were happy for Spain to have the majority of possession and play on the counter-attack as they did to great effect in the 37th minute when Alexandra Popp headed home the second goal from a corner taken by Felicitas Rauch. Germany also through to the quarter-finals as group winners.
Sweden 2 v Switzerland 1 – all to play for after both teams drew their opening matches. This game also looked to be heading for a draw during a drab first half with neither side looking likely to score. The deadlock was eventually broken in the 53rd minute by Fridolino Rolfö only for Switzerland to respond with an equaliser within 90 seconds through Ramona Bachmann. The game was decided with ten minutes remaining when Rolfö turned provider for substitute Hanna Bennison. Sweden had the ball in the net again at the end of the game but it was correctly ruled out by VAR for offside in the buildup.
Netherlands 3 v Portugal 2 – no Vivianne Miedema due to COVID but the Netherlands raced into a two-goal lead thanks to headers from Damaris Egurrola and Stephanie van der Gragt as Portugal were unable to defend early corners. The Netherland players were significantly taller than their Portuguese opponents and for the majority of the first half looked capable of running away with the game. Eventually, Portugal did get a foothold on the game and one of their outstanding players went down in the box following a challenge from ex-Gunner Dominique Janssen. VAR had a long look and eventually, the referee was called over to the monitor as replays showed clear contact and a penalty was awarded. Domselaar went to her right, Carole Costa saw the movement and went central; Portugal back in the game.
Portugal came out flying in the second half and were level within two minutes. The rest of the second half was a good watch with both teams having opportunities to score again. In the end it took a moment of magic from Danielle Van de Donk to get the winning goal, an inch perfect curler from the edge of the 18 yard box to the far top corner giving the keeper no chance.
Italy 1 v Iceland 1 – another game of two halves. Iceland off to a flier at the start. A long throw into the penalty area was too much for the Italian defence and following some pinball a shot came in from Vihjálmsdótir through a number of bodies and Iceland were ahead in the third minute. In truth the rest of the first half was more mundane, to the extent that the BBC commentary team started talking about the smart grey suits being worn by the Italian manager and her support staff.
The second half belonged to Italy who increasingly dominated both possession and shots eventually finding the equaliser through a smart finish from Bergamaschi in the 62nd minute. Both teams had late chances for a winner but neither took them. A draw an equitable result but one which wouldn’t suit either manager. Italy will need to beat Belgium in their last group game and Iceland will probably need to beat France to progress (very unlikely).
France v Belgium – France with another quick start making chances in the opening minutes and taking one of them in the sixth minute. There was then a significant delay following an injury to their hat-trick hero from the opening game Katoto being replaced by Ouleymata Sarr. The French intensity dropped for a while giving Belgium a chance to regroup and against the run of play, Belgium equalised on the break, Janice Cayman scoring with their first shot of the game. Parity didn’t last long though as Mbock headed France ahead again four minutes later.
The second half was more even although Belgium never had the class to seriously trouble France. There was a touch of controversy at the end of normal time when a French shot hit the arm of Tysiak and diverted out for a corner. At first the referee was inclined to let play recommence with the corner but following a lengthy VAR review was persuaded to go over to the monitor and then awarded the spot kick. Centreback Wendy Reynard stepped up and her effort was saved and she also put the rebound wide so in a sense justice prevailed. Not for Tysiak though as she had received a second yellow card and was therefore sent off.
So what can we take from the second round matches?
- In Group A England have qualified as winners with a game to spare. They must be one of the favourites to progress towards the final. Their performance was world-class.
- In Group B Germany are also confirmed as winners. Runners-up will be decided by the result between Denmark and Spain on Saturday, Spain have a better goal difference so need to avoid defeat to progress
- In Group C the Netherlands and Sweden are both on 4 points with an identical goal difference. The final group places will be decided in the games on Sunday when the Netherlands play Switzerland and Sweden play Portugal.
- In Group D France are confirmed as the third group winner. Any of the other three teams are still in with a chance of coming second although Iceland who play France in their last game on Monday look to have the toughest test. I suspect whoever wins the Italy v Belgium match will come second
- From an Arsenal club perspective, as our second choice goalkeeper, Steph Catley is on her way to PSG for next season, the young Netherlands keeper Daphne Van Domselaar should definitely be a player we should be looking at. She has been impressive since having to takeover early in the first game following the injury to Sari Van Veenendaal.
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