by Andrew Crawshaw
My quarter-final previews were good and bad. Good in that I managed to pick all four winners, bad in that I was out in how most of the games would pan out.
Quarter Final 1
England 2 v Spain 1 – I said If we failed to press Spain effectively we could find ourselves down by a couple of goals. On the night it was just by one goal but we were still down by that goal with only 6 minutes of normal time to play and I think most people probably thought that we were going out at that stage as Spain were deservingly ahead.
Beth Mead had been crowded out from the opening kickoff and had been completely unable to influence the game. Ellen White likewise was hardly ever able to get the ball with a clear sight of goal and the few half chances she got were nowhere near the target. Spain were more threatening and never gave our defenders an easy pass, whilst their midfielders were doing the same.
Around the hour mark Mead, White and Kirby were replaced by Kelly, Russo and Toone and we started to look both more lively and threatening. Spain countered with Aleixandri and Gómez on for Abelleira and Gonzales. These substitutions were unable to wrest control back for Spain. The increasing England pressure told and, with 6 minutes on the clock, Toone got the equaliser from a Russo assist.
Extra time was then the order of the night and the game was decided by a wonder strike by Stanway mid way through the first half of extra time. It was truly one of those goals where everyone could only go WOW! A goal worthy of winning any game of football. Far from our best performance but at this stage of a tournament a win is a win.
Quarter Final 2
Germany 2 v Austria 0 – I nearly got this one right. The second Germany goal came in the 90th minute when Alexandra Popp blocked an attempted pass out by Manuella Zinsberger which then went into the middle of the Austrian goal.
Germany on top for the whole game and Austria had trouble playing out from the back from the opening kickoff. The only really surprising thing about the second goal was that it took so long coming.. They were ahead in the 25th minute through Lina Magull. and over the whole game had 60% of the possession and 5 shots on target to Austria’s 1.
Austria were ahead with hitting the woodwork with 3 to Germany’s 2. Our Austrian trio of Zinsburger, Schnaderbeck and Wienroither disappointed but probably got as far as they realistically expected.
Quarter Final 3
Sweden 1 v Belgium 0 – This was a much more one-sided game than the final scoreline would indicate. Possession was evenly split but Sweden had 7 shots on target whereas Belgium had none. Arsenal forward Stina Blackstenius looked to have put Sweden ahead in the 25th minute only to have her effort ruled out for offside.
She was 10 yards inside the Belgian half and looked to be level with the last defender but the VAR adjudged her elbow to be offside (my understanding is that as you can’t score with your elbow – handball – it should have been judged differently and that was certainly how Kelly Smith viewed it it in the BBC pundit’s box). The only valid goal of the game came in the second minute of time added on at the end, Linda Sembrant ensuring that the right team went through without needing extra time. A result that also guarantees at least one Arsenal player in the final as Sweden now play England in the first semi-final on Tuesday night.
Quarter Final 4
France 1 v Netherlands 0 – This one was won by a single goal as I predicted but I was expecting a much more high-scoring game than this one turned out to be. Possession was evenly split between the two teams but in all other metrics France were far on top. Shots on target were 11/1 for example. For the Netherlands, Daphne Van Domselaar gave another outstanding display got goalkeeping (I would love to see her at Arsenal). In the French goal ex-Gunner Pauline Peyraud-Magnin had virtually nothing to do in comparison.
At halftime, it was goalless, which was also the case at full time. Towards the end of the first half of extra time another ex Gunner, Dominique Janssen made a rash challenge in the penalty area, VAR had a look and the referee went over to the monitor, reviewed the footage and pointed to the spot.
Ève Périset stepped up and hit a really good shot into the bottom left-hand side of the goal. Domselaar guessed correctly and just about got fingertips to it but the shot was too powerful. This was a tournament where the Netherlands never really got going. Vivianne Miedema went down with Covid and missed two games. She did play the whole of this quarter-final but was a shadow of the player we all know her to be. I just hope a holiday helps her recover sufficiently to get back to her best before the start of the WSL season in early September.
A quick look ahead to the semi finals:-
England v Sweden – Tuesday 26 July, Bramall Lane Sheffield, 20:00 BBC1 (pundits start at 19:30).
This should be a good game between two teams who have looked much better going forwards than in defence. It potentially features a number of Gummers, Leah Williamson and Beth Mead have started all of England’s games so far. Centre Back, Lotte Wubben-Moy has now recovered from COVID and will likely be on the bench along with Nikita Parris (who will be at Manchester United next season).
For Sweden, Stina Blackstenius will certainly start if fit. Prior to the tournament starting Sweden were ranked as Second in the World and England 8th. The performances so far indicate that there is really nothing to choose between the two. I fancy this one to be a 3- 2 win to England.
Germany v France – Wednesday 27 July, MK Dons Stadium, Milton Keynes, 20:00 BBC1 (again punditry begins at 19:30)
Pre-Tournament, France were seeded 3rd in the World with Germany 5th. they have both been solid if mostly unspectacular (although France were mighty in the first half of their opening game against Italy). This could well be an attritional match which I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see going all the way to a penalty shootout. France to tale an early first-half goal, Germany to equalise in the second half. One-all, going into penalties, Germany to progress to the final.
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