The 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO in the Netherlands is the first such tournament with 16 teams. Now that all the participants have played their opening match, it is time for a quick review of the first round of group play.
Overall, the idea of expanding the competition from 12 to 16 teams, seems to have been the right move by UEFA so far.
The fear that generally comes with expanding such tournaments (especially in international women’s soccer), is that the supposedly large gap between the nations where the game has developed well and the rest of the field will show itself in an ugly way.
Looking at the scores so far is enough to see that in all but one major exception, this has not been the case at all.
In fact, the opposite has occurred, with tight, low-scoring games being the order of the day. This has led to some major upsets so far, which began with the opening match of the tournament.
There, in Group A, the host nation, which has achieved a near-meteoric rise in the women’s game recently, was nevertheless not favored against a seemingly strong Norwegian team. But the Netherlands deservingly won 1-0. Meanwhile, Denmark beat Belgium by the same score.
In Group B, Russia shocked Italy 2-1, before two of the tournament favorites, Germany and Sweden fought to a scoreless draw.
In Group C, Austria, stunned Switzerland 1-0 and mighty France needed a late penalty goal by Eugenie Le Sommer to defeat Iceland by the same score.
Arguably, only Group D delivered what may have been expected so far, as a dominant Spain performance gave them a 2-0 victory over Portugal and England demolished a weakened Scotland side 6-0 with the help of a Jodie Taylor hat-trick.
That last game aside, it may be alarming how few goals were scored so far. But tournaments at all levels sometimes need time to come to life. The same is surely the case with this EURO.