The players expected to dominate the competition

It’s finally here! After weeks of preparation, months of qualifying, and years of anticipation for this moment — including the year-long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic — we’re finally ready to kick off the 2022 Women’s EURO, which will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN+ in the US all month long.

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We’ve previewed the teams, the talking points, the kits, the tournament’s rich history, the toughest stars and some of the top contenders – including Norway, England, Sweden and France. But before things get going between England and Austria on Wednesday – 3 p.m. ET on ESPN+ – We asked some of our writers to select their best XIs before the tournament based on expected performance.

Admittedly, this was submitted before the horrifying news that Spain’s Alexia Putellas, one of the world’s best players (and No. 1 in ESPN FC’s 2022 Women’s Rankings), suffered a cruciate ligament rupture that will rule her out of the tournament entirely, but still !

So these are the players we recommend a big tournament for; Check back after the competition to see who lived up to expectations.


Kathleen McNamee: Katoto for Golden Boot?

4-2-3-1: Sandra Panos (Spain); Magdalena Eriksson (Sweden), Millie Bright (England), Wendie Renard (France), Selma Bacha (France); Alexia Putellas (Spain), Aitana Bonmati (Spain); Beth Mead (England), Caroline Graham Hansen (Norway), Lauren Hemp (England); Marie-Antoinette Katoto (France)

Trying to pick a best XI before the tournament even kicks a ball is a daunting task and the odds of us consuming our words after July 31st are high, but we’re persevering!

There are several contenders for the Golden Boot, with Marie-Antoinette Katoto at the top of that list – especially now with Putellas injured. The French striker has kept Paris Saint-Germain in full swing this season and should France go deep in the competition she has several goals ahead of her.

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Anyone who has watched Barcelona this season would say that despite Putellas’ absence, there is little doubt about their midfield selection. Caroline Graham Hansen usually plays on the right wing at Barca, but in 10th place she plays with Norway. Meanwhile, Man City’s Lauren Hemp is quickly proving to be one of the best wingers in the world. Her speed and skill are second to none, and she’s only 21 and fresh from the 2022 PFA Young Women’s Player of the Year award: her fourth time winning the award!

After missing out on England’s 2021 Olympics squad, Beth Mead has had one of the best seasons of her career and her confidence should be high for the tournament.

In the back, experience matters. France’s Wendie Renard is the kind of leader any team would be lucky to have. Despite being a veteran, France also have the exciting Selma Bacha in their ranks, a defender who isn’t afraid to push higher on the wing in support of attack. Millie Bright was key in getting Chelsea out of some difficult situations this season as they managed to lift their third consecutive Women’s Super League trophy. She is joined by teammate Magda Eriksson, who is great at pulling the strings on a defense and making sure everyone stays in line. When she was injured mid-season at Chelsea, her vocal influence on the pitch was noticeably lacking.


Sophie Lawson: Experience will be key… as will the draw

3-4-3: Hedvig Lindahl (Sweden); Wendie Renard (France), Alex Greenwood (England), Selma Bacha (France); Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Leah Williamson (England), Pernille Harder (Denmark), Fridolina Rolfö (Sweden); Caroline Graham Hansen (Norway), Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands), Lauren Hemp (England)

A pre-tournament best XI can indeed be a strange thing, as you not only look at the players who are currently in form or often play well for their country, but also consider how well they are likely to do in the upcoming games – something that may depend more on their opponent than on themselves.

Who do we think will make a difference this summer?

At the forefront of attack I’ve chosen Vivianne Miedema as I can see she’s scoring well in Group B despite all the confusion within the Dutch team, while Katoto will likely face a defense that could prove a little tougher unlock. On either side of the Arsenal frontwoman we have Hemp and Graham Hansen, both of whom are in superb form and always play for their respective national teams.

Sitting at the head of a diamond-shaped midfield, Pernille Harder adds even more attacking prowess with Fridolina Rolfö on the left and Aitana Bonmatí balancing on the right of midfield. With Spain still the wild card or unknown quantity this summer, individuals will be key La Roja and the Barcelona woman is up to the task. At the base of midfield sits Leah Williamson, who will likely hover between ‘double pivot’ midfield (with Keira Walsh) and centre-back this summer, but she is very one to watch for the Lionesses.

The back row has the most freedom – as the best XIs often do – with two left-backs and one centre-back. Although we were tempted to use Renard’s defensive partner Griedge Mbock in place of the towering CB, we chose the Fox in the Box for her ability to score. If she can score a crucial goal like she has done so many times Les BleuesShe will probably be remembered more by the end of the month.

Alongside Renard is Alex Greenwood, who has made the role of central defender her own since club manager Gareth Taylor revived her old position, and she is prospering in central defence. Finally we have Bacha, probably the best full-back in Europe this season; Their ability to contribute to attack is absolutely tremendous for both Lyon and France. We hope she has leeway to get up and down the flank.

In goal it has to be one of the most reliable goals in women’s football in Europe: Sweden’s No. 1 veteran and oldest player at the European Championship, Hedvig Lindahl.


Julien Laurens: Making room for two forwards

4-4-2: Sandra Panos (Spain); Lucy Bronze (England), Wendy Renard (France), Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Magdalena Eriksson (Sweden); Caroline Graham Hansen (Norway), Sara Dabritz (Germany), Manuela Giugliano (Italy), Lauren Hemp (England); Vivienne Miedema (Netherlands), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (France)

There is so much talent up front in Europe at the moment that a two-forward formation is a must for us here. The hardest part is actually picking the two forwards as there are easily six or seven super talented No9s at the moment!

Ultimately, however, we choose Katoto and Miedema. Katoto had a wonderful season despite a difficult context and environment at PSG. The French team is hers now and we expect her to deliver. Miedema is directly behind her as “No. Play 9.5” where she can create and score. The Netherlands international enjoyed another record-breaking season with Arsenal and should have little trouble continuing in that direction.

My 4-4-2 would of course have included Putellas, the best player in the world, but unfortunately she will not take part in the tournament due to her injury. I chose Sara Dabritz as a replacement. The German will have to play a little deeper but she will bring a lot of creativity and leadership to the team. She will be the heart of my very attacking team.

In addition to her in the holding role, the Italian Manuela Giugliano impressed us this season. She works hard, she is smart and a good passer too. She will be perfect alongside the Ballon d’Or winner and will protect our back four although she is so good and so complete that she doesn’t need much protection!

Renard and Lena Oberdorf are our two centre-backs: they would be the perfect mix of experience and size, youth and technique. At 20, we expect that the versatile Oberdorf will not only be one of the stars of the tournament for Germany. France’s Renard is such a threat even from set pieces.

With Lucy Bronze on the right and Eriksson on the left, the two full-backs complement each other well. We want the England international to be the most attacking of the two, while the Swede offers more balance on both sides of the ball. Finally, in goal, the Spaniard Sandra Panos does exactly what we expect from our goalkeeper: be proactive, play from behind, be good on the ball as well as on her line.

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England’s Lucy Bronze, Fran Kirby, Ellen White and Beth Mead take ESPN’s You Have To Answer quiz.


Tom Hamilton: Picking a core from Barcelona (and Spain).

4-2-3-1: Sandra Panos (Spain); Hanna Glas (Sweden), Irene Paredes (Spain), Magda Eriksson (Norway), Selma Bacha (France); Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Aitana Bonmati (Spain); Caroline Graham Hansen (Norway), Fran Kirby (England), Lauren Hemp (England); Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands)

We expect England and Spain to go far in the tournament, but we’ve opted for a Barcelona backbone for the team that should be the driving force behind Spain’s attack at Euro 2022. This team will play in a fluid 4-2 game. 3-1, with the three offensive players largely interchangeable in front of the ruthless Miedema. England’s Fran Kirby and Hemp should have brilliant championships, while Graham Hansen – the star from Norway and Barcelona – should also shine.

It was a difficult choice between Miedema, Ada Hegerberg and Katoto in attack, but Miedema just came through. Behind them, Bacha should be the standout left-back at the European Championships, while Hanna Glas will be the leading light in a strong field at right-back ahead of Bronze, which pushed her into our pick XI to make the grade. Panos is probably the second best goalkeeper in the world after Chilean Christiane Endler, so she’s a good choice for the spot.

Eriksson has been immense for Chelsea this year and should carry that over to the international stage, while Irene Paredes and Bonmati pick each other in the middle of the park.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/uefa-womens-european-championship/story/4695197/euro-2022-pre-tournament-best-xi-the-players-expected-to-dominate-the-competition The players expected to dominate the competition

Emma Bowman

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