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Euro 2022: Group C curtain-raiser could define England’s route to the final

England’s route to the final could include a clash with Netherlands or Sweden (Nick Potts/PA)
England’s route to the final could include a clash with Netherlands or Sweden (Nick Potts/PA)

Euro 2022 kicks off on Wednesday night with hosts England facing Austria at Old Trafford.

With England having outplayed the Austrians – ranked a modest 21st in the world – during their World Cup qualifying victory in November, hopes will be high for a winning start to their campaign.

The PA news agency has simulated the tournament using the latest FIFA world rankings to predict the Lionesses’ likely opponents at each stage.

Germany loom in the quarters

If all goes to plan and England progress as group winners, they will meet the runners-up from Group B in the quarter-finals.

With current favourites Spain likely to top that group, the Lionesses’ first knockout opponents could be tournament specialists Germany.

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

The Germans are not in sparkling form, having only won two of their last six matches, but they have an astonishing record in this competition.

Eight of the 12 European titles to date have ended up in their hands, including six in a row from 1995 to 2013.

Swedes could await in the semis

Should Sarina Wiegman’s side make it to the semi-finals then their most probable opponent would be the winners of Group C.

This is likely to be whichever of Sweden and the Netherlands prevail when they meet each other in their opening match next Saturday.

Sweden's players celebrate
Sweden could stand between England and the final (Steve Welsh/PA)

With the Swedes ranked second in the world behind the United States and having beaten England 2-1 in their last meeting, English fans are likely to be cheering for the Dutch team that was hammered 5-1 at Elland Road last week.

France in the final?

The structure of the draw means that the winners of Group A will be kept apart from the teams that top Groups B and D until the final.

If England progress this far then either France or Spain could stand between them and their first major trophy.

England celebrate
England beat France in the quarter-finals of Euro 2017 (Mike Egerton/PA)

Both are favoured to qualify as group winners but have struggled to impose themselves at this level previously, having each only once gotten beyond the quarter-finals at either a World Cup or European Championship.

Nonetheless they have arrived in good form, with the USA the only team to have beaten either of them since 2019 and both having avoided defeat when they last faced the Lionesses.