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Women's Euro 2017: All you need to know

The 12th edition of the tournament is the largest yet, reflecting the growing popularity of the women's game. Perennial champions Germany will be among the favorites in the Netherlands but there's plenty more going on.

The 2017 Women's Euro stands as compelling evidence of a sport in rude health. As recently as 1995, the competition found room for only four teams and the opening game between England and Germany took place in front of only 800 fans. Germany won, both the match and the tournament but the name inscribed on the trophy is about the only thing that is the same as 22 years ago.

The Germans have won the last six tournaments, and eight of the last nine, and go in to this year's event, which begins on Sunday, as strong favorites. But this time they'll be joined by 16 teams, including the likes of Iceland, Portugal and Russia and the final will be played at the 30,000 capacity De Grolsch Veste stadium in Enschede, home of FC Twente. TV rights have been sold around the world from the United States to Indonesia and Ecuador.

But the real interest is on the pitch, where Netherlands and Norway kick things off on Sunday. Here's what to keep an eye on  over the next three weeks.

The first timers

Fresh off the back of a maiden win for their men's team in France last summer, Portugal's women will be hoping to make a similar impact in their first tournament. Francisco Neto's side, ranked 38 in the world are shock qualifiers, and are likely to lean heavily on Germany-based midfielder Dolores Silva.

The Portuguese have been drawn with fellow debutants Scotland in Group D. The Scots are also considered long shots but do boast Lisa Evans, the skillful forward who has just moved from Bayern Munich to Arsenal. Switzerland, Belgium and Austria are the other teams making their tournament bow and will hope to upset the established order.

UEFA Champions League der Frauen FK Rossijanka gegen FC Bayern München (imago/foto2press)

Lisa Evans (l) is likely to be a key figure for debutants Scotland

The perennial champions

At the top of that established order are Germany, who didn't concede a goal in qualifying. A pre-tournament injury to Alex Popp, a host of retirements and a new coach in Steffi Jones, give the holders a fresh look but the squad stills oozes with quality, with Lyon midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsán perhaps the stand out performer. 

Jones, who took over from Silvia Neid after Germany's 2016 Olympic gold, seems confident she's already got her ideas across: "The players have taken everything on board, although there isn't an established system they're being forced to play," she said. We want to stay versatile and be able to adjust our system according to each opponent and each match."

The dark horse hosts

Their tournament history makes Germany overwhelming favorites, while France, who provided both teams for this year's Champions League final are seen as the main contenders. But Germany's traditional rivals are seen by many as a fair bet to go deep in their home tournament.

Semifinalists in their first Euros in 2009, the Dutch disappointed four years later but with 117-cap goalkeepr Loes Geurts, who plays for PSG, an impressive away win over Italy in qualifying and an army of fans in orange, anything less than a repeat of that last four finish would be seen as an underachievement.

WM 2014 Gruppe B 1. Spieltag Spanien Niederlande (Reuters)

The Dutch fans are sure to play their part

The big rivalries

The other side thought to have a realistic chance of reaching the final are England. But they face a stern early challenge against arch-rivals Scotland (July 19), who they first faced in 1972. England, whose current key players include new Barcelona signing Toni Duggan, will be ready, according to boss Mark Sampson.

"What I don’t want to do is treat this Scotland game like another game,” he told English newspaper The Daily Telegraph recently. “Whether we were playing out there on the [training] grass, or at the European Championships, it’s England versus Scotland.

But that's not the only clash of the group stages, likely to have a bit of added spice. Germany's Group B opener is against Sweden and the Scandinavians are certain to want revenge after being beaten to Olympic gold in Rio last year and to Euro victory in 2001. That game is on July 17.

 

DW will be covering the Women's Euro 2017 on TV, online and on social media from the Netherlands.

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