Join two of our writers as they discuss their final impressions of the tournament––and their thoughts on the upcoming World Cup and Finalissima.
The Euros ended as quickly as they began last Sunday, and it left us with fond memories––and more importantly, plenty of questions. Who underperformed? Who stood out from the crowd? Most importantly, what does the tournament tell us in regards to the upcoming World Cup and Finalissima?
Our writers Tony and Alex are here to help answer those burning queries.
Who is your personal MVP of the tournament?
Alex: To me (and UEFA’s technical observers), it’s Beth Mead, but not for the reason you would think. The 6 goals she scored were the flashiest parts of her game. But her 7 tackles, 5 assists, and 15 completed crosses were what made her one of the most versatile players in the tournament.
Tony: Ah, look at you looking at UEFA’s numbers. I have some different numbers, but I think I’ll go with Alexandra Popp. Mostly because of her contribution to Germany, but also because of her personal story. You need to be absolutely resilient to be ready after so many heartbreaks to have such a great tournament—and to actually break a record of goals scored in consecutive matches for that matter.
Describe the tournament in three (related or unrelated) words.
Alex: I’ll have to pluck the low-hanging fruit and say “it came home.”
Tony: I’ll go with “record-breaking audiences’ or “record-breaking attendance”, whichever you prefer, both apply for a non-soccer-related lens.
Who under-performed/over-performed (relative to expectations of them before the tournament)?
Alex: I’ve gone back-and-forth on this, but I finally settled on an over-performer. Chloe Kelly enjoyed a great tournament campaign as a super-sub, so it wasn’t shocking that she eventually got her name on the board. But scoring the winning goal in extra time of a final? Right before creating a now-iconic moment in soccer history? Talk about going above and beyond.
Tony: I have to agree with you on over-performer, but I MUST* choose the underperformers too, and without a shadow of a doubt that’s Norway. It was an atrocious tourney for them considering all the talent at their disposal, especially up front. Barely any goals with Caroline Graham Hansen and Ada Hegerberg? Not good.
Is there anything from this tournament that fans should keep in mind when the World Cup rolls around next year?
Alex: Since the World Cup is still a year away, it may be best for fans to avoid having set-in-stone thoughts about national teams––because let me tell you, those rosters can change regularly. Instead, let’s ask questions. Will the Netherlands’ defense be able to maintain their high level of quality in 2023? How will England’s victory affect their momentum heading into the World Cup? What will Spain look like once Alexia Putellas is back? (Probably solid, since Putellas is Really, Really Good™)
Tony: Yeah, and there are many examples in history of great performances in qualifiers or tournaments that don’t necessarily translate into the World Cup. And Spain has a bigger enemy in Spain’s head coach Jorge Vilda. So despite all their talent and their intention to play good football, it’s tough to get past an internal foe.
What was your favorite match of the tournament?
Tony: I’m a goalkeeper, so I must say that Daphne Van Domselaar’s performance against France was a highlight for me; she was incredible. England vs. Spain was also a lot of fun, with all the changes in the dynamic and the momentum we saw during the games.
Which aspect of the game do you think was the most influential?
Alex: Perhaps it wasn’t the most influential in terms of tactics, but the inclusion of VAR (video assistant referee) for the first time in the tournament is yet another milestone for the sport. Now, that’s not to say that the VAR-ification of the Euros was all that great of a thing: for example, Sweden’s Kosovare Asllani claimed that the competition used 50% fewer cameras than in the men’s tournament for VAR-assisted decisions. But it’s hard to argue against the big impact VAR made last month in England––and the big impact it’ll continue to make on women’s football.
Tony: I think it was set-pieces. The percentage of goals scored was more or less the same as in previous big tournaments (around 30%), but it felt like the teams were more prepared and tried to make the best of all the set pieces—including throw-ins—to hurt the opposition or defend. It was really interesting to watch.
What are your expectations for the Finalissima?
Alex: Assuming that they’re able to keep their core squad come February, don’t count Copa América champions Brazil out in the slightest. Claiming the Copa may be routine for the Seleção, but to do so without conceding a single goal proves that England shouldn’t be expecting a cakewalk in the Finalissima.
Tony: Agreed. Brazil has found a resilience and a strong defensive core that was missing in their previous iterations. Pia Sundhage has helped this team not only to keep their flair (okay, maybe they’re a tiny bit flashy) but also to focus on building from the back. They will be tough contenders, even if England are still the favorites for this game. And man, I want this game to be played in South America so much.
Which coach underperformed?
Alex: Unfortunately, I’ll have to shout out former Norway coach Martin Sjögren. That shocking 8–0 loss will hit Norwegian soccer hard, and the manager has to hold some responsibility in situations like these. Judging by his resignation after the tournament, it looks like Sjögren agrees.
Tony: Yeah, I agree. I was a little disappointed by some decisions by Mark Parsons too, although he was a bit unlucky with injuries. Vilda is always one that baffles me with some subs. On the other hand, how brilliant is Wiegman, huh?
Alex: Eh. I’ll only be impressed if she wins ten consecutive major trophies with twenty different teams. Maybe next year’s World Cup would be a good place to start…
No matter how different our writers’ takes are on the tournament, one thing that they (and everyone else) can agree on is this: give us more international soccer, please. Like, right now.