Final three Women’s EURO berths up for grabs

On 13 April, the line-up for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 will finally be complete. Over the next week, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Russia and Portugal will battle it out in the play-offs for the final three berths in England.

Czech Republic – Switzerland

9 April – Stadium FC Chomutov, Chomutov & 13 April – Arena Thun, Thun

Ahead of their play-off, Switzerland coach Nils Nielsen called teenagers Ella Touon (defender) and Sally Julini (midfielder) into the senior squad for the first time. “Ella and Sally have been named in the squad because they’re very interesting players for the future. At this stage, I don’t see them starting against Czech Republic, but if they perform to their best in their positions, they will be involved,” Nielsen said.

The two teams have met four times before, with the Swiss having the upper hand courtesy of two wins, one draw and one defeat. Their last encounter was also a EURO qualifier and will be encouraging for the Nati, who brushed aside the Czechs 5-0 in June 2016.

The teams are separated by just eight places in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking. And while the Swiss are hoping for a second consecutive EURO appearance and to make amends for missing the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™, the Czechs will be going all out to secure a first European Championship participation. Karel Rada’s side will also take encouragement from their recent form, with Spain (4-0, 5-1) and England (3-2) the only teams to beat them in the last two years.

Ukraine – Northern Ireland

9 April – Kolos, Kovalivka & 13 April – Seaview, Belfast

Northern Ireland are contesting the play-offs for a major tournament for the first time after finishing second in Group C behind Norway. Looking ahead to the showdown, manager Kenny Shiels said: “I can’t tell you how proud I feel. I’m so proud of them. I’ve got a bunch of really good players, who are beginning to see their potential in terms of where they want to be, but also where we ought to be.”

Ukraine, in contrast, will be competing in their fourth EURO play-off. In 2001 and 2013, they came up short, while in 2009 they overcame this final hurdle to grace the European Championship for the first time. On their debut, they finished bottom of Group A after defeats to the Netherlands (2-0) and Denmark (2-1) and a win over hosts Finland (1-0).

16The youngest person to compete at a European Championship is from Ukraine. The player in question is Oksana Yakovyshyn, who was 16 years and 156 days old when she faced the Netherlands on 23 August 2009.

Portugal – Russia

9 April – Estadio do Restelo – Lisbon & 13 April – Sapsan Arena, Moscow

Portugal have fond memories of the last EURO play-offs, when they grabbed the final ticket to Netherlands 2017 via the away goals rule thanks to a scoreless draw at home and a 1-1 draw in Cluj. Participating in the finals for the first time, they were then unable to go beyond the first round.

By comparison, Russia have considerably more experience at major tournaments, having graced two World Cups and five EUROs. The pair’s head-to-head stats also favour the eastern Europeans. In seven previous meetings, including pre-tournament games, Algarve Cup fixtures and the qualifiers for the 1999 Women’s World Cup, A Selecção das Quinas have never managed to score.

“We’re expecting a difficult and intense game, as both sides want to get off to a good start and take a step closer to the European Championship,” said Portugal’s Dolores Silva. “We play the first leg at home so our aim is to perform well and ideally win it without conceding. We’ll be training very hard to be in the best possible shape for the game. As difficult as the task might be, we have a chance and so will do everything we can. We’re focused on winning and making history again, and I think we will succeed,” the midfielder added.