The first page of the Women’s Football Euro is turned. The group stage will give way, from Wednesday July 20, to the quarter-finals. Before switching to a new competition, as the protagonists describe it, where the matches will now be knockout, it’s time for the first observations.
There is one that stands out: if this first group stage held few surprises in terms of the qualifiers – apart from the elimination of Norway -, it was nevertheless marked by a lot of river results. This contradicts, at least for the time being, the prediction of a “very, very tight” Euro made by the coach of the France team, Corinne Deacon, during the presentation of her list of players on May 30. .
In 2017, only two of the twenty-four group matches had resulted in a three-goal difference or more. In the current edition, nine of the twenty-four games ended with sometimes abysmal differentials – such as England’s 8-0 against Norway.
Enough to talk about a two-speed Euro? Gilles Eyquem, ex-coach of the French women’s teams under 19 and 20, wants to be more nuanced: “The so-called nations “below” have the objective of holding out as long as possible. That’s why, as soon as it cracks, it quickly leads to river scores, because they let go. »
This analysis can be applied, for example, to the Spain-Finland or Netherlands-Switzerland matches: their outcome was uncertain for a large part of the encounter, before the decision was forced in the last quarter of an hour and the end result ended in a 4-1 in both cases.
“The tusks were dramatic”
In the other games with ample scores, bordering on correction, the scoreboards often quickly packed, all suspense being annihilated even before the start of the second period. This observation raises questions about the quality of the defenses of certain national teams.
“I was flabbergasted by the defenses, it was dramatic, they freed up a lot of space, notes Camille Abily, ex-French international (183 caps). Of course, there are a lot of attacking talents, but the basis in football is to defend well before allowing yourself to attack well. »
“When we take a goal quickly, we are led to lose footing”, underlines, for her part, Corinne Deacon, insisting on this mental dimension and citing the example of Norway, “which suffered a rout” against the England.
The Euro 2013 finalists suffered the biggest defeat of the tournament. If they were inferior to their opponents, Ada Hegerberg’s partners plunged from the moment they were trailing 3-0, after an error by defender Maria Thorisdottir. It then took them only twelve minutes to concede three additional goals.
“Is there a mental problem and the teams behind are letting go a little bit more? It’s possible. Often when it comes to goals with a gross error by a player or a goalkeeper, we see that the teams dive behind”, confirms Gilles Eyquem, who however says he is “surprised” by the sinking of the Norwegians.
In the case of Denmark, against Germany (4-0 defeat), or Italy against France (5-1 defeat), it was each time two individual errors at the origin of the first two goals that rocks the meeting.
Make an impression
The defensive bankruptcy of certain nations should not diminish the merit of the offensive festivals offered by England, Germany or France. Continental title contenders, these selections wanted to quickly make an impression, especially as the cutthroat matches approached.
“When you have knocked out a team, you arrive with a reputation and the next opposing team will not present itself in the same way, decrypts Meriem Salmi, sports psychologist, who notably accompanies the player Gaëtane Thiney. It can destabilize it and create a virtuous circle. The big teams score until the end so that the next opponent changes his way of approaching the duel. »
But, if the European leaders have this ability to press where it hurts, this should not mask a gap between selections which is not necessarily beneficial to the discipline. “It was good for the show, the spectators had to be happy, but it takes away a bit of credibility from women’s football,” regrets Camille Abily.
The Euro may be paying, in this respect, for its desire to expand, aiming to develop the practice. The competition now brings together sixteen teams, when it brought together only four in 1991, then eight in 1997. And this 2022 edition welcomed two nations, Finland and Northern Ireland, which had never played a phase final.
“Whether for the Euro and the World Cup, increasing the number of participants promotes differences in level, deplores Camille Abily. We saw it with France against Vietnam in preparation [7-0, July 1], yet 32nd FIFA nation. I find it amazing that it is possible to find these countries during the international final stages. In fact, apart from the Norwegian crash, four of the eight other cards observed during this start of the Euro involved the unfortunate Finnish and Northern Irish novices.