England now favourites for glory in astonishing Women's Euro 2017
This is a semi-final line-up nobody would have predicted. It’s been a fascinating – if occasionally entirely bizarre – Women’s Euros so far, writes Carrie Dunn.
The favourites now are surely England, through with a 1-0 win over old rivals France.
The male coaches (England’s Mark Sampson and France’s Olivier Echouafni) might have dominated the headlines prior to the match with their fairly farcical attempts to generate a war of words – but this was a storming set-to showcasing the best in international football.
The Lionesses had not beaten Les Bleues in two generations, since 1974 – and had lost to them in the past three international tournaments.
What a time to break that dismal record.
Lucy Bronze has consistently been one of the best players in the world over the past three years – but hasn’t been on top form this summer so far, by her own admission.
She made up for it in the quarter-final, roaming forward with aplomb and defending solidly, impressing plenty of onlookers.
And the right-back made even more of an impact just before the hour mark, when she created Jodie Taylor’s fifth goal of the tournament.
Oddly, just as occurred in Canada two years ago, goalkeeper Karen Bardsley made way midway through the second half of a quarter-final to be replaced by Siobhan Chamberlain. In 2015, it was due to an allergic reaction blurring her vision; this time round it was due to an injury forcing her to limp off.
There may be a question-mark over Bardsley’s fitness, but the Lionesses know they will be without influential midfielder Jill Scott, suspended after picking up another yellow card.
They’ll have to go through the host nation, the Netherlands, who are absolutely buzzing. There’s English interest in their side, with Arsenal stars Sari van Veenendal, Dominique Janssen, Danielle van de Donk and new signing Vivianne Miedema, plus Reading’s Mandy van der Berg and Liverpool’s Janice van de Sanden.
Jodie Taylor of England celebrates scoring her sides first goal with her England team mates during the UEFA Women's Euro 2017 Quarter Final match between France and England at Stadion De AdelaarshorstGetty Images
Denmark pulled off the shock of the tournament – possibly the past two decades, actually – by dispatching holders Germany, who have been the dominant force in women’s football in Europe for over 20 years.
The Danes came from a goal down to knock out the eight-time champions in a match that was delayed by a day due to the torrential rain in Rotterdam on Saturday evening.
And Austria, in their tournament debut, held Spain to a goalless draw over 120 minutes.
To be fair, that much probably isn’t surprising bearing in mind the Spaniards’ failure to create any clear-cut chances despite hogging the possession. Still, what can you expect when their top two goalscorers from qualifying (Vero Boquete and Sonia Bermudez) didn’t make the squad? Silvia Meseguer missed in the penalty shoot-out, meaning the debutantes were the ones to progress to the semi-finals.
And in a tournament like this – one that’s been incredibly open, and displayed both impeccable skill and horrendous howlers – they might even fancy their chances to go one step further. Then again, so will the hosts, the giant-killers…and the tournament favourites.