England will face a clash of local nations at next summer’s 2022 Women’s Eurocup after being tied in a group with Northern Ireland. The hosts will play tournament rookies Kenny Shiels at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton in their final match of the stage.
The draw provided a very familiar feeling for England, who are in the same World Cup qualifying group as two of their opponents, Austria and Northern Ireland. They also face Norway, which they defeated in the 2019 World Cup quarter-finals.
“It’s so nice,” England head coach Sarina Wiegman said of facing Northern Ireland. “I hope it runs out. We have played them before, of course, it is also an amazing stadium. It’s good for everyone because we want to do well, we want to have our fans, but that Northern Ireland also has its fans, it’s great. “
England will face Austria next month in a World Cup qualifier and Northern Ireland in April, which could provide vital information ahead of the tournament at home. England beat Shiels’ team 4-0 on Saturday, a sign of their superiority. “These are countries that we know very well,” Wiegman said. “Austria and Northern Ireland are in our qualifying group for the World Cup and I know Norway very well because I have played them a lot with the Netherlands.”
There was a roar inside the Manchester Victoria Warehouse, a stone’s throw from Old Trafford, as Northern Ireland was lured in to play England, upsetting Shiels. “All the English were cheering and shouting: ‘We have Northern Ireland’ as it is an easy match for them,” he said. “But we have to segregate the three games and do our best in the first game and then think about the second and then the third.”
The reigning champions, the Netherlands, are in Group C, where they face arguably the best team in the second pot, Sweden, which is second in the world rankings behind the United States. Neither side will be particularly concerned about facing Switzerland and Russia in the section.
The eight-time winners from Germany (once as West Germany) are joined in Group B by Spain, who are regarded as dark horses, Denmark and Finland. France and Italy hope to get out of Group D, although Iceland and Belgium rank a respectable 16th and 19th in the world rankings, respectively.
England lost in the Euro 2017 semi-finals to the Netherlands, who were guided to their home win by Wiegman, an experience England hope will influence their campaign.
Manchester United’s 76,000-seat stadium, Old Trafford, will host when England open the tournament against Austria on July 6. Wiegman’s side will face their toughest match on paper against Norway on July 11 in Brighton. England will anticipate a safe passage to the knockout stages, where teams that advance from Group A will face the qualifiers from Group B.
“Buy tickets!” Wiegman said. “The opening game is going to be huge. When the crowd is there, they will be our twelfth woman behind us. We just want the fans to help us put on a great performance. “
As hosts there is a certain level of expectation for England and they will be looking to replicate last summer’s men’s achievements by reaching a Wembley final, even if July 31 seems a long way off. England have been runners-up twice in the European Championship, in 1984 and 2009.
More than 150,000 tickets were sold in a pre-vote sale and UEFA expects greater acceptance, especially for the local nations game in Southampton.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism