Dave Farrar predicts hosts the Netherlands will get off to a bumpy start, Germany to struggle against Sweden, and England sweep unlucky Scotland aside...
“Norway have arguably the best player in the world in Ada Hegerberg, have a wealth of experience, and are proven at this tournament.”
Netherlands v Norway
Live on British Eurosport 2
Hosts the Netherlands get the 2017 Womens European Championships underway in Sunday's early game, and I think that this provides us with an early betting opportunity. The hosts are [2.2] to emerge with a win, and that looks far too short to me.
All of the host team's home games have sold out, and there'll certainly be an enthusiastic and hopeful crowd in Utrecht, but that could all turn out to be misplaced. The Netherlands have been short of competitive matches, and on the face of it, their warm-up results have been impressive. I'm not sure that they stand up to closer scrutiny, though.
They beat Austria and Wales in their final two tests, yet whenever they've met a nation of genuine quality, they've struggled. They lost in June against Japan, and although they also beat the Japanese back in March at the Algarve Cup (their last competitive match), they've also failed against Australia and France this calendar year.
Going further back, Germany, Belgium and England all beat them at the end of last year, and they don't come into this Euro with any great pedigree. They did manage to finish third in 2009, but didn't get past the Group stage in 2013 and went out against Japan at the last World Cup. Aside from the excellent Vivianne Miedema, there's not much to commend them.
In contrast, Norway have arguably the best player in the world in Ada Hegerberg, have a wealth of experience, and are proven at this tournament. Even though they've underperformed in recent years, they've been runner-up at the last two Euros, and have really improved under their relatively new Coach Martin Sjogren.
They've been matched tough in their warm-ups, and lost to USA and drew with France in their final pre-Euro tests. Don't worry about some of the defeats that they suffered earlier this year, as Sjogren has been implementing a new style of play and it's starting to work. These European Championship experts MAY be happy to get out of their opening game with a draw, but they're far too big a price to win against the overrated hosts, and should be backed accordingly.
Back Norway to beat Netherlands @ [3.4]
Germany v Sweden
Live on British Eurosport
The biggest game of the Group stage (with respect to England and Scotland) is the clash of two women's football titans in the shape of Germany and Sweden. The Germans are looking for their ninth Women's European Championship title and are one of the tournament favourites, trading at around [3.0].
Given their pedigree, that's fair enough, but they seem to be less of a force under Steffi Jones, and there are some question marks about her stewardship. Fine player, unproven manager. Still, the Germans come here having won their qualifying group without conceding a goal, and so it's hard to be too negative.
I think that Sweden will provide a test, though: the Rio Olympic final between these two finished 2-1 in Germany's favour, and given that Sweden have improved since then, and Germany have just faded a little, I think that Germany look a little short at [1.6] to win this opener. The Germans underperformed at the SheBelieves Cup in the USA earlier this year, and may be set to do so again, especially after being affected by injuries and one or two controversial squad omissions.
Sweden have vast experience in the shape of players like Caroline Seger and Lotte Schelin, and their only issue will be scoring goals. I think that their coach Pia Sundhage will keep it tight against the Germans, and that they have a better chance than the prices suggest of avoiding defeat.
Lay Germany against Sweden @ [1.6]
England v Scotland
Live on Channel 4 and British Eurosport 2
It's brilliant for the profile of women's Football in this country that England v Scotland will attract attention and terrestrial TV viewers, but I'm not sure how much of a contest it will actually be. England were impressive in their run to the World Cup semi-finals, and mustn't be discounted here in the outright market at [9.2]. Above all, they should have far too much for an unfortunate Scotland squad.
Unfortunate because their star player Kim Little misses their first ever major international tournament through injury and, with Lizzie Arnot and Jennifer Beattie also out, they limp into this tournament. Things will only get harder for them, after they finished second to Iceland in qualifying.
England lost to both France and Germany at the SheBelieves Cup in March, but a win against the World Champions USA was a feather in the cap for Mark Sampson and his team and they've shown their ability to put away teams who operate around Scotland's level. Austria and Switzerland both beaten comfortably in friendlies, Serbia thrashed twice last year. And Scotland can ship goals too, losing 5-0 to Belgium in April and 7-0 against the Netherlands last October.
England have star quality in forward areas with Fran Kirby and Ellen White, Toni Duggan and Karen Carney. I don't think that Scotland can match them and expect a comfortable England win for all of the Auld Enemy hoo-ha that will understandably build up around this one.
Back England -2 on the Asian Handicap @ [3.25]
Betting.Betfair is delighted to have England's most capped player ever Rachel Yankey as part of the team for this year's Women's Euro Championship and she believes the Lionesses can go all the way to glory.