The transition from hunter to hunted can be difficult to handle – the previous two holders' title defences both ended in qualifying. A potential hat-trick was on the cards when Calle Barrling's charges were drawn with Italy, the Netherlands and an up-and-coming Republic of Ireland side in Group 1. With 17-year-old prospect Marija Banušić firing on all cylinders, however, Sweden did the job; they needed to beat Ireland on the final day and did exactly that.
Player: Nikita Parris (England)
England's bid looked to be over before it had begun when Serbia stunned them 5-4 in their first Group 4 game. Nikita Parris helped quell any nerves with an early breakthrough next time out, Mo Marley's team seeing off Hungary to keep hopes alive. Another 3-0 win in their last outing, against Norway, would guarantee progress and Parris was on a mission. The Everton LFC forward was a threat throughout, combining boundless energy with determination and vision. She capped her performance with a fine individual goal – to make it 3-0. England were through, even if events elsewhere meant 1-0 would have sufficed.
Goal: Rianna Jarrett (Republic of Ireland)
Ireland's Group 1 opener with Italy hung in the balance until three minutes before half-time when Jarrett peeled off her marker to fire a stunning shot over goalkeeper Marina Aliquo from an acute angle. "It was just like Marco van Basten," said UEFA.com's man on the ground. Ireland won 1-0 but an injury to Jarrett ultimately undermined their chances of a finals spot.
"We played well in defence and scored a lot of goals – we have to build on these performances at the European Championship. It is not easy to qualify for a final tournament, so we are happy we have achieved the goal we set ourselves."
Coach Maren Meinert after her Germany side sealed a stylish return to the finals, having missed out last time. They won three out of three and no other team scored more than their 16 goals or conceded fewer than their one.
Goals the 18-year-old Jovana Damnjanović scored in Serbia's six games in the first and second qualifying rounds, a competition record.
Lazarus act: Norway
When Parris put England 3-0 up with 20 minutes left in their final qualifier, the death knell sounding for Norway's campaign was deafening. Jarl Torske's team were assured of second spot but their 5-2 victory over Serbia in their previous match would not be enough to earn progress as the runners-up with the best record against the sides first and third in their group. If Hungary finished third that would be a different matter as Norway had thrashed them 7-0, but Hungary were 3-1 down to Serbia. Then something amazing happened. Three goals in eight minutes turned that game on its head. Norway were alive.
France deserve a mention for the minimum fuss with which they dispatched Belgium, Switzerland and Russia, but it is Group 5 victors Finland who get the nod. A return of six wins from six matches across the first and second qualifying rounds, scoring 27 goals and shipping just two in the process, would have been impressive for anyone – but from a team that had not reached the finals since 2004/05! They claimed 2-1 victories over Spain and Portugal, runners-up and semi-finalists last year respectively, and this summer's tournament in Wales could have a Finnish theme: the hosts' coach is Jarmo Matikainen.
France, England, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Wales will be in the draw on 7 May in Llanelli.
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