After a 22-year German reign, hosts the Netherlands became only the fourth different champions at UEFA Women's EURO 2017.
The long-awaited expansion of the finals to 16 teams took place for Netherlands 2017, and beforehand there were concerns as to whether the lower-ranked teams would be able to compete with the traditional powers. Since nations ranked 12th and 13th met in one semi-final, the former having ended Germany’s 22-year reign, the extra berths were fully justified.
A record 46 teams, including debutants Andorra, competed for the 15 finals spots alongside the Dutch. Andorra were one of six to fall in the preliminary round, with Moldova and Georgia earning places in the main qualifying groups.
That this would become a tournament marked by surprises was not so clear in qualifying, as Germany and France made it through without dropping a point or conceding a goal, and 11 of the 12 finalists from 2013 booked their spots, usually with comfort. The ones to miss out were Finland, who were the victims of the shock of qualifying when they saw a 2-0 lead disappear in a 3-2 defeat by Portugal, who were in the fourth tie of seeds but then defeated Romania with an extra-time away goal in the play-off.
Like Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Scotland made their UEFA Women's EURO finals debut in the Netherlands; all were to gain at least one victory. In fact only two teams were to fail to get a point: injury-hit Iceland and, amazingly, 2013 runners-up Norway.
Boasting Ada Hegerberg up front, many expected Norway to go all the way, but they never recovered from losing the opening game 1-0 to the Netherlands, going on to fall 2-0 to Belgium and 1-0 to Denmark. Belgium were pipped by Denmark to the quarter-finals, but like Group A winners the Netherlands, both were outsiders in the last eight when, as expected, Germany and Sweden emerged from Group B.
However, the Netherlands were fully deserving 2-0 victors against Sweden and, in a game postponed by a day due to torrential rain, Denmark came from behind to win 2-1 and end Germany's bid for a seventh straight title. Their 22-year run as holders of an active UEFA title may never be beaten.
In the other half of the draw, Austria were the shock winners of Group C over France, who only just pipped Switzerland to second place. England and Spain, as expected, topped Group D. But while the Lionesses won all three games, Spain only just edged out Scotland in a three-way tie on three points with Portugal.
Spain then lost to Austria on penalties while England won 1-0 against France. A shoot-out did for Austria against Denmark in the semi-finals but in the meeting of the two teams with 100% record, the Netherlands outdid England 3-0, snuffing out five-goal tournament top scorer Jodie Taylor in front of a sold-out FC Twente Stadion.
Back in Enschede for the final, the Netherlands fell behind early to a Nadia Nadim penalty for Denmark but rallied to win a thriller 4-2 with two Vivianne Miedema goals in front of more than 28,000 fans. In all, 110,897 watched the six sell-out Netherlands wins as they became the first team to triumph on home soil since Germany in 2001.
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