Euro 2017: Group D preview - England, Spain, Scotland & Portugal

We take a closer look at the team's in Group D of the UEFA Women's European Championships.

Euro 2017: Group D preview - England, Spain, Scotland & Portugal
Image Credit: Getty Images

With just under a few weeks until the start of the UEFA Women's European Championships, here's a closer look at the teams who will make up Group D. 

England 

England will take on the auld enemy Scotland in their opening game of EURO 2017 and confidence is high for the Lionesses.

Following England's third place finish at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, manager Mark Sampson and his players have their sights on nothing less than winning the European Championships this summer.

Off the back of the somewhat surprising performance in Canada, England now approach future tournaments with a whole different mentality. While the external expectations have undoubtedly increased - considering England were the highest European finishers at the World Cup - expectations inside the camp are also high.

Sampson, who took over the reigns from long-time servant Hope Powell in 2013, believes his team can win the Euro's and in his words are 'six games away from making history'.

The Lionesses are yet to win a major tournament, depsite finishing runners-up at both the 1984 and 2009 European Championships. However, last time out it was an entirely different story. England made an early exit from Euro 2013, failing to get out of their group and gaining just one point in the process.

Former captain Casey Stoney, along with a number of the players who were a part of the squad that travelled to Sweden, are detemined to avoid the same dissapointment this time out.

If England are to fulfill their high ambitions in Holland, they will have to overcome some stiff competition. Germany, a team in fine form following their crowning performance at the Rio Olympics, have won seven out of eight Women's European Championships staged, including the last six.

Sampson's side currently sit fourth in the FIFA world rankings and will be favourites to top their group this summer, when they face Scotland, Spain and Portugal in Group D.

As a manager, Sampson believes preparation is key. This is in keeping with his decision to name England's 23-player squad more than three months prior to the tournaments commencement and before the start of the Spring Series - a short summer campaign designed to bridge the gap between the transitional Women's Super League. England were the first to name their Euro's squad and the decision earned wide spread criticism from many inside the women's football community.

Sampson has recently said that his players and staff are focused on becoming "the best on the planet" and their performance in March's She Believes Cup was certainly a step in the right direction.

The annual four nation tournament was held in the United States of America for the second time this year and England faced three of the best teams in the world - France, Germany and the United States. The tournament not only served as ideal prep for the forthcoming Euro's, but also a chance to set out a statement of intent going into an important summer for the Lionesses. And, they certainly relished this opportunity by notching a superb victory over the hosts and current World champions, the United States.

England have now begun preparations for the Euro's, most recently securing an impressive 4-0 victory over Switzerland on 10 June. The squad will head to Denmark on Saturday to take part in their last competitive friendly before they begin their Euro mission.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Notts County).

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Jo Potter (Notts County), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool).

Midfielders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal).

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

Scotland 

Scotland completed their European qualification campaign in high spirits, qualifing as runners-up, with their one defeat in eight games coming against group winners Iceland. Anna Signeul's Scots, are set to feature in their first major finals and kick off their maiden campaign with a Brittanic derby against rivals England.

As expected, England-Scotland could potentially be one of the fiercest games of the championship, but you can't underestimate the grudge match which is set to take place in Scotland's final group match against Spain. The Spaniards beat the Scots in the qualifying play-off final for Euro 2013. Signeul's side were set to qualify on away goals, before Spain broke their hearts with a last-minute winner to deny Scotland a trip to their first major competition.

Despite such a landmark occasion for the team, scenes off the pitch have somewhat overshadowed Scotland's preparations for their first run out at the Euro's.

The Scotland manager announced her squad for the Euro's this week, a week later than originally planned. The announcement delay, caused by a dispute between the players and the Scotland Football Association, concerning the team's terms and conditions when representing their nation, was brought to it's conclusion on Saturday following the intervention of PFA Scotland.

Up until the player roster was released, the Scotland squad were no longer co-operating with the media, including the SFA themselves and resorted to a complete media blackout. Despite, reportedly being paid an unspecified bonus for qualifying for the European Championships, other keys issues were still yet to be resolved.

Another major blow for the Scots are the injuries to Kim Little and Lizzie Arnot. Both players are set to miss Euro 2017 after rupturing their Anterior Cruciate Knee Ligaments. Jennifer Beattie is also out of the tournament through injury.

Little is the lynchpin in Signeul's side, with undeniable influence on and off the pitch for Scotland. To say the 26-year-old, who has scored more than 40 goals for her country, will be missed is an under statement.  

The 2016 BBC Women's Footballer of The Year missed her side's friendly defeat to Belgium through injury and was also absent from the squad who faced both Romania and Sweden in warm-up games earlier this month. But, Signuel was hopeful of return for her star player in time for the tournament campaign.

Although off the field issues and injuries may have marred their prep slightly, Scotland still have a strong squad travelling to the Netherlands

They are tagged as underdogs in Group D and rightly so. A key player, who will bring bags of confidence and experience is Jane Ross. The striker has scored 50 goals for Scotland, counting her ten goals in the qualification campaign and recently completed a treble winning campaign with Manchester City. The Women's Super League One champions also had a splendid debut campaign in the UEFA Champions League, in which they reached the semi-finals, only to be knocked out by eventual winners Lyon.

Signuel's team kick off their tournament campaign against England on July 19 and Leigh Griffiths' performance against Gareth Southgate's side in the June World Cup qualifier, will no doubt serve as inspiration for the Scots.  

Squad

Goalkeepers: Lee Alexander (Glasgow City), Gemma Fay (Glasgow City), Shannon Lyn (Vittsjo GIK)

Defenders: Vaila Barsley (Eskilstuna United), Frankie Brown (Bristol City), Rachel Corsie (Seattle Reign), Ifeoma Dieke (Vittsjo GIK), Sophie Howard (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Rachel McLauchlan (Hibernian), Joelle Murray (Hibernian), Kirsty Smith (Hibernian)

Midfielders: Leanne Crichton (Glasgow City), Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea), Lisa Evans (Bayern Munich), Hayley Lauder (Glasgow City), Jo Love (Glasgow City), Leanne Ross (Glasgow City), Caroline Weir (Liverpool)

Forwards: Fiona Brown (Eskilstuna United), Lana Clelland (UPC Tavagnacco), Christie Murray (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Jane Ross (Manchester City)

Spain 

Derby day continues on the opening night of Group D as Spain are set to take on neighbours Portugal on July 19.

The Iberian rivals have never met competively before, with the only meetings between the two sides coming in friendlies.

Although Spain are not considered one of the powerhouses of European football, they did reach the semi-finals of the European Championships in 1997.

However, the next time the Spaniards were to feature in the final stages of a major championships was 16 years later than the 1997 semi-final. As previously mentioned, Spain qualified for the last Euro's in 2013 by beating Scotland in the playoffs. Ignacio Quereda's side reached the quarter finals, overcoming England in the group stage and earning a draw against Russia, before eventually succumbing to Norway in the quarters.

Spain qualified for the Women's World Cup for the first time two years later, winning nine of its ten matches of the qualifying round, but disaster ensued in the group stage as the team managed only a 1–1 draw against Costa Rica, becoming the worst European team in the tournament. After the World Cup, the players called for the sacking of long-term manager Quereda, with former U-19 coach Jorge Vilda taking over later that summer.

As a whole the squad is very similar to previous squads, however, there are two notable absences for Las Soñadoras which have created increased debate. Both the previous captain and vice-captain - Verónica Boquete and Sonia Bermúdez - have both been emitted from the squad who will travel to Holland in July.

Once thought as the poster girl of Spanish football, Boquete, who has scored 38 goals in 56 appearances for Spain, is a major loss for the team. On paper, it is evident that the Paris Saint Germain forward brings bags of quality and experience. However, the real surprise is how well the team are performing without their star player.

The 13th rank team in the world, will be on a high coming into Euro 2017 as Vilda's side acheived qualification by winning every match and recently won the Algarve Cup, in their first year of participation.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Lola Gallardo (Atlético Madrid), Sandra Paños (FC Barcelona), Mariasun Quiñones (Real Sociedad).

Defenders: Marta Torrejón (FC Barcelona), Irene Paredes (Paris Saint Germain), Andrea Pereira (Atlético Madrid), Mapi León (Atlético Madrid), Leila Ouahabi (FC Barcelona), Celia Jiménez (Alabama Crimson Tide), Paula Nicart (Valencia), Alexandra López (Atlético Madrid).

Midfielders: Silvia Meseguer (Atlético Madrid), Virginia Torrecilla (Montpellier HSC), Amanda Sampedro (Atlético Madrid), Mariona Caldentey (FC Barcelona), Vicky Losada (FC Barcelona), Alexia Putellas (FC Barcelona).

Attackers: Jenni Hermoso (FC Barcelona), Olga García (FC Barcelona), Bárbara Latorre (FC Barcelona), Maripaz Vilas (Valencia), Marta Corredera (Atlético Madrid), Esther González (Atlético Madrid).

Portugal 

A young Portugal team, ranked lowest in the competition, will have to work hard to take any points from their first European campaign.

The European debutants met for the last time before tournament action on June 8th and 11th. The double header in Viseu saw Franicsco Neto's side bag a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 loss against Wales, in the last meeting before his squad re-assemble for the Euro's on June 26th.

Many are anticipating a fiesty encounter in Portugal's first fixture against Spain. The two sides last met in 1994, Spain won 1-0 in Chaves but exactly 11 years earlier it was 1-0 to Portugal in La Guardia.

Women's Football