|Date: Wednesday July 20th Venue: Amex Stadium, Brighton Kicking off: 20:00 CET Cover: Watch live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website; Listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live; Follow the text commentary on the BBC Sport website|
England are preparing for their biggest test of the European Women’s Championship when they meet one of the group’s favorites Spain in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Only one place separates the teams in the world rankings and expectations are high for both nations.
Spain have a squad full of Champions League winners, while England are on course for success and have home advantage in Brighton. With a spot in the semifinals up for grabs, here’s everything you need to know.
What form are they in?
Confidence has skyrocketed for hosts England, who are eighth in the world, after Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman took over as coach in September and went 17 games unbeaten.
The Lionesses won all three group stage games without conceding a single goal, while the 14 they scored surpassed the previous tournament record of 11 set by Germany in 2011.
Their 8-0 win over Norway in their second game was also the biggest winning margin in the tournament’s history.
“I hope we did enough in the group stage to interest people and take them on our journey,” said England captain Leah Williamson. “I hope they stay with us now and everyone enjoys it.”
Spain, ranked seventh in the world, haven’t quite reached the same heights at this European Championship, winning two of their games and finishing second behind a German side who beat them 2-0.
Their two group victories weren’t without drama either – they conceded within a minute against Finland but recovered with a 4-1 win before needing a win against Denmark in the 90th minute of their final group game.
But like the lionesses, the Spaniards are not used to losing. Their loss to Germany was their first since March 2020, ending a 24-game unbeaten run.
What test can Spain offer?
Renowned for their possession football, Spain have built their squad around a core of Barcelona players who have reached back-to-back Champions League finals and dominated their domestic scene.
Everton midfielder Izzy Christiansen described the players as having “an innate ability to hold the ball and dominate possession” but they struggled to convert that possession into goals.
They controlled 74% of possession against Denmark on Saturday night, but scored just once despite 17 shots. Their five-goal tally in three group games is lower than any quarter-finalists save for outsiders Belgium and Austria.
“We know they have a lot of threats but we also know there are a lot of ways to take advantage of them so we’ll definitely try that,” said England winger Lauren Hemp.
A major threat missing for Spain is Alexia Putellas – the winner of the Ballon d’Or, which is awarded to the best footballer of the year – who was ruled out on the eve of the tournament afterwards suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
That blow came just weeks after Spain’s record goalscorer Jennifer Hermoso suffered a sprained ligament in her knee.
Most recently, the teams met at the Arnold Clark Cup by invitation, which England also hosted in February. play a goalless draw.
That game was the last time England did not win, having since embarked on a nine-game winning streak, while it was also the only time the Lionesses failed to score in their 17 games under Wiegman.
England have never lost to Spain at home, with four wins and three draws, but La Roja were the last team to emerge victorious from a clash between these sides. 1-0 win at the 2020 SheBelieves Cup.
So who are the favourites?
Both England and Spain were keen to get into the tournament, although the hosts’ stocks have risen after strong performances in the group stage.
To England’s 5-0 win over Northern Ireland On Friday, opposition manager Kenny Shiels said it would be a “failure” if Wiegman’s side failed to win the Euros.
“They talk about pressure all the time and we talk about football. We’re just trying to do our best and use our strengths to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses,” Wiegman said.
“Yes, we know it’s the knockout stage, but so are the opponents. It’s exciting.”
The Lionesses have reached the semi-finals of their last three major tournaments, while Spain were eliminated in the Euro 2017 quarter-finals.
“That’s where experience becomes invaluable,” said Williamson, the England captain. “If you’ve done something before, it definitely makes it easier to do it next time. It is an advantage that we have been in such situations.”
Spain have never reached the final of a major tournament, their best performance came in 1997 when they finished in the last four.
But given Barcelona’s recent success in domestic football – they won their first Women’s Champions League title in 2021 before losing to Lyon in the final this year – expectations for their international players at the Euros are also high.
Former captain Vicky Losada said Spain’s performances at the Euros have been good so far but “maybe not as good as we expected”.
“We see Spain don’t play with the same energy and don’t enjoy the game,” she added.
Is there anything else to consider?
England could be without manager Wiegman after she tested positive for Covid on Friday morning and missed out on victory over Northern Ireland.
She said she felt “fine and ready to go” on Tuesday but will do so wait to see if she can return.
Meanwhile, England striker Ellen White has another opportunity to equal Wayne Rooney’s all-time goalscoring record for England after failing to score in the last game.
White, the joint top-scorer at the 2019 World Cup, has taken her overall tally to 52 – trailing Rooney.
However, it is teammate Beth Mead who is leading the race for the golden boot at this tournament, with an impressive five goals and two assists in her first three games.
Mead was left out of Britain’s Olympic squad last year.
“I know how much it hurt her,” said Arsenal team-mate Williamson. “Sometimes you need things that give you a little wake-up call.
“There is no argument now that she deserves her place on this team and that will mean a lot to her.”