The eagerly anticipated group stage draw for next summer’s Women’s European Championship has been made, with eyes across the continent on the ceremony in Manchester on Thursday afternoon.
England will host Austria in the opening game at Old Trafford on 6 July. The Lionesses, who have reached semi-finals at the last European championship and the last two World Cups since 2015, will then face Norway and Northern Ireland in Brighton and Southampton respectively.
Eight-time former champions Germany will battle for top spot in Group B with Spain. Denmark, runners-up in 2017, will also be vying to qualify from that group. Finland round off the foursome.
Reigning champions Netherlands, meanwhile, have been drawn with Olympic silver medalists Sweden, Russia and Switzerland.
France are the final top seed and must face Italy, Belgium and Iceland.
Group A: England, Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland
Group C: Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Switzerland
Group D: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland
As mentioned, the group stage will begin with England’s opening match on 6 July and concludes with the final pair of games in Group D on 18 July. The knockout stages begin with the first of the quarter-finals two days later, culminating in the final at Wembley on 31 July.
Sweden, Norway, Germany and Netherlands are the only four nations ever to have won this competition, with Germany winning six in a row during a dominant run from 1995 to 2013.
The likes of England, France or Spain will therefore make history if they emerge victorious.