By Samindra Kunti
July 17 – Hosts Holland opened the biggest edition of the Women’s Euros to date with a 1-0 over Norway. The 2017 Women’s Euro has been expanded to 16 teams with an increased prize pot of €8 million (£7 million).
Liverpool forward Shanice van de Sanden netted the game’s only goal in the 66th minute from a Lieke Martens cross to hand Holland a well-deserved three points in the tournament’s curtain raiser.
Holland were on the front foot throughout the 90 minutes in front of a capacity crowd of 21,732 fans at Utrecht’s Stadion Galgenwaard, inflicting a surprise defeat on Norway, who hadn’t lost a match to a team other than Germany at the European Championship since 2001. In the other Group A game, Denmark toppled Belgium 1-0.
The Dutch Lioness’ win has ignited a tournament that has all the ingredients to become a bumper edition. More than two million people watched the opening game on the NOS network. Organisers had sold 150,000 tickets before the start of the tournament, but expect that number to rise as excitement builds.
The expansion to 16 teams has given debuts to five countries at the elite championship level – Austria, Belgium, Portugal, Scotland and Switzerland.
The jump in prize money to €8 million is a steep rise from the €2.2 million in 2013. The tournament winners will earn €1.2 million.
The men’s game still dwarfs those numbers, with each of the 24 nations at last year’s Euro 2016 receiving €8 million for participation while champions Portugal banked €27 million (£23.7m) in total.
England kick off their campaign with a highly anticipated all-British encounter against Scotland in Group D on Wednesday. The English were unbeaten in qualification for the tournament, but face stiff opposition if they want to better their third place at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Germany enjoy unparalleled domination of the European Championship. They have won the tournament six times in a row, stretching back to 1995. The reigning champions get their campaign underway against Sweden in Group B on Monday. France, the other tournament favorites, play Iceland in their opening game in Group C on Tuesday.
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