England set-up a Euro 2017 semi-final against hosts Netherlands after they registered their first victory over France in 43 years, beating Les Blueus 1-0 in a hard-fought quarter-final on Sunday evening.
The winner of that game will face either Austria or Denmark in next Sunday’s final in Enschede. After defending champions Germany’s 2-1 semi-final defeat to Denmark, we are guaranteed a new name on the trophy for the first time in 22 years, but who looks most likely to play a staring role as the tournament draws to its conclusion?
Jodie Taylor – England
The Arsenal striker has been lethal in front of goal so far in the tournament, finding the net five times from six attempts in just three games – including a hat-trick against Scotland and the winner in Sunday’s quarter-final with France.
The 31-year-old has had a journeywoman’s career, playing for for 12 clubs in her 14-year career, and was regularly overlooked by ex-England boss Hope Powell.
Taylor was given her first cap by Mark Sampson aged 28 and has scored 14 goals from 28 games since, a record which Sampson says is down to her “obsession with scoring goals”. Expect Taylor to feed that obsession if England are going to get their hands on the trophy!
Jordan Nobbs – England
Taylor’s goals might have taken the headlines but Jordan Nobbs is the most exciting player in the Lionesses’ squad.
The fiery England midfielder is excellent with the ball at her feet, and from set pieces, but it’s her high intensity and seemingly unending energy that really sets her apart.
The 24-year-old is capable of playing anywhere across the midfield and will likely drop into the centre to fill the void left by the suspended Jill Scott against the Netherlands. This could be a blessing in disguise for England, as Nobbs looks her most impressive in the centre when she can exert more influence on the game.
Much to the dismay of opposition defences England’s vice-captain has added goalscoring to her long list of talents as of late, having bagged five goals in her last 11 games for club and country – including a wonderful volley against Scotland.
Vivianne Miedema – Netherlands
The face of the home nation was unable to find the net throughout the group stages, but a player of her quality could only be kept quiet so long and she opened her tally in the quarter-final against Sweden.
Recognised as one of the most exciting young players in Europe the prolific striker already has over 150 senior goals to her name at the age of just 21, and the Lionesses’ defence will have a job on their hands on Thursday to stop her adding to that number.
Like England the Netherlands have won every game at Euro 17 and with Miedema scoring and the home crowd cheering them on, Sampson’s side will have to be on their game to get the win.
Lieke Martens – Netherlands
The 24-year-old, who will join Barcelona after the tournament, is a pacey left-winger who is lethal cutting inside onto her right foot, and is a danger from dead ball situations – as she showed with her clever free kick against Sweden in the quarter-final.
The combination of Martens and Miedema make the hosts an exciting side to watch and one that is capable of beating anyone on their day.
Pernille Harder – Denmark
All of Denmark’s games in the tournament have been a decided by a one goal margin – a record like that requires a clinical goal scorer for success, and in Pernille Harder Denmark have exactly that.
Captain of the national team at just 24, Harder is the real game changer in the Danish side and already has 46 goals for her country.
After producing a remarkable comeback win over defending Champions and tournament favourites Germany the Dane’s are high on confidence and cannot be underestimated.
Manuela Zinsberger – Austria
Austria have conceded just once all tournament and Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger has shown herself a real asset between the sticks.
The 21-year-old’s diving save was the difference in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against Spain, putting the Austrians through to the semi-finals after 120 minutes of deadlock.
If the Austrian shot stopper, with the help of the firm defence in front of her, can continue her good form in the tournaments concluding stages then Austria might be able to pull off a shock tournament win.
Without Germany in the final four the stage looks set for someone to grab glory for their nation and get their hands on the trophy.
Whoever comes out victorious from England’s semi-final with hosts Netherlands will undoubtedly be favourites to win the title but neither Austria or Denmark should be underestimated. Whatever the result – the tournament’s conclusion is shaping up to be a thriller.