UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 arrives on English shores this summer with the festival of football kicking off when England face Austria on 6th July at Old Trafford.
Wigan and Leigh will play host to three Group C matches at Leigh Sports Village, the first of which is a clash between Portugal and Switzerland on 9th July. The 12,000-capacity stadium will also hold matches involving European royalty in the form of defending champions Netherlands and Sweden, who won the inaugural competition in 1984.
The stadium is the nucleus of an £83 million multi-use sports and retail centre, and currently home to Manchester United WFC and rugby league Championship side Leigh Centurions. It is located a mile from the centre of Leigh in the southwest of the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan.
Built on a strong agricultural and industrial past, historic red brick mills dot the former coal mining town. Seven miles to the northeast lies the larger town of Wigan, home of the annual World Pie Eating Championship and stop-motion comedy duo Wallace and Gromit.
Portugal vs Switzerland
Leigh Sports Village, Saturday 9th July at 5pm, Group C
The first match takes place on 9th July, with FIFA’s 30th ranked team Portugal kicking off their campaign with a challenging fixture against Switzerland who are 20th in the world.
The Portuguese women’s team is growing in stature year on year, making their debut at a major tournament at the 2017 UEFA Women’s EURO in the Netherlands.
They will be looking to better their performance from that summer, finishing bottom of Group D in the face of tough opposition in the form of England, Spain and Scotland. They exceeded expectations in beating Scotland and only losing to England by one goal, with Braga’s veteran striker Carolina Mendes scoring in each game.
Switzerland, meanwhile, also made their first appearance at the UEFA Women’s EURO in 2017, having reached the Round of 16 two years earlier in Canada at the 2015 World Cup. In Breda they needed a win against a formidable French side in their final game in Group C to reach the knockout stages. They led through Ana-Maria Crnogorčević for most of the game, but a Camille Abily equalizer broke Swiss hearts in the 76th minute. Captain and Arsenal midfielder Lia Wälti will be hoping her side can manage a better result this summer.
Netherlands vs Portugal
Leigh Sports Village, Wednesday 13th July at 8pm, Group C
Next up on July 13th Portugal will face an even sterner test against reigning champions Netherlands, who defied expectations to go all the way on home soil in the summer of 2017.
They won all their matches that year to claim their first ever UEFA Women’s EURO title, ending Germany’s 22-year stranglehold on the competition by beating Denmark 4-2 at FC Twente’s De Grolsch Veste stadium in the final.
Legendary Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema equalised after an early Nadia Nadim penalty, and rounded off the scoring late on to spark jubilant scenes from the home crowd.
The 25-year-old’s scoring record for both her club side and national team is astonishing, with 92 goals in 108 appearances for her country. Her vast collection of individual titles include BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2021, FWA Women’s Player of the Year in 2020 and PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year in 2019.
Portugal will be hoping for a miracle against the 2019 World Cup finalists, who also count Manchester United midfielder Jackie Groenen and leading appearance maker Sherida Spitse, who could get her 200th international cap against England on June 24th, among their ranks.
Sweden vs Portugal
Leigh Sports Village, Sunday 17th July at 5pm, Group C
Portugal’s final UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 group match on the 17th July might well be the hardest of them all. Sweden are ranked second in the world behind the United States and are one of the favourites to win their first European title since 1984.
Blågult (The Blue and Yellow) have not lost a game since before the Covid-19 pandemic, when they were beaten 2-1 by Denmark in March 2020.
Their record since then has seen them win 24 and draw five, including a 15-0 hammering of Georgia in April. However, the four-time finalists had a disappointing tournament last time out.
They scraped through Group B with a draw, a win and a loss against Germany, Russia and Italy respectively. They were knocked out in the quarter-finals by hosts the Netherlands who they will meet in their opening game this summer.
Quarter-final 3: Winners Group C vs Runners-up Group D
Leigh Sports Village, Friday 22nd July at 8pm
The last UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 game hosted at Leigh Sports Village pits the Group C winners against the runners-up in Group D on 22nd July.
That means the best side out of Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal will face one of France, Italy, Belgium or Iceland for a place in the final four.
The Group C winners will be hoping to avoid France who reached the quarter-finals in each of the last three tournaments and are ranked third in the world.
They boast a wealth of talent, including goalscoring defender and captain Wendie Renard who has won a record 14 French League titles and eight European Cups with heavyweights Lyon.
Italy are the favourites to finish runners-up, having reached the final on two occasions in the 90s and taking part in all but one Championship since its inception.