France coach Corinne Diacre has vowed to lead Les Bleues at this year's Women's World Cup, hitting out at a "destabilisation operation" amid a boycott of the team by several big-name players.

France are in crisis ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, with captain Wendie Renard and forward pair Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto putting their international careers on hold.

The trio will skip the World Cup if major changes are not made by the French Football Federation (FFF), with Katoto saying she feels "no longer aligned with the management of the team".

Reports have claimed the players want the FFF to call time on Diacre's six-year stint in charge, but the former France defender insists she is going nowhere.

"In view of the shameful media outburst of recent days, I wish to publicly reaffirm that I am fully determined to carry out my mission, and above all, to honour France at the next World Cup," Diacre said in a widely reported statement.

"My detractors have not hesitated to attack my personal and professional integrity without bothering with the truth.

"I will not let myself be affected by this destabilisation operation, which does not take into account my sporting record, and whose only objective is a personal settling of scores."

United States internationals Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are among those to offer public support to the striking players, along with global players' union FIFPRO.

The FFF pledged to examine the matter last month, and French media reports have suggested Diacre's position will be discussed by the federation later this week.

France will begin their World Cup campaign against Jamaica on July 23, before facing Brazil and Panama in their subsequent Group F fixtures.

Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan threw their support behind protesting France stars as the French Football Federation faced growing pressure to act on the players' grievances.

Captain and star defender Wendie Renard was the first to put her international career on hold on Friday, swiftly followed by forwards Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto.

All three called for regime change, with Renard saying the "current system" was "far from the requirements required by the highest level", and the trio are set to be absent from this year's Women's World Cup unless their demands are met.

In response, the federation (FFF) said its executive committee would look at the matter on Tuesday, adding: "The FFF would like to serve a reminder that no individual is bigger than the team."

Such a response was hardly what the players would have hoped for, but the FFF will not be able to brush this issue under the carpet.

Ada Hegerberg and Lucy Bronze backed the striking players on Friday, and US women's national team luminaries Rapinoe and Morgan have added their voices of support, along with global players' union FIFPRO.

Reacting initially to Renard's statement, Rapinoe wrote: "With you captain. @FFF what are you doing?"

As the protest grew to become a three-player rebellion, Rapinoe posted on Instagram: "Immense respect for these three."

Morgan wrote: "You know it's bad when the most capped player/captain can [no] longer support or play for @FFF. My heart hurts for @wendie_renard, @mariekatoto, @kady944 and all their teammates."

The Women's World Cup takes place between July 20 and August 20 in Australia and New Zealand, so the French authorities have time to remedy this situation.

Renard has spoken of wanting to protect her mental health. Although she did not name head coach Corinne Diacre, who has overseen a controversial reign, reports claimed Renard would refuse to return if Diacre and her staff remain in place.

Renard, a 142-cap veteran, lost the captaincy under Diacre in 2017 but was restored to the leadership in 2021.

FIFPRO said it "stands... in solidarity" with the players and their supportive French union, the UNFP.

"Players should not have to sacrifice their national team careers for change and organisational reform," FIFPRO added, in a short statement posted on Twitter.

The UNFP said the players' stance was an "extremely courageous cry of alarm... denouncing the gap between the current organisation of this team, their expectations and the resources allocated to meet the current requirements of the very high level".

It said the players' outcry "must serve as a catalyst" for institutional change and to speed up the rate of pushing the women's game forward in France.

"It is becoming urgent," said the UNFP, "that all stakeholders finally push in the same direction to accelerate without delay the process under way, which will benefit all, including internationals."

France forwards Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto joined captain Wendie Renard in a boycott of the national team as a crisis erupted ahead of the Women's World Cup.

Lyon veteran Renard announced on Friday she would not represent France in Australia and New Zealand later this year unless major changes are implemented.

Renard spoke of wanting to protect her mental health, attacking the "current system".

She did not name head coach Corinne Diacre, who has overseen a controversial reign, but reports claimed Renard would refuse to return if Diacre and her staff remain in place.

Within hours, Paris Saint-Germain players Diani and Katoto followed suit by announcing they too would be unavailable for selection, with both also offering a scathing indictment of the national set-up.

"The words of our captain Wendie lead me in turn to talk about the situation in the France team," Katoto wrote.

She said she felt "no longer aligned with the management of the France team and the values transmitted".

"I therefore make the decision to put my international career on hold until the necessary changes are applied," Katoto added.

Diani added: "Following the announcement from our captain Wendie Renard and in view of recent results and management in the France team, I am suspending my international obligations in order to concentrate on my club career.

"If the profound necessary changes finally arrive, I will return to the team."

Renard, a 142-cap veteran, lost the captaincy under Diacre in 2017 but was restored to the leadership in 2021.

Star midfielder Amandine Henry was controversially excluded from last year's Euro 2022 squad, with record scorer Eugenie Le Sommer also missing out.

It remains to be seen whether the three who took their stance on Friday will be followed by others.

The Women's World Cup runs from July 20 to August 20.

Norway international Ada Hegerberg, Renard's team-mate at Lyon, voiced her support, having famously spent a self-imposed five-year exile from the national side in protest over a perceived lack of support for women's football in her homeland.

Hegerberg wrote on Twitter: "How long will we have to go through these lengths for us to be respected? I'm with you, Wendie, and with everybody else going through the same processes. Time to act."

A brief statement from the French Football Federation addressed the matter on Friday, with the escalating crisis set to be addressed at an executive committee meeting on Tuesday.

"The FFF has taken note of the statements of Wendie Renard, Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto," it read. "Its executive committee, meeting on February 28, will take up the issue at that time.

"The FFF would like to serve a reminder that no individual is bigger than the team."

France captain Wendie Renard will sit out the 2023 Women's World Cup unless there is a regime change, she revealed in a bombshell announcement on Friday.

In a statement posted on social media, Renard said she loved France "more than anything" but blamed "the current system" for her decision and said she wanted to protect her mental health.

The 32-year-old has 142 international caps and is one of the best-known women's footballers in the world game.

Renard was stripped of the captaincy by head coach Corinne Diacre in 2017, before regaining it four years later, with French outlet RMC Sport reporting her decision on Friday relates to concerns about Diacre, who remains in charge of the team.

Renard wrote: "I defended the blue, white and red jersey 142 times with passion, respect, commitment and professionalism. I love France more than anything, I'm not perfect, far from it, but I can no longer endorse the current system, far from the requirements required by the highest level.

"It's a sad but necessary day to preserve my mental health. It is with a heavy heart that I come by this message to inform you of my decision to take a step back from the French team.

"Unfortunately, I will not play this World Cup in such conditions. My face can hide the pain, but my heart hurts... and I don't want to hurt any more."

Renard has won 15 Division 1 Feminine titles with her club Lyon, as well as nine Coupe de France trophies and eight Women's Champions League titles.

The Women's World Cup takes place between July 20 and August 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

England and Barcelona star Lucy Bronze sent a message of support to Renard, her former Lyon team-mate, posting on Instagram: "With you my sister always."

French tennis legend Yannick Noah added his support, writing: "Courage to you Wendie."

Germany dominated the team of the tournament for the Women's Euro 2022 despite losing 2-1 to England in Sunday's Wembley final.

Both teams had won every match en route to a highly anticipated decider at England's national stadium in front of a record crowd for a European Championship match, with 87,192 in attendance.

An extra-time winner from Chloe Kelly proved the difference as the Lionesses claimed their first major title, dealing rivals Germany their first defeat in nine Women's Euros finals.

Beth Mead was forced off in the final but had still done enough to be named player of the tournament, also edging the top scorer award on assists ahead of Alexandra Popp – who missed the match following an injury in the warm-up.

Yet there was room for both superstar performers in the official team of the tournament.

Mead was among four England players, with goalkeeper Mary Earps, captain Leah Williamson and midfielder pass master Keira Walsh each also recognised.

Meanwhile, Germany had five players included; along with Popp, defenders Giulia Gwinn and Martina Hegering made the cut, as did young player of the tournament Lena Oberdorf.

Next to Mead and Popp in the front three was Klara Buhl, even though coronavirus kept her out of both the semi-finals and the final.

France were beaten by Germany in the last four and were represented by defender Sakina Karchaoui, while Spain lost to both finalists but still had Aitana Bonmati make the XI.

Women's Euro 2022 team of the tournament:

Mary Earps (England); Giulia Gwinn (Germany), Leah Williamson (England), Martina Hegering (Germany), Sakina Karchaoui (France); Keira Walsh (England), Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Aitana Bonmati (Spain); Beth Mead (England), Alexandra Popp (Germany), Klara Buhl (Germany).

Alexandra Popp said it would be "the icing on the cake" if she wins the Golden Boot and Germany lift the trophy in Sunday's Euro 2022 final against England.

Popp appears to be in a straight shoot-out with England's Beth Mead for the top goalscorer prize, with both players having netted six goals from five games.

Having returned from a long knee injury lay-off to make her mark, the 31-year-old Germany captain instinctively ranks winning the tournament far above the prospect of an individual accolade.

She converted two crosses from Svenja Huth, one with a smart volley and the other with a powerful header, as Germany beat France 2-1 in Wednesday's semi-final.

Mead was among the scorers as England crushed Sweden 4-0 on Tuesday to become the first team into the Wembley showpiece match.

Popp spoke after Germany's win of why it was not all about her.

"I have to disappoint you. I have to put the team in the foreground again, because if I don't get balls like that into the box, I can't score the goals. And that's where I benefit immensely from the girls," Popp said.

"Of course it makes me very happy and very proud that I get these balls and that I have the opportunity to score and that I have managed, together with the coaching team, with the team, to get back to being a goal-scoring threat like I used to be, when I didn't play for a long time.

"That makes me very, very proud. And it's not my first goal to say that I absolutely want to be the top scorer. The first goal is clearly to win the European Championship.

"If the icing on the cake is then added and I have the opportunity, then of course it would be nice. But if that doesn't happen and three other goals are scored by us and we end up as European champions, then I'll be happy too."

Popp's first-half opener made her the first player in the history of the Women's Euros to score in five successive games, having also netted in each of Germany's four previous victories.

That was Germany's 100th goal in the history of the tournament, making them the first side to reach a century of goals.

Germany have now reached the final of the Women's Euros in nine of their 11 appearances in the tournament, only failing to do so in 1993 and 2017.

Head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said she felt "pure pride" at the achievement, saying the semi-final game had been "super exhausting".

It opens up the possibility of another Wembley triumph for Germany.

The men's team were crowned European champions at England's national stadium in 1996, when Oliver Bierhoff was the two-goal hero in a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic.

Former striker Bierhoff is now managing director of Germany's national teams and saluted the achievements of the women's team.

"We are overjoyed, also because of the way the team performs here," Bierhoff said. "You can feel the conviction and the fun of achieving something. You can also feel that they now want to take this final step."

Alexandra Popp says "there is nothing better" than playing a final at Wembley after firing Germany into Sunday's Women's Euros showpiece with her double against France.

The Wolfsburg striker opened the scoring in the 40th minute and then headed in the eventual winner in the second half after Merle Frohms' unfortunate own goal had levelled things up.

Popp's first-half strike made her the first player in the competition's history to score in five successive games, having also netted in each of Germany's four previous victories.

That was also Germany's 100th goal at the Women's Euros, making them the first side to reach a century of goals in the competition.

Popp is now level with England's Beth Mead on six goals for this year's tournament, with the pair set to face off in this weekend's final.

Tournament hosts England will be heavily backed in London, but Popp is relishing the chance to help Germany to a record-extending ninth Euros crown.

"I can't put this victory into words," she told ZDF following her brace against holders Netherlands' conquerors France. "We really threw everything in and are so incredibly happy. 

"The team is great. No one was counting on us and now we're in the final against England at Wembley. That was our dream, our wish, which we have fulfilled. 

"A final at Wembley... there is nothing better."

 

The goal scored by France was the first Germany had conceded at Euro 2022 and came in bizarre circumstances in Milton Keynes.

Kadidiatou Diani unleashed a long-range shot and the ball bounced off the post, hit the back of a diving Frohms and crossed the line.

It did not matter in the end, however, thanks to prolific Popp bailing out her team-mate with her header 14 minutes from time.

"The goal I conceded doesn't really matter to me," Frohms said. "It's bitter at the moment, but I had no choice but to try to make the save. But we didn't let that upset us.

"As soon as the final whistle blew, the tears of joy came. Before the tournament, we didn't imagine that we would make it to the final."

Germany have now reached the final of the Women's Euros in nine of their 11 appearances in the tournament, only failing to do so in 1993 and 2017.

Alexandra Popp scored in a record fifth Women's European Championship match in a row, with her double firing Germany to a 2-1 win over France in Wednesday's semi-final.

The Wolfsburg striker was on target in each of Germany's four wins en route to final four and opened the scoring in Milton Keynes with a volley after 40 minutes.

France, playing at this stage for a first time compared to a record 10th for Germany, levelled through a Kadidiatou Diani strike that hit the post and went in off Merle Frohms.

Despite Germany being second best for large parts of the second period, Popp struck again in the 76th minute to set up a showdown with hosts England at Wembley on Sunday.

Popp was denied from a curled free-kick by a fine Pauline Peyraud-Magnin stop, but there was to be no denying the in-form Germany striker soon after.

Svenja Huth sent in a cross from the right and Popp got in front of Eve Perisset to thump into the roof of the net – Germany's record 100th goal in the competition.

France's response arrived before half-time, though, as Diani unleashed a shot from long range and the ball bounced off the post, hit the back of a diving Frohms and crossed the line.

Les Bleues twice went close to taking the lead just after the hour mark, with Frohms saving Selma Bacha's powerful shot and Wendie Renard's header from the resulting corner.

Frohms was again required to keep out Diani following a poor back-pass from Marina Hegering as France continued building momentum.

But against the run of play, Popp was left unmarked and powered Huth's cross past Peyraud-Magnin, the match-winning goal allowed to stand after a VAR check for offside.

England have been tipped to cap their stunning Euro 2022 campaign with a final victory at Wembley by Jamie Carragher, who declared: "I think it's finally coming home".

Sarina Wiegman's magnificent Lionesses cruised to a 4-0 semi-final win over Sweden – the tournament's top-ranked team – at Bramall Lane on Tuesday, reaching their first Women's Euros final since 2009.

That victory represented the largest ever recorded in the last four of a Women's Euros, while England have now scored a remarkable 104 goals in 19 outings under Wiegman.

England will have to defeat either Germany or France – who meet in Milton Keynes on Wednesday – to end 56 years of major tournament hurt on Sunday, with the Lionesses having lost European finals in both 1984 and 2009.

As the side prepare for a trip to Wembley, the ground on which Gareth Southgate's Three Lions suffered Euro 2020 final heartache last year against Italy, former England international Carragher expressed his confidence they would go on to lift the trophy.

Asked by Sky Sports whether he believed the Lionesses were set for glory, Carragher said: "Finally, it's coming home, yes, after so long. 

"We've built it up so often in major tournaments, we've come pretty close, [such as] with Gareth and the boys a year or so ago.

"I think it's finally coming home, we'll be able to sing that song hopefully on Sunday night with a trophy in our arms."

Wiegman, a Euro 2017 champion with the Netherlands, became the first coach to guide two different nations to a Women's European Championship final with the victory over Sweden, and Carragher recognised her nous as a key reason for the Lionesses' success.

"We've got a top coach who belongs at this level and has done this before, so that will give great confidence to the squad going into the game," the former defender continued.

"Obviously we've got home advantage as well, sometimes that can go for you or go against you, as long as the pressure doesn't become too big.

"But I think how the England team have coped with home advantage – they've maximised it in this tournament. 

"The fact we've got a serial winner in the coach on the sidelines should give us huge confidence."

Wendie Renard is determined to win her battle with Alexandra Popp when two of the great stalwarts of European football tough it out as France face Germany on Wednesday.

The second Euro 2022 semi-final takes place at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes and offers the winner a shot at Sunday's Wembley final.

A crowd of close to 90,000 is expected for the weekend's showpiece match, and France will hope to make it through to that stage for the first time while Germany are eyeing a ninth title.

France centre-back Renard is captain of her side, while striker Popp skippers Germany and has scored in all four of her team's games so far.

Renard and Popp have gone head-to-head many times, with their national teams and at club level with Lyon and Wolfsburg, facing each other in four Women's Champions League finals.

"It's true that she is a great player, with a lot of qualities," Renard said of Popp on Tuesday.

"We know the German mentality in a general way – it is true that we are used to playing against each other in clubs and with our national team.

"There is not only Alex Popp in this team, but it is true that she is a natural leader. She has shown it at club and international level."

Renard remarked on Popp's "difficult" last year, which has seen the 31-year-old striker sidelined for long stretches with a knee injury that recurred.

It has been to the striker's credit that she has been able to make such an impact already at this tournament, but now 32-year-old Renard is plotting how she might keep Popp in her pocket for 90 minutes.

"Since the beginning of this tournament, she is answering for her country, and it will be up to us collectively to be strong to simply prevent her from continuing her good run," Renard said.

Germany suffered a blow on the eve of the game when forward Klara Buhl was ruled out after a positive COVID-19 test.

Buhl had created the most chances of all players at Euro 2022 heading into the semi-final stage by forging 14 opportunities for others. That total put her one ahead of France's Clara Mateo.

Germany will be without influential winger Klara Buhl for Wednesday's Euro 2022 semi-final clash with France after she tested positive for COVID-19.

Bayern Munich star Buhl has featured in all four of Die Nationalelf's fixtures at the tournament, opening the scoring in their 2-0 group-stage win against Spain.

Buhl, who has 13 goals in 28 appearances for Germany, also laid on Lina Magull's opener in a 2-0 quarter-final win over Austria last time out, before striking the crossbar in an entertaining contest that saw them woodwork hit five times.

An update issued via Germany's social media accounts on Tuesday read: "Klara Buhl has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the semi-final vs France. 

"She has been isolated but is not currently displaying symptoms. The rest of the team and staff have returned additional negative tests."

Buhl's absence represents a significant blow for the eight-time European champions, who have lost two of their last three meetings with Les Bleues.

France must defy the weight of history as they attempt to sink Germany in the second semi-final at the Women's European Championship.

Corinne Diacre's French team have already made a colossal impact on the tournament in England, starting from when they smashed five goals past Italy in the first half of their opening group game.

That felt like a statement 45 minutes, a message to their rivals that this France team are different to those who have come before. Although France have not quite hit those swashbuckling heights since, they are through to their first Women's Euros semi-final, after falling in the quarters in each of the last three editions.

Coach Diacre made some tough choices for this tournament, omitting star forward Eugenie Le Sommer and Champions League player of the match Amandine Henry, and Les Bleues suffered a crushing blow when star striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto suffered an ACL injury during the group stages.

It became imperative that those players Diacre has trusted to perform delivered for the coach, and a 1-0 quarter-final win over the Netherlands, secured by Eve Perisset's extra-time penalty, took France further than they have ever gone before.

However, and here comes the kicker, each of the last four first-time semi-finalists fell at this hurdle: Spain (1997), Finland (2005), Netherlands (2009) and Austria (2017).

To boot, Germany have progressed from eight of their nine previous European Championship semi-finals, with the lone defeat coming in 1993 against Italy.

France will be up against it in Milton Keynes, with their opponents yet to concede a goal in these finals.

Germany might not be at their absolute pomp, but their next goal will be Die Nationalelf's 100th in European Championship football. No team has yet reached that landmark.


Germany look to turn back time

Germany's players do not need to look far to be served a reminder of their rich heritage in this tournament. Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was a four-time European champion in her playing days, helping the national team to titles in 1989, 1991, 1995 and 1997.

A run of six consecutive European titles was ended with a shock quarter-final exit to Denmark five years ago, and Voss-Tecklenburg was hired in November 2018 to lead the team forward.

She played 125 games for her country, scoring 27 goals, and was twice Germany's footballer of the year.

Germany cannot rely on past glories once the whistle sounds on Wednesday, even if France will be aware of their opponents' illustrious history.

This is the third Women's Euros clash between Germany and France, and the previous two resoundingly went Germany's way: 3-0 in 2005 and 5-1 in 2009, both in the group stage.

There are players in Germany's 2022 squad looking to live up to the feats of stars gone by, and captain Alexandra Popp can become the first ever player to score in five consecutive appearances at the Women's Euros when she lines up against France. Her four goals so far put her outright second in the race for the Golden Boot ahead of the semi-finals getting under way, one behind England's Beth Mead.

Collectively, Germany have been solid and have yet to concede a goal after four games. Only Germany themselves have kept five or more consecutive clean sheets in the history of this tournament (seven in a row between 2001 and 2005).


French fancy a final flourish

The Wembley final beckons on Sunday, and France would dearly love to be involved in that showpiece. They have won two of their last three internationals against Germany (L1), most recently a 1-0 victory in a friendly in June 2021.

Germany won on penalties when these sides met in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals, their last major tournament clash, but sufficient time has passed for that to have little bearing.

Diacre is expected to be rewarded with a new contract after this tournament, with French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet saying at the weekend it was important to put that on the backburner for now.

Le Graet said, quoted in L'Equipe: "The competition is not over. Decisions are made when it's all over. It is logical that we will discuss it again soon. I am very happy with Corinne and the progress that has been made. The players and Corinne are very motivated and good together."

If anything has been holding back France, it has been their finishing, which might be a surprise given how deadly they were in that opening 45 minutes against Italy.

Overall, they have had 94 goal attempts but scored just nine times, with their 9.6 per cent shot conversion rate the lowest of the four semi-finalists prior to the last-four games getting under way.

Curiously, France have scored eight of those nine goals in the first half of games, and the other came in the first half of extra time as they knocked out the Dutch, who were the reigning champions.

France earned a deserved 1-0 extra-time victory over the Netherlands on Saturday to eliminate the reigning champions and reach the semi-finals of the Women's Euros for the first time.

The Netherlands had won eight of their past nine games in the competition, a run that took them all the way to glory five years ago, but they were outclassed by France at the New York Stadium in Rotherham.

Dutch keeper Daphne van Domselaar produced a number of fine saves to frustrate Les Bleues, the best of which saw her deny Wendie Renard from the final act in normal time.

But France found a breakthrough in the 102nd minute through an Eve Perisset penalty, awarded following a VAR check after Dominique Janssen clearly brought down Kadidiatou Diani.

Van Domselaar got fingertips to the spot-kick but could not keep it out and the Netherlands, who eliminated France at this stage in 2009, were unable to find a leveller.

Corinne Diacre's side, who finished with an expected goals (xG) value of 4.45 to the Netherlands' 0.60, will now face Germany on Wednesday for a place in the final.

England and Sweden meet in the other semi-final on Tuesday, with the final set for July 31 at Wembley.

England tackle Spain in a heavyweight quarter-final as the knockout stages of Euro 2022 get under way on Wednesday, with records already tumbling and data quirks around every corner.

The tournament has just passed its halfway stage in terms of the total number of games, with 16 of 31 having been played, and already more spectators have seen the finals in England than have attended any previous Women's Euros.

UEFA said 369,314 tickets were sold for group-stage games, with the soaring popularity of the women's game meaning the tournament attendance record of 240,055, set in the Netherlands five years ago, has been obliterated.

Sarina Wiegman's free-scoring England Lionesses have played an instrumental part in the tournament's success to date, with the host nation rallying around a team who scored a record 14 goals in the group stage, with Beth Mead's personal haul of five goals so far also a new all-time best for the group round.

Now the knockout stages await and the stakes are raised. Stats Perform, assisted by data from Opta, has looked at the tournament so far, plus each last-eight game, to see where the title might be won and lost.


The story so far

England have been the deadliest finishers, scoring 14 goals with a conversion rate of 24.6 per cent. Sweden sit next on that list, putting away 23.5 per cent of chances to net eight goals, five of which came in their final group game against Portugal.

France have scored all eight of their goals in the first half of their games, while England have hit nine before the interval and added five afterwards. The Netherlands have only scored twice prior to half-time in their games but have netted six second-half strikes, the most of all teams.

Switzerland exited after losing in painfully familiar fashion, with a second-half capitulation in going down 4-1 to the Dutch. The Swiss kept three first-half clean sheets in Group C but were pushovers after the interval, conceding eight times. In sharp contrast, all three of the goals Spain have shipped have come in the opening 45 minutes.

Spain have played the most passes overall, excluding crosses. Their total of 2,052 passes has come with an 86.0 per cent accuracy rate, while England have attempted the second highest number of passes (1,674) with a competition-leading 86.5 per cent precision.

The Spanish national team are famed for their possession-based, attractive football, teasing their way through defences with clever passes. Yet four of Spain's five goals have been headers, compared to three of 14 for England.

Mead sits top of the goal involvements list with seven (five goals, two assists), which puts her comfortably ahead of England team-mate Fran Kirby and Sweden's Kosovare Asllani, both of whom have scored once and set up three goals for a total of four involvements each.

Spain have the top five on the list of players with the most passes in the opposition half, led by defender Mapi Leon who has played 176 passes with a success rate of 90.3 per cent. For passes into the final third, Leon's accuracy dips to 83 per cent.


Best is still to come...

QUARTER-FINAL 1: Spain v England – July 20, Brighton

England have a record of played two, won two in previous Women's Euros quarter-finals, beating Finland 3-2 in 2009 and then edging France 1-0 five years ago in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Spain have lost both of their previous games at this stage, going down 3-1 to Norway in 2013 and suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat to Austria in 2017, following a goalless draw.

Four of England's starters from the 2017 win over France have played in every game so far at these finals: Lucy Bronze, Mille Bright, Kirby and Ellen White.

England have never lost on home soil against Spain (P7 W4 D3), with the teams battling out a 0-0 draw when they last met in February. However, Spain have beaten England three times before when taking all 15 previous encounters into account, losing six and drawing six.

Including a 20-0 win over Latvia last November, England have scored 98 goals in their 17 games under head coach Sarina Wiegman, scoring an average of 5.8 goals per game and only conceding three times.

Mead's haul of five goals so far matches Jodie Taylor's Lionesses record haul from the last Euros, which won her the Golden Boot. Spain have scored five goals in total during this tournament, with five different scorers.

QF2: Germany v Austria – July 21, Brentford

Germany are one of two teams, along with England, who have yet to concede a goal. That does not bode well for Austria, who are making their second appearance at this stage after beating Norway in the last round of group games.

The Austrians will start as big underdogs against the eight-time champions (winners once as West Germany, seven times as Germany), with Germany having won 15 of their most recent 16 games when going beyond the group stages. That had been a 15-game winning run until Denmark halted it in the 2017 quarter-finals, scoring a surprise 2-1 win.

Austria might need Barbara Dunst's luck to change if they are to stand any chance. Dunst has had 11 shots and created eight chances for Austria so far in this tournament, but she has yet to score or have an assist. She had the most direct involvements in shots (19) without scoring or assisting of all players in the group stage.

QF3: Sweden v Belgium – July 22, Leigh

Sweden are the highest-placed team on the FIFA ranking list, sitting second, behind the United States. They are quietly going about their business in England, and it would be a major surprise for them not to reach the semi-finals from this tie.

Including penalties, Sweden scored more goals from set-pieces than any other side in the group stage (5). Belgium might be concerned by that, given two of the three goals they have conceded came from dead-ball scenarios.

Of the eight quarter-finalists, Belgium scored the joint-fewest goals (3) in the group stage, had the fewest shots (21), the fewest shots on target (11) and the lowest expected goals total (2.6). The Red Flames surely need to find more of a spark for this big game.

QF4: France v Netherlands – July 23, Rotherham

France will be playing a fourth consecutive match in Rotherham, a town which is twinned with the French city of Saint-Quentin.

This is also a fourth consecutive Women's Euros quarter-final for France, who have lost each time at this stage, including a penalty shoot-out defeat to the Netherlands in 2009. They were beaten on spot-kicks by Denmark in 2013, and then slumped 1-0 to England in 2017. France have lost star striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto to an ACL knee injury, so memories of fast-flowing football in their opening 5-1 win over Italy are becoming distant.

Defending their title this time, the Netherlands have lost Euro 2017 player of the tournament Lieke Martens to injury and star goalscorer Vivianne Miedema has been sidelined of late after a COVID-19 positive test.

Yet the Dutch have progressed on each of the two occasions they have reached the quarter-finals previously, with the win over France in 2009 followed in 2017 by a 2-0 victory over Sweden.

France saw their perfect Euro 2022 record end in a 1-1 draw with Iceland, while Belgium beat Italy 1-0 to complete the quarter-final line-up.

Corinne Diacre's France side are still through to the last eight as Group D winners, but missed the chance to go three wins from three in Rotherham on Monday.

Despite the loss of Marie-Antoinette Katoto to a knee injury, France seized a swift lead in the opening minute through Melvine Malard, with the PSG forward and Grace Geyoro also having goals disallowed.

That gave Iceland a modicum of hope to move into the last eight, but Dagny Brynjarsdottir's 102nd-minute penalty - after a lengthy VAR deliberation - proved to be too little, too late.

It was Belgium who advanced in Manchester thanks to a Tine De Caigny finish shortly after the interval, which sends them into the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time in their history.

They will make the short trip to Leigh, where they will face much-fancied Sweden on Friday, with France in Rotherham once again to do battle with the Netherlands on Saturday.

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