Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Hosts England will kick-off the Women’s Euro 2022 against Austria at Old Trafford, as Thursday’s draw for the tournament paired defending champions the Netherlands with Olympic silver medallists Sweden.
Eight-time European champions Germany face the toughest group on paper alongside the rapidly improving Spain, Pernille Harder’s Denmark and former semi-finalists Finland.
France’s bid to win the competition for the first time will see them take on Italy, Belgium and Iceland in Group D.
England are hoping home advantage will see them reach a major women’s final for the first time after falling at the semi-final stage at the last two World Cups and at Euro 2017.
The Lionesses coach Sarina Wiegman, who led the Dutch to victory on home soil four years ago, will be pleased to have avoided a trickier draw.
Norway and Northern Ireland, on their tournament debut, make up the section.
England, Austria and Northern Ireland are all set to face each other before the tournament begins in World Cup qualifying.
Wiegman’s women thrashed Northern Ireland 4-0 at Wembley last weekend, while Austria needed a stoppage-time equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw in Belfast on Tuesday.
The Netherlands’ clash with Sweden in Sheffield on July 9 will be a repeat of the World Cup semi-final won by the Dutch two years ago.
Both nations will be confident of progressing from a group also containing Switzerland and Russia.
More than 160,000 tickets have already been sold for what UEFA hopes will be the highest-attended female sports event in European history.
Between the opening match at the Theatre of Dreams on July 6 and a Wembley final on July 31, games will be held at the Brentford Community Stadium in London, as well as in Brighton, Leigh, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Rotherham, Sheffield and Southampton.